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Tanakh

The Tanakh (/tɑːˈnɑːx/;[1] תַּנַ"ךְ‎, pronounced [taˈnaχ] or [təˈnax]; also Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach), also called the Mikra or Hebrew Bible, is the canonical collection of Jewish texts, which is also a textual source for the Christian Old Testament. These texts are composed mainly in Biblical Hebrew, with some passages in Biblical Aramaic (in the books of Daniel, Ezra and a few others). The traditional Hebrew text is known as the Masoretic Text. The Tanakh consists of twenty-four books.

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 name Mikra (מקרא‎), meaning "that which is read", is another Hebrew word for the 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.

Terminology

The three-part division reflected in the acronym "Tanakh" is well attested in the literature of the Rabbinic period.[2] 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. 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.[3]

"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).[4][5] 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.[6] 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." 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."[7]

In terms of theology, 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.[7][8][9] 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.

In terms of canon, 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 rather than the Masoretic Text; for example, see Isaiah 7:14.

In terms of language, "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 Jewish diaspora, 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.

Development and codification

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,[10] while others argue it was not fixed until the second century CE or even later.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15] 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

Complete set of scrolls, constituting the entire 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.

  • Bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית, literally "In the beginning")—Genesis
  • Shemot (שִׁמוֹת, literally "Names")—Exodus
  • Vayikra (וַיִּקְרָא, literally "And He called")—Leviticus
  • Bemidbar (בְּמִדְבַּר, literally "In the desert [of]")—Numbers
  • Devarim (דְּבָרִים, literally "Things" or "Words")—Deuteronomy

Nevi'im

Nevi'im (נְבִיאִיםNəḇî'îm, "Prophets") is the second main division of the Tanakh, between the Torah and Ketuvim. It contains two sub-groups, the Former Prophets (נביאים ראשוניםNevi'im Rishonim, the narrative books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings) and the Latter Prophets (נביאים אחרוניםNevi'im Aharonim, the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor Prophets). 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.

  • (יְהוֹשֻעַ / Yĕhôshúa‘)—Joshua
  • (שֹׁפְטִים / Shophtim)—Judges
  • (שְׁמוּאֵל / Shmû’ēl)—Samuel
  • (מְלָכִים / M'lakhim)—Kings
  • (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ / Yĕsha‘ăyāhû)—Isaiah
  • (יִרְמְיָהוּ / Yirmyāhû)—Jeremiah
  • (יְחֶזְקֵאל / Yĕkhezqiēl)—Ezekiel

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

  • (הוֹשֵׁעַ / Hôshēa‘)—Hosea
  • (יוֹאֵל / Yô’ēl)—Joel
  • (עָמוֹס / ‘Āmôs)—Amos
  • (עֹבַדְיָה / ‘Ōvadhyāh)—Obadiah
  • (יוֹנָה / Yônāh)—Jonah
  • (מִיכָה / Mîkhāh)—Micah
  • (נַחוּם / Nakḥûm)—Nahum
  • (חֲבַקּוּק /Khăvhakûk)—Habakkuk
  • (צְפַנְיָה / Tsĕphanyāh)—Zephaniah
  • (חַגַּי / Khaggai)—Haggai
  • (זְכַרְיָה / Zkharyāh)—Zechariah
  • (מַלְאָכִי / Mal’ākhî)—Malachi

Ketuvim

Ketuvim (כְּתוּבִים‎, "Writings") consists of eleven books, described below.

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. The list below presents them in the order they are read in the synagogue on holidays, beginning with the Song of Solomon at Passover.

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.

Order

The following list presents the books of Ketuvim in the order they appear in most printed editions. It also divides them 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.[citation needed]

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]

Translations

Several editions, all titled Biblia Hebraica, have been produced by various German publishers since 1906.

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

Further reading

References

  1. ^ "Tanach". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ "Mikra'ot Gedolot". 
  3. ^ BIBLICAL STUDIES Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation. Norton Irish Theological Quarterly.2007; 72: 305-306
  4. ^ Safire, William (1997-05-25). "The New Old Testament". The New York Times .
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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…
  7. ^ a b McGrath, Alister, Christian Theology, Oxford: Blackwell, 2011, p. 120, 123. ISBN 9781444335149.
  8. ^ "Marcion", Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911 .
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ Davies, Philip R. (2001). "The Jewish Scriptural Canon in Cultural Perspective". In McDonald, Lee Martin; Sanders, James A. 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."
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ (Bava Batra 14b-15a, Rashi to Megillah 3a, 14a)
  13. ^ Midrash Qoheleth 12:12
  14. ^ Kelley, Page H., The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Eerdmans, 1998, ISBN 0-8028-4363-8, p. 20
  15. ^ 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

External links