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You could imagine that with the advent of a new religion, any followers of the last religion would be required to convert to the new religion.

Which followers of which religion converted to Judaism, when Judaism came on the scene?

How did they know that they had to convert to Judaism?

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3 Answers 3

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Rashi, BeReishis 12:5 says that Avraham and Sarah converted people to Judaism. The religion that was around before that time was paganism, as is known.

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Were they required to convert? – Michoel Dec 30 '12 at 3:13
@Michoel Are you asking "Were Avraham and Sarah required to convert others?" or "Were the people whom Avraham and Sarah converted obligated to do so?"? – b a Dec 30 '12 at 3:20
The later. The OP asked if any religions were required to convert with the advent of Judaism, not who did. – Michoel Dec 30 '12 at 3:29
Sorry to disagree, but they were not converted to Judaism, but rather to monotheism. As evidenced by the fact that they were not at Matan Torah. – Ariel Dec 30 '12 at 5:46
@Ariel That was the "Judaism" of the time (even the Avos weren't at the giving of the Torah!). My intention in the answer is not changed by them not being technically Jewish, nor is it deviating from what I think the questioner meant. – b a Dec 30 '12 at 5:55

Your question implies that when a new religion shows up everyone switches to it like it's the latest new technology.

That is NOT the case. Some people did convert (a notable example is Yitro AKA Jethro), plus some Egyptians (the erev rav) and Canaanites. But the vast majority of the world did not convert.

And on top of that, Judaism does not ask them to. A non-Jew does not need to convert in order to have a meaningful relationship with God.

In general when Judaism "came on the scene" as you call it, its members were all descendants of Abraham.

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No such "switch" happened. According to the simplest understanding of Jewish history, Judaism started with one man, Avraham, who recognized the creator of the world. He came to this realization himself, independent of anyone else. G-d blessed him that his descendants would be numerous, and they were. Several hundred years later, his descendants stood at Mount Sinai and received the Torah from G-d.

Every Jew today is either a descendant of those people, descended from people who converted somewhere along the way, or are converts themselves. Judaism does not claim to "inherit" from any other religion as I understand Christianity and Islam claim to.

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