32. Do the Jewish people have a standard belief system?
The material presented in this answer is from a Jewish (not Messianic) perspective. This information will be helpful for you to know what Jewish people believe.
Judaism has no dogma, no formal set of beliefs that one must hold to be Jewish. In Judaism, actions are far more important than beliefs, although there is certainly a place for belief within Judaism.
The closest that anyone has ever come to creating a widely-accepted list of Jewish beliefs is Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith. He thought they were the minimum requirements of Jewish belief. They are:
- 1. God exists
- 2. God is one and unique
- 3. God is incorporeal
- 4. God is eternal
- 5. Prayer is to be directed to God alone and to no other
- 6. The words of the prophets are true
- 7. Moses’s prophecies are true, and Moses was the greatest of the prophets
- 8. The Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses
- 9. There will be no other Torah
- 10. God knows the thoughts and deeds of men
- 11. God will reward the good and punish the wicked
- 12. The Messiah will come
- 13.The dead will be resurrected.
As you can see, these are very basic and general principles. Yet as basic as these principles are, the necessity of believing each one of these has been disputed at one time or another, and the liberal movements of Judaism dispute many of these principles.
Unlike many other religions, Judaism does not focus much on abstract cosmological concepts. Although Jews have certainly considered the nature of God, man, the universe, life and the afterlife at great length, there is no mandated, official, definitive belief on these subjects, outside of the very general concepts discussed above. There is substantial room for personal opinion on all of these matters, because Judaism is more concerned about actions than beliefs.
Judaism focuses on relationships: the relationship between God and mankind, between God and the Jewish nation, between the Jewish nation and the land of Israel, and between human beings. Our scriptures tell the story of the development of these relationships, from the time of creation, through the creation of the relationship between God and Abraham, to the creation of the relationship between God and the Jewish people, and forward. The scriptures also specify the mutual obligations created by these relationships, although various movements of Judaism disagree about the nature of these obligations. Some say they are absolute, unchanging laws from God (Orthodox); some say they are laws from God that change and evolve over time (Conservative); some say that they are guidelines that you can choose whether or not to follow (Reform).