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Hebrew Bible
Entire Tanakh scroll set.png
Complete set of scrolls, constituting the Tanakh
ReligionJudaism, Christianity
LanguageBiblical 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, except for some Biblical Aramaic passages in the books of Daniel and Ezra.[2] 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.

Modern scholars seeking to understand the history of the Hebrew Bible use a range of sources, in addition to the Masoretic Text.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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The letter to the Hebrews: The author of this letter is anonymous and people have wondered for long time whether Paul wrote it maybe one of his co-workers like Barnabas or Apollos but really we just dont know. In chapter 2, we discover that the author had a first-hand relationship with the disciples who were themselves around Jesus. So, we know that this letter is anchored in teaching of the apostles. We also don't know who the audience of this letter was or even where they lived. The author knows them really well and he assumes that they have a thorough knowledge of the Old testament scriptures, especially the storyline of the first 5 books of the bible or the Torah. About how Abraham's family became the nation of Israel, about how Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt to mount Sinai where they received the Torah and they made a covenant with God where they built the tabernacle, where the priests offered sacrificies and also about how they wandered through the wilderness on their way to the Promise Land. The author just expects that the readers know all of the details about these stories and so most likely the audience is made up of Jewish Christians that´s where the name of the letter comes from. We also have clues from chapter 10 that this church community was facing persecution and even imprisonment because of their association with Jesus. Some in the community were walking away from Jesus and abandoning the faith all together and this explains the purpose and the structure of this letter. First there´s a short introduction which is followed by four sections where the author compares and contrasts Jesus with key people and events from Israel´s history. Jesus is first compared with angels in the Torah, second with Moses and the Promised Land. Third with priests and Melchizedek and lastly with the sacrifices in the covenant and the author has two main goals in all of these contrasts. The first goal is to elevate Jesus as superior to anyone or anything else. Showing that Jesus is worthy of all their trust and devotion, But the second goal is this, is to challenge the readers to remain faithful to Jesus despite persecution. So in every section he includes a strong warning, not to abandon Jesus. So lets dive in now and see how this all unfolded. The elevation of Jesus begins in the opening sentence of the introduction. In the past God spoke to our ancestors in many different ways but in these last days, he has spoken to us in his Son. So the author is saying that Jesus is superior to all of the previous ways that God has revealed himself to Israel. He then makes this astounding claim that Jesus is the radiance of God´s glory and the exact imprint of God´s nature. These metaphores are making the closests possible identification between Jesus and God So Jesus is what the rays of light are to the sun. Where Jesus is what the wax impression is to the signet ring. For this author there is no God apart from Jesus. Jesus is God become human as the Son and it's this elevated view of Jesus that´s then explored troughout the rest of letter. In the first section the author compares Jesus with angels which might strike you kind of odd, like why angels? In Jewish tradition it was taught based on deuteronomy chapter 33 verse 2 that the Torah and the word of God were delivered to Moses at mount Sinai by angels. And so by saying Jesus is superior to angels the author is claiming that Jesus and his message of good news are superior to all previous messangers of God word. And so the first warning flows from this great point. If Israel was called to pay attention to the Torah that was delivered by angels how much more should we pay attention to the message that was announced by the Son of God? And not only that. Given Jesus´ status high above angels how remarkable is it that he gave up that high status to become human to suffer and to die. in Jesus we see God´s greatest glory and God´s great humillity as Jesus sympathetically joined himself to humanity´s tragic fate. In chapters 3 and 4 the author moves on to argue that Jesus is superior to Moses who led the people of Israel through the wilderness and built the tabernacle. Jesus is also the leader of God´s people but in Him we see not the builder of just a tent but of all creation. then the author retells the story of how the israelites rebelled against Moses in the wilderness and they lost their chance to enter into the rest that God offered them in the Promised Land and so here comes the second warning. If Jesus is greater than Moses how much higher are the stakes if we rebel against him? We also are in a wilderness-like environment where we have to trust God for the future rest in God´s new creation. So lets make sure that we don´t rebel like Israel did in the wilderness and lose out on God´s gracious offer to enter his new creation. in chapters 5 trough 7 the author then compares Jesus with Israel´s priests that come from the line of Aaron. Their role was to represent Israel before God and to offer sacrifices that atoned for or covered over for the sins the sins of the people but he points out, the priests were themselves morally flawed people and so they constantly had to offer sacrifices for their own sins as well as for everybody else's. Something more was needed, and so he then argues that Jesus was that something more. He's the ultimate priest. But Jesus did not come from the line of Aaron, rather Jesus was a priest in the order of Melchizedec, that misterious priest king from ancient Jerusalem and he appears in the stories about Abraham. We also find in Psalm 110 that the messianic King from the line of David will be a priest in the order of Melchizedec. So the authors whole point is this, Jesus is the ultimate priest King, He´s morally flawless , He´s eternal available for his people, and so He´s superior to any other mediator between God and and humans. And thus comes his warning in this section. To reject Jesus is to reject one´s best and only chance to be fully reconciled to God, so don´t do that. Which transitions us into the last comparison in chapters 8 through 10. The author shows how Jesus´ death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice, superior to all the animal sacrifices offered in the temple. Those sacrifices had to be offered constantly, both daily but also yearly on the Day of Atonement. Jesus offered his life once and for all, and was sufficient to cover the whole world. And so the author warns the audience from walking away from Jesus, its like turning your back on a gracious offer of God´s forgiveness, why would you do that? Jesus´ sacrifice is permanent he says, and its the foundation for the new covenant spoken of in the prophets were all sins are forgiven. So, now that the author has elevated Jesus through all of these contrasts, this final section is one big challenge to follow Jesus. So think big picture; In Jesus they have found God´s very word, in Jesus they have hope for the new creation, Jesus is their eternal priest, He´s the perfect sacrifice, and so now they should follow all te great models of faith found throughout the story of the scriptures and they should remain faithful to Jesus trusting that despite whatever hardship of persecution, God will not abandon his people. That´s the basic flow of thought throughout the letter which the author call right here at the very end "a brief word of exhortation." Here a couple of extra tips for reading this letter. Whenever the author quotes from the Old Testament scriptures, which is like every other sentence stop, and go look up the reference and read that quotation in its original context and sometimes you´ll be puzzled but more often you´ll see all kinds of extra, cool conections that you would never notice otherwise, it´s totally worth the effort. You should also just know that these warning passages, they´re going to make you unconfortable and that´s kind of the point. They are not there to make you afraid, they are there to show you that rejecting Jesus is foolish because He´s so awesome. These warning all serve the larger purposes of the letter; To show that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God´s love and mercy. And that´s what the letter to the Hebrews is all about.



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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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).[10][11] 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.[12] 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."[13]

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.[13][14][15] 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.[16] 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.
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,[17] while others argue it was not fixed until the second century CE or even later.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]

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.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23] 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).


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 (שְׁמֹות, literally "The names [of]") — 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 (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)

  • Yĕhôshúa‘ (יְהוֹשֻעַ) — Joshua
  • Shophtim (שֹׁפְטִים) — Judges
  • Shmû’ēl (שְׁמוּאֵל) — Samuel
  • M'lakhim (מְלָכִים) — Kings

The Latter Prophets (נביאים אחרוניםNevi'im Aharonim)

  • Yĕsha‘ăyāhû (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) — Isaiah
  • Yirmyāhû (יִרְמְיָהוּ) — Jeremiah
  • Yĕkhezqiēl (יְחֶזְקֵאל) — Ezekiel

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

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


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)

  • Tehillim (תְהִלִּים) — Psalms
  • Mishlei (מִשְׁלֵי) — Proverbs
  • Iyyôbh (אִיּוֹב) — Job

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

Other books

  • Dānî'ēl (דָּנִיֵּאל) — Daniel
  • ‘Ezrā (עֶזְרָא) — Ezra and Nehemiah
  • Divrei ha-Yamim (דִּבְרֵי הַיָּמִים) — Chronicles

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.


  • The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text: A New Translation with the aid of Previous Versions & with the Constant Consultation of Jewish Authorities was published in 1917 by the Jewish Publication Society. It was replaced by their Tanakh in 1985
  • Tanakh, Jewish Publication Society, 1985, ISBN 0-8276-0252-9
  • Tanach: The Stone Edition, Hebrew with English translation, Mesorah Publications, 1996, ISBN 0-89906-269-5, named after benefactor Irving I. Stone.
  • Tanakh Ram, an ongoing translation to Modern Hebrew (2010–) by Avraham Ahuvya (RAM Publishing House Ltd. and Miskal Ltd.)
  • The Living Torah and The Living Nach, a 1981 translation of the Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and a subsequent posthumous translation of the Nevi'im and Ketuvim following the model of the first volume

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


  1. ^ "Tanach". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ and Gen. 31:47, Jer. 10:11
  3. ^ "Scholars seek Hebrew Bible's original text – but was there one?". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Controversy lurks as scholars try to work out Bible's original text". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  5. ^ Isaac Leo Seeligmann, Robert Hanhart, Hermann Spieckermann: The Septuagint Version of Isaiah and Cognate Studies, Tübingen 2004, pages 33-34.
  6. ^ Shanks, Herschel (August 4, 1992). Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls (1st ed.). Random House. p. 336. ISBN 978-0679414483.
  7. ^ "Mikra'ot Gedolot".
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ BIBLICAL STUDIES Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation. Norton Irish Theological Quarterly.2007; 72: 305-306
  10. ^ Safire, William (1997-05-25). "The New Old Testament". The New York Times.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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…
  13. ^ a b McGrath, Alister, Christian Theology, Oxford: Blackwell, 2011, p. 120, 123. ISBN 9781444335149.
  14. ^ "Marcion", Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ "Scanning an Ancient Biblical Text That Humans Fear to Open". The New York Times. January 5, 2018.
  17. ^ 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."
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Ginzberg, Louis (1909). The Legends of the Jews Vol. IV : Chapter XI Ezra (Translated by Henrietta Szold) Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
  20. ^ (Bava Batra 14b-15a, Rashi to Megillah 3a, 14a)
  21. ^ Midrash Qoheleth 12:12
  22. ^ Kelley, Page H., The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Eerdmans, 1998, ISBN 0-8028-4363-8, p. 20
  23. ^ 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
  24. ^ Also called Kinnot in Hebrew.

Further reading

External links

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