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It is this particular claim--to have experienced God's presence in human events--and its subsequent development that is the differentiating factor in Jewish thought.As ancient Israel believed itself through its history to be standing in a unique relationship to the divine, this basic belief affected and fashioned its life-style and mode of existence in a way markedly different from groups starting with a somewhat similar insight.The corporate life of the chosen community was thus a summons to the rest of mankind to recognize God's presence, sovereignty, and purpose--the establishment of peace and well-being in the universe and in mankind.History, moreover, disclosed not only God's purpose but also manifested man's inability to live in accord with it.
In this case law meant not only what the Romans called jus (human law) but also fas, the divine or moral law that embraces practically all domains of life.
General observations Nature and characteristics In nearly 4,000 years of historical development, the Jewish people and their religion have displayed both a remarkable adaptability and continuity.
In their encounter with the great civilizations, from ancient Babylonia and Egypt down to Western Christendom and modern secular culture, they have assimilated foreign elements and integrated them into their own socioreligious system, thus maintaining an unbroken line of ethnic and religious tradition.
God's presence was also experienced within the natural realm, but the more immediate or intimate disclosure occurred in human actions.
Although other ancient communities saw a divine presence in history, this was taken up in its most consequent fashion within the ancient Israelite community and has remained, through many developments, the focus of its descendants' religious affirmations.