Tanakh

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File:Targum.jpg
11th century Targum

Tanakh [תנ״ך] (also Tanach or Tenach) is an acronym that identifies the Hebrew Bible. The acronym is based on the initial Hebrew letters of each of the text's three parts:

  1. Torah [תורה] meaning one or all of: "The Law"; "Teaching"; "Instruction". Also called the Chumash [חומש] meaning: "The five"; "The five books of Moses". It is the "Pentateuch".
  2. Nevi'im [נביאים] meaning: "Prophets"
  3. Ketuvim [כתובים] meaning "Writings" or "Hagiographa".

The Tanakh is also called [מקרא], Mikra or Miqra.

Terminology

The threefold division reflected in the acronym Tanakh is well attested to in documents from the Second Temple period and in Rabbinic literature. During that period, however, the acronym Tanakh was not used; rather, the proper term was Mikra ("Reading"). The term Mikra continues to be used to this day alongside Tanakh to refer to the Hebrew scriptures. (In modern spoken Hebrew, Mikra has a more formal flavor than Tanakh.)

Because the books included in the Tanakh were largely written in Hebrew, it may also be called the Hebrew Bible. (Parts of Daniel and Ezra, as well as a sentence in Jeremiah and a two-word toponym in Genesis, are in Aramaic - but even these are written in the same Hebrew script.) Perhaps these portions were written by the original Hebrew prophets, who knew that they were intentionally speaking to an Aramaic audience, as an aside.

The canon

Main Article: Jewish canon.

According to the Jewish tradition, the Tanakh consists of twenty-four books (enumerated below). The Torah has five books, Nevi'im contains eight books, and Ketuvim has eleven.

These twenty-four books are the same books found in the Protestant Old Testament, but the order of the books is different. The enumeration differs as well: Christians count these books as thirty-nine, not twenty-four. This is because Jews often count as a single book what Christians count as several.

As such, one may draw a technical distinction between the Jewish Tanakh and the similar, but non-identical, corpus which Christians call the Old Testament. Thus, some scholars prefer Hebrew Bible as a term that covers the commonality of Tanakh and the Old Testament while avoiding sectarian bias.

The Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments contain six books not included in the Tanakh. They are called deuterocanonical books (literally "canonized secondly" meaning canonized later).

In Christian Bibles, Daniel and the Book of Esther sometimes include extra deuterocanonical material that is not included in either the Jewish or most Protestant canons.

Books of the Tanakh

The Hebrew text originally consisted only of consonants, together with some inconsistently applied letters used as vowels (matres lectionis). During the early middle ages, the Masoretes codified the oral tradition for reading the Tanakh by adding two special kinds of symbols to the text: niqqud (vowel points) and cantillation signs. The latter indicate syntax, stress (accentuation), and the melody for reading.

The books of the Torah have generally-used names which are based on the first prominent word in each book. The English names are not translations of the Hebrew; they are based on the Greek names created for the Septuagint which in turn were based on Rabbinic names describing the thematic content of each of the Books.

The Torah ("Pentateuch") consists of:

  1. Genesis [בראשית / Bereishith]
  2. Exodus [שמות / Shemoth]
  3. Leviticus [ויקרא / Vayikra]
  4. Numbers [במדבר / Bamidbar]
  5. Deuteronomy [דברים / Devarim]

The books of Nevi'im ("Prophets") are:

6. Joshua [יהושע / Yehoshua]
7. Judges [שופטים / Shofetim]
8. Samuel (I & II) [שמואל / Shemuel]
9. Kings (I & II) [מלכים / Melakhim]
10. Isaiah [ישעיה / Yeshayahu]
11. Jeremiah [ירמיה / Yeremiyahu]
12. Ezekiel [יחזקאל / Yehezkiel]
13. The Twelve Minor Prophets [תרי עשר]
I. Hosea [הושע / Hoshea]
II. Joel [יואל / Yoel]
III. Amos [עמוס / Amos]
IV. Obadiah [עובדיה / Ovadiah]
V. Jonah [יונה / Yonah]
VI. Micah [מיכה / Mikhah]
VII. Nahum [נחום]
VIII. Habakkuk [חבקוק]
IX. Zephaniah [צפניה / Tzefaniah]
X. Haggai [חגי]
XI. Zechariah [זכריה]
XII. Malachi [מלאכי]

The Ketuvim ("Writings") are:

14. Psalms [תהלים / Tehilim]
15. Proverbs [משלי / Mishlei]
16. Job [איוב / Iyov]
17. Song of Songs [שיר השירים / Shir Hashirim]
18. Ruth [רות]
19. Lamentations [איכה / Eichah]
20. Ecclesiastes [קהלת / Kohelet]
21. Esther [אסתר]
22. Daniel [דניאל]
23. Ezra-Nehemiah [עזרא ונחמיה]
24. Chronicles (I & II) [דברי הימים / Divrei Hayamim]

Chapters and verse numbers, book divisions

The chapter divisions and verse numbers have no significance in the Jewish tradition. Nevertheless, they are noted in all modern editions of the Tanakh so that verses may be located and cited. The division of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles into parts I and II is also indicated on each page of those books in order to prevent confusion about whether a chapter number is from part I or II, since the chapter numbering for these books follows their partition in the Christian textual tradition.

The adoption of the Christian chapter divisions by Jews began in the late middle ages in Spain, partially in the context of forced clerical debates which took place against a background of harsh persecution and of the Spanish Inquisition (the debates required a common system for citing biblical texts). From the standpoint of the Jewish textual tradition, the chapter divisions are not only a foreign feature with no basis in the mesorah, but also open to severe criticism of two kinds:

  • The chapter divisions often reflect Christian exegesis of the Bible.
  • Even when they do not imply Christian exegesis, the chapters often divide the biblical text at numerous points that may be deemed inappropriate for literary or other reasons.

Nevertheless, because they proved useful – and eventually indispensable – for citations, they continued to be included by Jews in most Hebrew editions of the biblical books. For more information on the origin of these divisions, see chapters and verses of the Bible.

The chapter and verse numbers were often indicated very prominently in older editions, to the extent that they overshadowed the traditional Jewish masoretic divisions. However, in many Jewish editions of the Tanakh published over the past forty years, there has been a major historical trend towards minimizing the impact and prominence of the chapter and verse numbers on the printed page. Most editions accomplish this by removing them from the text itself and relegating them to the margins of the page. The main text in these editions is unbroken and uninterrupted at the beginning of chapters (which are noted only in the margin). The lack of chapter breaks within the text in these editions also serves to reinforce the visual impact created by the spaces and "paragraph" breaks on the page, which indicate the traditional Jewish parashah divisions.

These modern Jewish editions present Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles (as well as Ezra) as single books in their title pages, and make no indication inside the main text of their division into two parts (though it is noted in the upper and side margins). The text of Samuel II, for instance, follows Samuel I on the very same page with no special break at all in the flow of the text, and may even continue on the very same line of text.

Oral Torah

See: Oral law in Judaism.

Rabbinical Judaism believes that the Torah was transmitted side by side with an oral tradition. Other groups, such as Karaite Judaism, the ancient Saducees, and Christianity do not accept this claim. Indeed, many terms and definitions used in the written law are undefined within the Torah itself; and the reader is assumed to be familiar with the context and details. This fact is presented as evidence to the antiquity of the oral tradition. An opposing argument is that only a small portion of the vast rabbinic works on the oral tradition can be described as mere clarifications and context. These rabbinic works, collectively known as "the oral law" [תורה שבעל פה], include the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the two Talmuds (Babylonian and Jerusalem), and the early Midrash compilations.

Available texts

See also

External links

Online texts

Reading guides

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