The Hebrew Contribution

to the Western Tradition


1) What historical conditions, experiences, and events shaped Hebrew/Israelite culture, especially its monotheistic religion?

2) What were the characteristics of Hebrew “ethical monotheism”?  How did their religion shape their society and culture?

3) What are the key contributions of Hebrew’s to the Western cultural tradition?



I. An Historical (vs. Theological) Explanation for Hebrew Monotheism

Š        Experience of a People on the Move

o      Mesopotamia (19th century BCE):  Abraham, God, and The Promised Land

o      Canaan (19th - 17th BCE):  Locals become Israelites

o      Egypt (16th - 13th BCE)

Š        Identity in Culture, not in Politics or Geography

Š        Exodus (1270-1200): Moses, the Israelites, Yaweh, and the Ten Commandments

Š        Kingdom of Israel (10th century)

o      Saul (1020-1004)

o      David (1004-965)

o      Soloman (965-928): The First Temple

Š        The Two Kingdoms (928-722) and the Lost Tribes of Israel


Š        The Drive for Monotheism

o      Prophets (Elijah, Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah)

o      The Judean Kings: Heziakiah (715-686) & Josiah (640-609)

Š        Keeping the Faith:  Babylonian Captivity (598-539)

Š        Persian Release (539), the Second Temple, and the Diaspora

II. Hebrew Monotheism and Hebrew Culture


Š        The Hebrew View of God

Š        The Individual, Individual Dignity, and Equality

Š        Law and Society


III.  Contributions to the Western Cultural Tradition


Š        Cosmology, Nature and Science

Š        Individualism, Human Dignity, and “Freedom”

Š        Universalism

Š        History and Historical Consciousness:  A Purposeful History

Š        Literature and Narrative


Western Civilization:  A synthesis of Hebrew and Greek Cultures?