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Excerpted from Living Judaism by Rabbi Wayne Dosick. Copyright 1998 by Rabbi Wayne Dosick. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"The ancient world may have been theologically naive, but it was far from unsophisticated."

Rabbi Wayne Dosick, Living Judaism, Part 4

The ancient world may have been theologically naive, but it was far from unsophisticated.

The recorded history of humankind--which begins some 6,000 years ago--documents advanced civilizations growing up and flourishing: the Sumerians in Babylon, the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Akkadians in Mesopotamia, the Chaldeans, and the numerous kingdoms scattered throughout the region that is now called the ancient Near East. Advanced societies were also developing and flourishing throughout the known world: in China, in Asia Minor, along the Mediterranean, in Crete and Greece, in Europe, in settlements in India and Japan. These diverse societies created highly sophisticated agricultural settlements, built ships and wheeled vehicles for transport and traded , crafted pottery and wove cloth, made metal coins as legal tender, and metal mirrors to reflect beauty.

They developed not only pictographic signs, but early forms of alphabet and writing; they amassed large collections of prose, poetry, and epic tales, played finely crafted musical instruments, and made precise calendars and maps. The Babylonian king Hammurabi, in setting out laws for his kingdom, established the first systematic legal code.

The firm foundation of civilization was already well in place when, in approximately 1800 B.C.E.--when the now-6,ooo-year-old recorded history of humankind had already passed its one-third mark-a man named Abraham entered the world stage. He came into this world in ancient Mesopotamia, the area of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that came to be called the Fertile Crescent, the modern-day Middle East of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt.

THE DATING OF HISTORY

The secular calendar that is currently in use throughout most of the world is based on a Christian counting of time.

In this system, there are two major periods of time: A.D., meaning anno Domini, the Year of our Lord, designating the period of time counting forward from the birth of Jesus (using the popular designation of the year of the birth of Jesus as year 1); and B.C., meaning Before Christ, designating the period of time counting backward from before the birth of Jesus.

By this calculation, 8oo years before the birth of Jesus is known as the year 8oo B.C. This book is being published in the year A.D. 1995, meaning 1,995 years since the birth of Jesus.

Judaism, not wanting its time designations delineated by Christianity, and modern academic scholarship not wanting its designations influenced by any one religious motif, changed the designations: B.C. is identified as B.C.E., Before the Common Era, and A.D. is identified as C.E., the Common Era.

For a concise timeline and a fully annotated reference-listing of the most important events of Jewish history, see chapter 9, Highlights of Jewish History.

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