Judaism has no official founder or founding date and the dates given for Judaism's beginnings depend largely on what one means by "Judaism."
Most Jewish and academic sources define Judaism as the religion of Abraham, along with all its developments since that time. The life of Abraham is generally dated to around 2000-1700 BCE. Dates in this range are therefore the most commonly given for when Judaism was founded.1 2 3 4 5 6 7
The stories of Abraham, Moses, and others that are foundational to Judaism were created and/or given their final form in the 6th century BCE, following the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE.8
Some sources date the founding of Judaism to much later: at the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. This is because the biblical/Temple-based religion was characterized by sacrificial rituals, while the religion after the Temple's destruction (which continues today) is based more in synagogues, rabbis, and the home and has significantly different rituals.9
“The Patriarchs and the Origins of Judaism.” Judaism 101. “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, known as the Patriarchs... founded the religion now known as Judaism, and their descendants are the Jewish people. Of course, technically, it is incorrect to refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as Jews, because the terms "Jew" and "Judaism" were not used generally to refer to this nation until hundreds of years after their time; nevertheless, for convenience and in accordance with common practice, I will use these terms.... According to Jewish tradition, Abraham was born under the name Abram in the city of Ur in Babylonia in the year 1948 from Creation (circa 1800 BCE).” ↩
Robinson, Essential Judaism (2001), 541. “c. 1850-1700 BCE - Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Ishmael; origin of traditions of the "Abrahamic covenant," traditions of Jacob/Israel and the Twelve Patriarchs c. 1300-1200 BCE - Mosaic period (Israel)” ↩
Armstrong, History of God (1994) “This religion [of the One God] is attributed in the Bible to Abraham, who left Ur and eventually settled in Canaan some time between the twentieth and nineteenth centuries BCE. We have no contemporary record of Abraham, but scholars think that he may have been one of the wandering chieftains who had led their people from Mesopotamia toward the Mediterranean at the end of the third millennium BCE.” ↩
Doniger, Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions (1998), 586-87. “It must be remembered that it was only after the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem in 586 BCE that the... Five Books of Moses came into being, coming together as a pastiche of received stories, some old, some new, all revised to fulfill the purposes of the final authors and to explain the origins of Israel, the Jewish people.... The Pentateuch in its final statement constituted the first and enduring Judaic paradigm, to which all Judaisms to come would either conform or object.” ↩
“Judaism.” Penguin Dictionary of Religions (1997) “The religion of the Jewish people in the period following the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, to be distinguished from the religion of the biblical and late second temple periods which centred on the sacrificial cult. The form which the religion of the Jews took in the era after 70 CE differed substantially in its ritual from that of the Bible.” ↩
- “Judaism.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Web. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.
- “Judaism.” BBC Religion & Ethics. Web. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.
- Armstrong, Karen. A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994.
- Doniger, Wendy (ed.). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster, 1998 586-87.
- Falcon, Rabbi Ted; David Blatner. Judaism For Dummies. For Dummies, 2013 "Cheat Sheet", 129.
- Hinnells, John R. (ed.). “Judaism.” Penguin Dictionary of Religions. London: Penguin Books, 1997.
- Rich, Tracey R. “The Patriarchs and the Origins of Judaism.” Judaism 101. Web. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.
- Robinson, George. Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs & Rituals. Atria Books, 2001 541.