Hebrew Bible

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Hebrew Bible
Entire Tanakh scroll set.png
Complete set of scrolls, constituting the Tanakh
Information
Religion Judaism, Christianity
Language Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic
Period8th–7th centuries BCE – 2nd–1st centuries BCE

The Hebrew Bible, which is also called the Tanakh ( /tɑːˈnɑːx/ ; [1] תָּנָ״ךְ, pronounced  [taˈnaχ] or the [təˈnax] ; also Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach) or sometimes the Mikra, is the canonical collection of Hebrew scriptures. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, with a few passages in Biblical Aramaic instead (in the books of Daniel and Ezra, the verse Jeremiah 10:11, and some single words). The Hebrew Bible is also the textual source for the Christian Old Testament. The form of this text that is authoritative for Rabbinic Judaism is known as the Masoretic Text (MT) and it consists of 24 books, while the translations divide essentially the same material into 39 books for the Protestant Bible.

Contents

Modern scholars seeking to understand the history of the Hebrew Bible use a range of sources, in addition to the Masoretic Text. [2] These sources include early Greek (Septuagint) and Syriac (Peshitta) translations, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea Scrolls and quotations from rabbinic manuscripts. Many of these sources may be older than the Masoretic Text and often differ from it. [3] 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. [4] 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 not fully determined. [5]

Terminology

Tanakh is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: Torah (‘Teaching’, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im (’Prophets’) and Ketuvim (’Writings’)—hence TaNaKh. The books of the Tanakh were passed on by each generation and, according to rabbinic tradition, were accompanied by an oral tradition, called the Oral Torah.

The three-part division reflected in the acronym ’Tanakh’ is well attested in the literature of the Rabbinic period. [6] 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. [7] 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. [8]

Hebrew Bible

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). [9] [10] 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. [11] Alister McGrath points out that while the term emphasizes that it is largely written in Hebrew and "is sacred to the Hebrew people", it "fails to do justice to the way in which Christianity sees an essential continuity between the Old and New Testaments", arguing that there is "no generally accepted alternative to the traditional term 'Old Testament.'"[ verification needed ] However, he accepts that there is no reason why non-Christians should feel obliged to refer to these books as the Old Testament, "apart from custom of use." [12]

Christianity has recognized the close relationship between the Old and New Testaments from its very beginnings, although there have sometimes been movements like Marcionism (viewed as heretical by the early church), that have struggled with it. [12] [13] [14] Modern Christian formulations of this tension include supersessionism, covenant theology, new covenant theology, dispensationalism and dual-covenant theology. All of these formulations, except some forms of dual-covenant theology, are objectionable to mainstream Judaism and to many Jewish scholars and writers, for whom there is one eternal covenant between God and the Israelites, and who therefore reject the term "Old Testament" as a form of antinomianism.

Christian usage of "Old Testament" does not refer to a universally agreed upon set of books but, rather, varies depending on denomination. Lutheranism and Protestant denominations that follow the Westminster Confession of Faith accept the entire Jewish canon as the Old Testament without additions, although in translation they sometimes give preference to the Septuagint (LXX) rather than the Masoretic Text; for example, see Isaiah 7:14.

"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. [15] 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.

Development and codification

The inter-relationship between various significant ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament (some identified by their siglum). Mt being the Masoretic text. The lowermost text "(lost)" would be the Urtext. Texts of the OT.svg
The inter-relationship between various significant ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament (some identified by their siglum). Mt being the Masoretic text. The lowermost text "(lost)" would be the Urtext.

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, [16] while others argue it was not fixed until the second century CE or even later. [17]

According to Louis Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews , the twenty-four book canon of the Hebrew Bible was fixed by Ezra and the scribes in the Second Temple period. [18]

According to the Talmud, much of the Tanakh was compiled by the men of the Great Assembly (Anshei K'nesset HaGedolah), a task completed in 450 BCE, and it has remained unchanged ever since. [19]

The twenty-four book canon is mentioned in the Midrash Koheleth 12:12: Whoever brings together in his house more than twenty four books brings confusion. [20]

Language and pronunciation

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. [21] 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. [22] The combination of a text (מקראmikra), pronunciation (ניקודniqqud) and cantillation (טעמיםte`amim) enable the reader to understand both the simple meaning and the nuances in sentence flow of the text.

Books of the Tanakh

The Tanakh consists of twenty-four books: it counts as one book each Samuel, Kings, Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah and counts the Twelve Minor Prophets (תרי עשר) as a single book. In Hebrew, the books are often referred to by their prominent first word(s).

Torah

The Torah (תּוֹרָה, literally "teaching"), 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 a "Chumash" .

Nevi'im

Nevi'im (נְבִיאִיםNəḇî'îm, "Prophets") is the second main division of the Tanakh, between the Torah and Ketuvim. It contains three sub-groups. 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 ראשוניםNevi'im Rishonim)

The Latter Prophets (נביאים אחרוניםNevi'im Aharonim)

The Twelve Minor Prophets (תרי עשר, Trei Asar, "The Twelve"), which are considered one book

Ketuvim

Ketuvim (כְּתוּבִים, "Writings") consists of eleven books, described below. They are also divided into three subgroups based on the distinctiveness of Sifrei Emet and Hamesh Megillot.

The three poetic books (Sifrei Emet)

The Five Megillot (Hamesh Megillot). These books are read aloud in the synagogue on particular occasions, the occasion listed below in parenthesis.

Other books

The Jewish textual tradition never finalized the order of the books in Ketuvim. The Babylonian Talmud (Bava Batra 14b — 15a) gives their order as Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Daniel, Scroll of Esther, Ezra, Chronicles.

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 Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel, Ezra.[ citation needed ]

Poetic 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.

Five scrolls (Hamesh Megillot)

The five relatively short books of the Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther are collectively known as the Hamesh Megillot (Five Megillot). These are the latest books collected and designated as "authoritative" in the Jewish canon, with the latest parts having dates ranging into the 2nd century BCE. These scrolls are traditionally read over the course of the year in many Jewish communities.

Other books

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.

  • Their narratives all openly describe relatively late events (i.e. the Babylonian captivity and the subsequent restoration of Zion).
  • The Talmudic tradition ascribes late authorship to all of them.
  • Two of them (Daniel and Ezra) are the only books in Tanakh with significant portions in Aramaic.

Translations

Jewish commentaries

There are two major approaches towards study of, and commentary on, the Tanakh. In the Jewish community, the classical approach is 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 later 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.

See also

Related Research Articles

Bible Collection of religious texts in Judaism and Christianity

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians. The Bible appears in the form of an anthology, compiling texts of a variety of forms that are all linked by the belief that they collectively contain the word of God. These texts include theologically-embellished historical accounts, hymns, allegorical erotica, parables, and didactic letters.

Books of the Bible Wikimedia list article

Different religious groups include different books in their biblical canons, in varying orders, and sometimes divide or combine books. The Jewish Tanakh contains 24 books divided into three parts: the five books of the Torah ("teaching"); the eight books of the Nevi'im ("prophets"); and the eleven books of Ketuvim ("writings"). It is composed mainly in Biblical Hebrew, and its Septuagint is the main textual source for the Christian Greek Old Testament.

Old Testament First part of Christian Bibles based on the Hebrew Bible

The Old Testament is the first part of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible, a collection of ancient religious Hebrew writings by the Israelites believed by most Christians and religious Jews to be the sacred Word of God. The second part of Christian Bibles is the New Testament, originally written in the Koine Greek language.

Septuagint Greek translation of Hebrew scriptures

The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint, is the base of the first part of the Christian biblical canon, the Old Testament. It is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of books from the Jewish Bible in Hebrew, various biblical apocrypha and deuterocanonical books. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE but did not survive as original translation texts into Greek from this time except as rare fragments. The remaining books of the Greek Old Testament presumably are translations from the period between 200 BCE and 50 CE.

Targum Jewish holy book.

The targumim were originally spoken translations of the Jewish scriptures that a meturgeman would give in the common language of the listeners when that was not Hebrew. This had become necessary near the end of the 1st century BCE, as the common language was Aramaic and Hebrew was used for little more than schooling and worship. The meturgeman frequently expanded his translation with paraphrases, explanations and examples so that it became a kind of sermon.

Masoretic Text Authoritative text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism

The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the 24 books of Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism.

This article distinguishes the various terms used to describe Jewish and Christian scripture. Several terms refer to the same material, although sometimes rearranged.

Ketuvim third and final section of the Tanakh

Ketuvim is the third and final section of the Tanakh, after Torah (instruction) and Nevi'im (prophets). In English translations of the Hebrew Bible, this section is usually titled "Writings". Another name used for this section is Hagiographa.

Aleppo Codex 10th-century Hebrew Bible manuscript

The Aleppo Codex is a medieval bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. The codex was written in the city of Tiberias in the 10th century C.E. under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate, and was endorsed for its accuracy by Maimonides. Together with the Leningrad Codex, it contains the Ben-Asher masoretic tradition, but the Aleppo Codex lacks most of the Torah section and many other parts.

Five Megillot group of five Jewish scriptures (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther)

The Five Scrolls or The Five Megillot are parts of the Ketuvim ("Writings"), the third major section of the Tanakh. The Five Scrolls are the Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther. These five relatively short biblical books are grouped together in Jewish tradition.

Leningrad Codex 11th-century Hebrew Bible manuscript

The Leningrad Codex is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew, using the Masoretic Text and Tiberian vocalization. It is dated 1008 CE according to its colophon. The Aleppo Codex, against which the Leningrad Codex was corrected, is several decades older, but parts of it have been missing since 1947, making the Leningrad Codex the oldest complete codex of the Tiberian mesorah that has survived intact to this day.

Mikraot Gedolot An edition of the Tanakh

The Mikraot Gedolot "Great Scriptures," often called the "Rabbinic Bible" in English, is an edition of the Tanakh that generally includes four distinct elements:

New Jewish Publication Society of America Tanakh

The New Jewish Publication Society of America Tanakh, first published in complete form in 1985, is a modern Jewish translation of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible into English. It is based on revised editions of earlier publications of subdivisions of the Tanakh such as the Torah and Five Megillot which were originally published from 1969–1982. It is unrelated to the original JPS Tanakh translation, which was based on the Revised Version and American Standard Version but emended to more strictly follow the Masoretic Text, beyond both translations being published by the Jewish Publication Society of America.

Jewish Publication Society of America Version

The Jewish Publication Society of America Version (JPS) of the Tanakh was the first Bible translation published by the Jewish Publication Society of America and the first translation of the Tanakh into English by a committee of Jews. The full publication title is The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text: A New Translation with the Aid of Previous Versions and with Constant Consultation of Jewish Authorities.

Jewish English Bible translations

Jewish English Bible translations are English translations of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) according to the Masoretic Text, in the traditional division and order of Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim. Most Jewish translations appear in bilingual editions (Hebrew–English).

Jewish commentaries on the Bible are biblical commentaries of the Hebrew Bible from a Jewish perspective. Translations into Aramaic and English, and some universally accepted Jewish commentaries with notes on their method of approach and modern translations into English with notes are listed.

Development of the Hebrew Bible canon

Rabbinic Judaism recognizes the 24 books of the Masoretic Text, commonly called the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, as authoritative. Modern scholarship suggests that the most recently written are the books of Jonah, Lamentations, and Daniel, all of which may have been composed as late as the second century BCE.

Biblical languages languages employed in the original writings of the Bible: Biblical Hebrew,  Biblical Aramaic, Koine Greek

Biblical languages are any of the languages employed in the original writings of the Bible. Partially owing to the significance of the Bible in society, Biblical languages are studied more widely than many other dead languages. Furthermore, some debates exist as to which language is the original language of a particular passage, and about whether a term has been properly translated from an ancient language into modern editions of the Bible. Scholars generally recognize three languages as original biblical languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek.

Harold Louis Ginsberg,, commonly known as H. L. Ginsberg, was a professor of rabbinic literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City in the 20th century.

 This is a part of Hebrew literature
The earliest known precursor to Hebrew is an inscription in Ancient Hebrew is the Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription, if it can indeed be considered Hebrew at that early a stage. By far the most varied, extensive and historically significant body of literature written in the old Classical Hebrew is the canon of the Hebrew Bible, but certain other works have survived as well. It was not unusual for ancient narratives, poetry and rules to have been transmitted orally for several generations before being committed to writing. Before the Aramaic-derived modern Hebrew alphabet was adopted circa the 5th century BCE, the Phoenician-derived Paleo-Hebrew script was used instead for writing, and a derivative of the script still survives to this day in the form of the Samaritan script.

References

  1. "Tanach". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary .
  2. "Scholars seek Hebrew Bible's original text – but was there one?". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 2014-05-13. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  3. "Controversy lurks as scholars try to work out Bible's original text". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  4. Isaac Leo Seeligmann, Robert Hanhart, Hermann Spieckermann: The Septuagint Version of Isaiah and Cognate Studies, Tübingen 2004, pages 33-34.
  5. Shanks, Herschel (August 4, 1992). Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls (1st ed.). Random House. p.  336. ISBN   978-0679414483.
  6. "Mikra'ot Gedolot".
  7. It appears in the masorah magna of the Biblical text, and in the responsa of the Rashba (5:119); see Research Query: Tanakh/תנ״ך
  8. BIBLICAL STUDIES Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation. Norton Irish Theological Quarterly.2007; 72: 305-306
  9. Safire, William (1997-05-25). "The New Old Testament". The New York Times..
  10. Hamilton, Mark. "From Hebrew Bible to Christian Bible: Jews, Christians and the Word of God" . Retrieved 2007-11-19. Modern scholars often use the term 'Hebrew Bible' to avoid the confessional terms Old Testament and Tanakh.
  11. Alexander, Patrick H; et al., eds. (1999). The SBL Handbook of Style (PDF). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. p. 17 (section 4.3). ISBN   1-56563-487-X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-14. See Society of Biblical Literature: Questions Regarding Digital Editions…
  12. 1 2 McGrath, Alister, Christian Theology, Oxford: Blackwell, 2011, p. 120, 123. ISBN   9781444335149.
  13. "Marcion", Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
  14. For the recorded teachings of Jesus on the subject see Antithesis of the Law#Antitheses, for the modern debate, see Christian views on the old covenant
  15. "Scanning an Ancient Biblical Text That Humans Fear to Open". The New York Times . January 5, 2018.
  16. Davies, Philip R. (2001). "The Jewish Scriptural Canon in Cultural Perspective". In McDonald, Lee Martin; Sanders, James A. (eds.). The Canon Debate. Baker Academic. p. PT66. ISBN   978-1-4412-4163-4. With many other scholars, I conclude that the fixing of a canonical list was almost certainly the achievement of the Hasmonean dynasty.
  17. McDonald & Sanders, The Canon Debate, 2002, page 5, cited are Neusner's Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine, pages 128–145, and Midrash in Context: Exegesis in Formative Judaism, pages 1–22.
  18. Ginzberg, Louis (1909). The Legends of the Jews Vol. IV : Chapter XI Ezra (Translated by Henrietta Szold) Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
  19. (Bava Batra 14b-15a, Rashi to Megillah 3a, 14a)
  20. Midrash Qoheleth 12:12
  21. Kelley, Page H.; Mynatt, Daniel S.; Crawford, Timothy G. (1998-04-09). The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Introduction and Annotated Glossary. p. 20. ISBN   9780802843630.
  22. John Gill (1767). A Dissertation Concerning the Antiquity of the Hebrew Language: Letters, Vowel-points, and Accents. G. Keith. pp. 136–137. also pages 250–255
  23. Also called Kinnot in Hebrew.

Further reading