What came first, Judaism or Hinduism?

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Because both of these religions began very long ago, and because Hinduism does not even have anyone who is identified as its founder, it is very difficult to answer this question.  If a religion was never founded but instead grew out of existing traditions, when did it actually begin to exist?  If I have to come down on one side or the other, I would say that Hinduism came first.  However, you should probably check to see if your textbook and/or class notes give different starting dates for these religions than the ones I am using.

The problem with dating the beginning of Hinduism comes from the fact that Hinduism had no official beginning.  There is no founder of Hinduism.  Instead, the faith simply evolved from existing beliefs and eventually became what it is today.  But at what point was it similar enough to today’s religion to be called “Hinduism?”  Most sources tend to say that Hinduism began somewhere around 2500 BCE.  The Indus Valley civilization dates to about then and scholars say that Hinduism arose from that civilization.  Thus, while people in 2500 BCE would not have called themselves Hindus, we can give this as an approximate starting date for the religion.

In contrast to Hinduism, Judaism does have a founder (though we do not know if he was an actual historic figure).  The problem with dating the beginning of Judaism lies in figuring out when that founder, Abraham, lived.  Most scholars tend to believe that Abraham lived (if he really did), around 1950 BCE.  This puts his lifetime about 500 years after the beginning of the civilization that gave rise to Hinduism.  Therefore, we can say that Hinduism predates Judaism.  However, it still makes sense for you to check your textbook and/or class notes to see if you are expected to use dates different from these.

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