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Although other ancient communities also perceived a divine presence in history, the understanding of the ancient Israelites proved to be the most lasting and influential.
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.
Furthermore, God—as person—had revealed in a particular encounter the pattern and structure of communal and individual life to this people.
Claiming sovereignty over the people because of his continuing action in history on their behalf, he had established a chosen community was thus a summons to the rest of humankind to recognize God’s presence, sovereignty, and purpose—the establishment of peace and well-being in the universe and in humankind.
It is a liturgical and ethical way constantly expatiated on by the prophets and priests, by rabbinic sages, and by philosophers.
Jewish monotheism has had both universalistic and particularistic features.
Moreover, the ancient Israelites’ entire mode of existence was affected by their belief that throughout history they stood in a unique relationship with the divine.
The people of Israel believed that their response to the divine presence in history was central not only for themselves but for all humankind.
Israel’s role in the divine economy and thus Israel’s particular culpability were dominant themes sounded against the motif of fulfillment, the ultimate triumph of the divine purpose, and the establishment of divine sovereignty over all humankind.
In nearly 4,000 years of historical development, the Jewish people and their religion have displayed a remarkable adaptability and continuity.