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From Polytheism to Monotheism
SSWH1 The student will analyze the
origins, structures, and interactions of
complex societies in the ancient
Eastern Mediterranean from 3500
BCE to 500 BCE.
c. Explain the development of
monotheism; include the concepts
developed by the ancient Hebrews,
and Zoroastrianism.
The Children of Israel
• Their religion- known today as Judaismflourished as a world religion and later
influenced the religions of Christianity and
• Much of the history and religious beliefs of
the Israelites were eventually recorded in
written form in the Hebrew Bible, parts of
which are known to Christians as the Old
The Israelites
• Migrated from Mesopotamia to Palestine, which
they called Canaan.
• Lifestyle based on grazing flocks and herds
rather than farming.
• Migrated to Egypt because of drought, where
they were enslaved until Moses led them out of
• Between 1200 and 1000 BC, the Israelites
emerged as a distinct group of people who
established a united kingdom.
Spiritual Dimensions of Israel
• According to Jewish beliefs, there is one
God, called Yahweh, the Creator of the
world and everything in it.
• God ruled the world.
• He created nature but was not in nature.
• The stars, moons, rivers, wind and other
natural phenomena were not gods, as other
ancient peoples believed, but God’s
The Israelites and Judaism
• God was just and good and he expected
goodness from his people.
• If they did not obey his will, they would be
• Jews were monotheistic; they believed in
one God.
• The Covenant, law, and prophets were 3
aspects of the Jewish religious tradition.
A Unique Religion
• The most dramatic difference was their belief in
one God- monotheism.
• In all other religions, only priests and some rulers
had access to the gods.
• In Judaism, God’s will was open to anyone who
could read the Torah.
• The demands of Judaism encouraged a separation
between Jews and their non Jewish neighbors.
• Unlike most other peoples Jews would not accept
the gods of their conquerors or neighbors.
The Persian ReligionZoroastrianism
• Of all the cultural contributions of the
Persians, the most original was their
• Zoroaster was born in 660 BCE according
to Persian tradition.
• After a period of wandering and solitude, he
had visions that caused him to be revered as
a prophet of the true religion.
• The sacred book is the Zend Avesta
• Followers of Zoroaster were monotheistic.
• Ahuramazda “Wise Lord” was the supreme god who
brought all things into being.
• He was supreme, but he was not unopposed.
• Evil spirit known as Ahriman.
• All humans have the freedom to choose between right
and wrong.
• An end to the struggle between good and evil.
• Ahuramazda would eventually triumph. (Good)