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The Tanakh (//; Hebrew: 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.
The three-part division reflected in the acronym "Tanakh" is well attested in literature of the Rabbinic period. 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.
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, while others argue it was not fixed until the second century CE or even later.
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. 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.
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 (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
|Books of Nevi'im|
|Latter Prophets (major)|
|Latter Prophets (Twelve minor)|
Nevi'im (Hebrew: נְבִיאִים Nəḇî'îm, "Prophets") is the second main division of the Tanakh, between the Torah and Ketuvim. It contains two sub-groups, the Former Prophets (Nevi'im Rishonim נביאים ראשונים, the narrative books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Nevi'im Aharonim נביאים אחרונים, 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
|Books of the Ketuvim|
|Three poetic books|
|Five Megillot (Scrolls)|
Ketuvim (כְּתוּבִים, "Writings") consists of eleven books, described below.
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.
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 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.
- Shīr Hashīrīm (Song of Songs) or (Song of Solomon) שִׁיר הַשִׁירִים (Passover)
- Rūth (Book of Ruth) רוּת (Shavuot)
- Eikhah (Lamentations) אֵיכָה (Tisha B'Av) [Also called Kinnot in Hebrew.]
- Qōheleth (Ecclesiastes) קֹהֶלֶת (Sukkot)
- Estēr (Book of Esther) אֶסְתֵר (Purim)
- Dānî'ēl (Book of Daniel) דָּנִיֵּאל
- ‘Ezrā (Book of Ezra—Book of Nehemiah) עֶזְרָא
- Divrei ha-Yamim (Chronicles) דִּבְרֵי הַיָּמִים
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.
- 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.)
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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.
- 613 mitzvot, formal list of Jewish 613 commandments
- 929: Tanakh B'yachad
- Bemidbar (parsha)
- Dead Sea Scrolls#Biblical books found
- Jewish English Bible translations
- JPS Tanakh
- Mikraot Gedolot
- Non-canonical books referenced in the Bible
- "Tanach". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
- "Mikra'ot Gedolot".
- BIBLICAL STUDIES Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation. Norton Irish Theological Quarterly.2007; 72: 305-306
- 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."
- 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.
- (Bava Batra 14b-15a, Rashi to Megillah 3a, 14a)
- Midrash Qoheleth 12:12
- Kelley, Page H., The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Eerdmans, 1998, ISBN 0-8028-4363-8, p. 20
- 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
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- Serve-A-Verse—Free online Hebrew Bible Explorer with audio, translation and transliteration of all 39 books of the Hebrew Bible.
- Judaica Press Translation of Tanakh with Rashi's commentary Free online translation of Tanakh and Rashi's entire commentary
- Hebrew–English Tanakh: the Jewish Bible—Online edition of the oldest known complete Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible (including contillation marks) placed next to classic Jewish translation; can be used on most Internet-connected computers and mobile devices.
- Mechon Mamre—The Hebrew text of the Tanakh based on the Aleppo codex and other Tiberian manuscripts close to it, edited according to the system of Rabbi Mordechai Breuer. Hebrew text comes in four convenient versions (including one with cantillation marks) and may be downloaded. The JPS 1917 English translation is included as well as parallel translations (Hebrew–English, Hebrew–French, Hebrew–Portuguese and a Hebrew–Spanish Bible, see: A Jewish Hebrew–English/French/Portuguese/Spanish Bible According to the Masoretic Text and the JPS 1917 Edition)
- Mikraot Gedolot (Rabbinic Bible) at Wikisource in English (sample) and Hebrew (sample)
- Tanach on Demand – Custom PDF versions of any section of the Bible in Hebrew.
- A Guide to Reading Nevi'im and Ketuvim – Detailed Hebrew outlines of the biblical books based on the natural flow of the text (rather than the chapter divisions). The outlines include a daily study-cycle, and the explanatory material is in English, by Seth (Avi) Kadish.
- Unicode/XML Westminster Leningrad Codex – A free transcription of the electronic source maintained by the Westminster Hebrew Institute. (Leningrad Codex)
- Tanakh Hebrew Bible Project—An online project that aims to present critical text of the Hebrew Bible with important ancient versions (Samaritan Pentateuch, Masoretic Text, Targum Onkelos, Samaritan Targum, Septuagint, Peshitta, Aquila of Sinope, Symmachus, Theodotion, Vetus Latina, and Vulgate) in parallel with new English translation for each version, plus a comprehensive critical apparatus and a textual commentary for every verse.