The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh[a] (//; Hebrew: תָּנָ״ךְ Tānāḵ), also known in Hebrew as Miqra (//; Hebrew: מִקְרָא Mīqrāʾ), is the canonical collection of Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. Different branches of Judaism and Samaritanism have maintained different versions of the canon, including the 3rd-century BCE Septuagint text used in Second Temple Judaism, the Syriac Peshitta, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and most recently the 10th-century medieval Masoretic Text compiled by the Masoretes, currently used in Rabbinic Judaism. The terms "Hebrew Bible" or "Hebrew Canon" are frequently confused with the Masoretic Text; however, this is a medieval version and one of several texts considered authoritative by different types of Judaism throughout history. The current edition of the Masoretic Text is mostly in Biblical Hebrew, with a few passages in Biblical Aramaic (in the books of Daniel and Ezra, and the verse Jeremiah 10:11).
|Period||8th/7th centuries BCE – 2nd/1st centuries BCE|
|Hebrew Bible at Hebrew Wikisource|
The authoritative form of the modern Hebrew Bible used in Rabbinic Judaism is the Masoretic Text (7th to 10th century CE), which consists of 24 books, divided into chapters and pesuqim (verses). The Hebrew Bible developed during the Second Temple Period, as the Jews decided which religious texts were of divine origin; the Masoretic Text, compiled by the Jewish scribes and scholars of the Early Middle Ages, comprises the Hebrew and Aramaic 24 books that they considered authoritative.
The Hellenized Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria produced a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible called "the Septuagint", that included books later identified as the Apocrypha, while the Samaritans produced their own edition of the Torah, the Samaritan Pentateuch; according to the Dutch–Israeli biblical scholar and linguist Emanuel Tov, professor of Bible Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, both of these ancient editions of the Hebrew Bible differ significantly from the medieval Masoretic Text.
In addition to the Masoretic Text, modern biblical scholars seeking to understand the history of the Hebrew Bible use a range of sources. These include the Septuagint, the Syriac language Peshitta translation, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, and quotations from rabbinic manuscripts. These sources may be older than the Masoretic Text in some cases and often differ from it. These differences have given rise to the theory that yet another text, an Urtext of the Hebrew Bible, once existed and is the source of the versions extant today. However, such an Urtext has never been found, and which of the three commonly known versions (Septuagint, Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch) is closest to the Urtext is debated.
There are many similarities between the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. The Protestant Old Testament has the same books as the Hebrew Bible, but the books are arranged in different orders. The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches include the Deuterocanonical books, which are not included in the Hebrew Bible.
Tanakh is an acronym, made from the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic Text's three traditional divisions: Torah (literally 'Instruction' or 'Law'), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings)—hence TaNaKh.
The three-part division reflected in the acronym Tanakh is well attested in the rabbinic literature. During that period, however, Tanakh was not used. Instead, the proper title was Mikra (or Miqra, מקרא, meaning reading or that which is read) because the biblical texts were read publicly. The acronym 'Tanakh' is first recorded in the medieval era. Mikra continues to be used in Hebrew to this day, alongside Tanakh, to refer to the Hebrew scriptures. In modern spoken Hebrew, they are interchangeable.
Many biblical studies scholars advocate use of the term Hebrew Bible (or Hebrew Scriptures) as a substitute for less-neutral terms with Jewish or Christian connotations (e.g. Tanakh or Old Testament). The Society of Biblical Literature's Handbook of Style, which is the standard for major academic journals like the Harvard Theological Review and conservative Protestant journals like the Bibliotheca Sacra and the Westminster Theological Journal, suggests that authors "be aware of the connotations of alternative expressions such as ... Hebrew Bible [and] Old Testament" without prescribing the use of either.
"Hebrew" refers to the original language of the books, but it may also be taken as referring to the Jews of the Second Temple era and their descendants, who preserved the transmission of the Masoretic Text up to the present day. The Hebrew Bible includes small portions in Aramaic (mostly in the books of Daniel and Ezra), written and printed in Aramaic square-script, which was adopted as the Hebrew alphabet after the Babylonian exile.
The heart of the biblical story is God's covenant with the nation of Israel. The Tanakh begins with the Genesis creation narrative and traces Israelite origins to the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob and his family settle in Egypt where their descendants live for 430 years. After the Exodus, the Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
God gives the Israelites the Law of Moses to guide their behavior. The law includes rules for both religious ritual and ethics . This moral code requires justice and care for the poor, widows, and orphans. The biblical story affirms God's unconditional love for his people, but he still punishes them when they fail to live by the covenant.
God leads Israel into the promised land of Canaan, which they conquer after five years. For the next 470 years, the Israelites were led by judges. Afterwards, the government transitioned to a monarchy. The united Kingdom of Israel was ruled first by Saul and then by David and his son Solomon. It was Solomon who built the First Temple in Jerusalem. After Solomon's death, the united kingdom split into the northern Kingdom of Israel with its capital at Samaria and the southern Kingdom of Judah centered at Jerusalem.
The northern kingdom survived for 200 years until it was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BCE. The Kingdom of Judah survived for longer, but it was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Temple was destroyed, and many Judeans were exiled to Babylon. In 539 BCE, Babylon was conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia, who allowed the exiles to return to Judah. Between 520 and 515 BCE, the Temple was rebuilt .
The books that make up the Hebrew Bible were composed and edited in stages over several hundred years. There is no scholarly consensus as to when the Hebrew Bible canon was fixed: some scholars argue that it was fixed by the Hasmonean dynasty, while others argue it was not fixed until the second century CE or even later.
Traditionally, Moses was considered the author of the Torah, and this part of the Tanakh achieved authoritative or canonical status first, possibly as early as the 5th century BCE. This is suggested by Ezra 7:6, which describes Ezra as "a scribe skilled in the law (torah) of Moses that the Lord the God of Israel had given".
The Nevi'im had gained canonical status by the 2nd century BCE. There are references to the "Law and the Prophets" in the Book of Sirach, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the New Testament. The Book of Daniel, written c. 164 BCE, was not grouped with the Prophets presumably because the Nevi'im collection was already fixed by this time.
The Ketuvim was the last part of the Tanakh to achieve canonical status. The prologue to the Book of Sirach mentions "other writings" along with the Law and Prophets but does not specify content. The Gospel of Luke refers to "the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms" (Luke 24:44). These references suggest that the content of the Writings remained fluid until the canonization process was completed in the 2nd century CE.
The original writing system of the Hebrew text was an abjad: consonants written with some applied vowel letters ("matres lectionis"). During the early Middle Ages, scholars known as the Masoretes created a single formalized system of vocalization. This was chiefly done by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher, in the Tiberias school, based on the oral tradition for reading the Tanakh, hence the name Tiberian vocalization. It also included some innovations of Ben Naftali and the Babylonian exiles. Despite the comparatively late process of codification, some traditional sources and some Orthodox Jews hold the pronunciation and cantillation to derive from the revelation at Sinai, since it is impossible to read the original text without pronunciations and cantillation pauses. The combination of a text (מקרא mikra), pronunciation (ניקוד niqqud) and cantillation (טעמים te`amim) enable the reader to understand both the simple meaning and the nuances in sentence flow of the text.
The number of distinct words in the Hebrew Bible is 8,679, of which 1,480 are hapax legomena,: 112 words or expressions that occur only once. The number of distinct Semitic roots, on which many of these biblical words are based, is roughly 2000.: 112
The Tanakh consists of twenty-four books, counting as one book each 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, and Ezra–Nehemiah. The Twelve Minor Prophets (תרי עשר) are also counted as a single book. In Hebrew, the books are often referred to by their prominent first words.
The Torah (תּוֹרָה, literally "teaching") is also known as the "Pentateuch", or as the "Five Books of Moses". Printed versions (rather than scrolls) of the Torah are often called Chamisha Chumshei Torah (חמישה חומשי תורה "Five fifth-sections of the Torah") and informally as Chumash.
Nevi'im (נְבִיאִים Nəḇīʾīm, "Prophets") is the second main division of the Tanakh, between the Torah and Ketuvim. This division includes the books which cover the time from the entrance of the Israelites into the Land of Israel until the Babylonian captivity of Judah (the "period of prophecy"). Their distribution is not chronological, but substantive.
The Former Prophets (נביאים ראשונים Nevi'im Rishonim)
The Latter Prophets (נביאים אחרונים Nevi'im Aharonim)
The Twelve Minor Prophets (תרי עשר, Trei Asar, "The Twelve"), which are considered one book:
Kəṯūḇīm (כְּתוּבִים, "Writings") consists of eleven books.
In Masoretic manuscripts (and some printed editions), Psalms, Proverbs and Job are presented in a special two-column form emphasizing the parallel stichs in the verses, which are a function of their poetry. Collectively, these three books are known as Sifrei Emet (an acronym of the titles in Hebrew, איוב, משלי, תהלים yields Emet אמ"ת, which is also the Hebrew for "truth").
These three books are also the only ones in Tanakh with a special system of cantillation notes that are designed to emphasize parallel stichs within verses. However, the beginning and end of the book of Job are in the normal prose system.
In many Jewish communities, these books are read aloud in the synagogue on particular occasions, the occasion listed below in parentheses.
Besides the three poetic books and the five scrolls, the remaining books in Ketuvim are Daniel, Ezra–Nehemiah and Chronicles. Although there is no formal grouping for these books in the Jewish tradition, they nevertheless share a number of distinguishing characteristics.
The Jewish textual tradition never finalized the order of the books in Ketuvim. The Talmud gives their order as Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Daniel, Scroll of Esther, Ezra, Chronicles. This order is roughly chronological (assuming traditional authorship).
In Tiberian Masoretic codices (including the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex), and often in old Spanish manuscripts as well, the order is Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra. This order is more thematic (e.g. the megillot are listed together).
The Hebrew Bible is generally considered to consist of 24 books, but this number is somewhat arbitrary, as (for example) it regards 12 separate books of minor prophets as a single book. The traditional rabbinic count of 24 books appears in the Talmud and numerous works of midrash. In several early nonrabbinic sources, the number of books given is 22. This number corresponds to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; according to Athanasius there were 27 books, corresponding to the alphabet with final letter forms (sofiot).
The count of 24 was said to be equal to the number of priestly divisions. According to a modern source, the number of books may be related to the division of the Iliad and Odyssey into 24 books, corresponding to the letters of the Greek alphabet. Both the Bible and Homer formed "foundational literature" of their respective cultures, studied by children and considered distillations of the society's values. The division of the Bible into 22 books may be a conversion of the Greek system to the Hebrew alphabet, while the division into 24 may be an adoption of the "perfect" number 24 as befitting the Bible's stature in Jewish eyes.
It is a major subject in the curriculum of Orthodox high schools for girls and in the seminaries which they subsequently attend, and is often taught by different teachers than those who teach Chumash. The curriculum of Orthodox high schools for boys includes only some portions of Nach, such as the book of Joshua, the book of Judges, and the Five Megillot. See Yeshiva § Torah and Bible study.
There are two major approaches to the study of, and commentary on, the Tanakh. In the Jewish community, the classical approach is a religious study of the Bible, where it is assumed that the Bible is divinely inspired. Another approach is to study the Bible as a human creation. In this approach, Biblical studies can be considered as a sub-field of religious studies. The latter practice, when applied to the Torah, is considered heresy by the Orthodox Jewish community. As such, much modern day Bible commentary written by non-Orthodox authors is considered forbidden by rabbis teaching in Orthodox yeshivas. Some classical rabbinic commentators, such as Abraham Ibn Ezra, Gersonides, and Maimonides, used many elements of contemporary biblical criticism, including their knowledge of history, science, and philology. Their use of historical and scientific analysis of the Bible was considered acceptable by historic Judaism due to the author's faith commitment to the idea that God revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.
The Modern Orthodox Jewish community allows for a wider array of biblical criticism to be used for biblical books outside of the Torah, and a few Orthodox commentaries now incorporate many of the techniques previously found in the academic world, e.g. the Da'at Miqra series. Non-Orthodox Jews, including those affiliated with Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism, accept both traditional and secular approaches to Bible studies. "Jewish commentaries on the Bible", discusses Jewish Tanakh commentaries from the Targums to classical rabbinic literature, the midrash literature, the classical medieval commentators, and modern-day commentaries.
Christianity has long asserted a close relationship between the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. In Protestant Bibles, the Old Testament is the same as the Hebrew Bible, but the books are arranged differently. Catholic Bibles and Eastern Orthodox Bibles contain books not included in the Hebrew Bible .
The ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible currently used by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches are based on the Septuagint, which was considered the authoritative scriptural canon by the early Christians. The Septuagint was influential on early Christianity as it was the Hellenistic Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible primarily used by the 1st-century Christian authors.
Modern scholars often use the term 'Hebrew Bible' to avoid the confessional terms Old Testament and Tanakh.
With many other scholars, I conclude that the fixing of a canonical list was almost certainly the achievement of the Hasmonean dynasty.
.. classes in Chumash, Nach, Practical Halacha, Tefilla, ...
know little Nach, are unexcited by the study of ..
Tova joined the .. faculty this fall as a Nach teacher .. High School for Girls.
Description. Nach metzudos on ...
of divine origin
human rather than divine document
Modern scholars have also unmoored ... Most unsettling to religious Jews
watered-down Judaism soon turns to water
Song of Songs ... was entirely profane .. could not have been written by Solomon