Wikipedia:WikiProject Judaism/Manual of Style

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Manual of Style

The manual of style for the Judaism WikiProject. (edit) (back to top)


The WikiProject Judaism style guide is intended to provide recommendations regarding the content and structure of articles within the scope of the project, as a supplement to the Wikipedia Manual of Style.

Further information: WP:CONLIMITED

NPOV policy[edit]

  • Wikipedia's NPOV policy often means multiple points of view. This means providing not only the points of view of different groups today, but different groups in the past.
  • Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. One important task for articles is to explain things. In the case of human beliefs and practices, explanation encompasses not only what motivates individuals who hold these beliefs and practices, but an account of how such beliefs and practices came to be and took shape.
  • Wikipedia articles on history and religion draw from a religion's sacred texts, in this case including the Torah, Tanakh, Mishnah, Tosefta, the two Talmuds, midrashic literature including works such as the Zohar, and the responsa literature. But Wikipedia articles on history and religion also draw from modern archaeological, historical and scientific sources.
  • Adherents of a religion may object to a critical historical treatment of their own faith. They would prefer that the articles describe their faith according to their tradition and understanding, which often differs substantially from the view commonly held by critical historians. Non adherents of a religion may feel the exact opposite, and prefer that the views of critical historians be given primacy; many articles on Wikipedia currently reflect the latter point of view. NPOV policy demands both points of view be presented without prejudice.

Thus sentences currently saying something like "adherents of this faith believe X, but this has been disproved by historians" should instead say something like "adherents of this faith believe X; most critical historians believe Y". As well, back and forth debate in every sentence of a paragraph is tiresome; it is stylistically preferred to present the two points of view in separate sections, or at least separate paragraphs, each one advancing the opposing thesis.

  • A note on using the term "fundamentalism": Please see the article on fundamentalism for the technical definition of this term; its technical definition differs considerably from the common understanding, and is often seen as pejorative. The mere use of the term is often enough to attract strife and create edit-wars. Thus, its use should be avoided whenever possible, as its meaning often can just as clearly be stated in some other way.
  • Articles should present rational and mystical perspectives and distinguish between them.
  • Disputes should be taken to the talk page as soon as possible; questions that span several different articles can be discussed on this WikiProject's talk page.

Working with specific biblical verses[edit]

When working with biblical text its important to understand that Judaism includes a wide variety of interpretive traditions – some in common with Christianity and some quite different. A balanced interpretation should include insights (where available) from the following sources:

  • Biblical criticism. This interpretive tradition is shared by both Jews and Christians, especially those belonging to denominations that stress the importance of integrating academic text study with religious understanding, e.g. non-orthodox Judaism, non-fundamentalist Christianity.
    It is a good idea to check a variety of sources before assuming that any one source represents the academic view. Although academia is supposed to be religiously neutral, many sources from this tradition still carry unacknowledged gender or religious biases. The academic community, like Wikipedia, has needed time for its neutrality to mature[citation needed].
    The hermeneutical rules have also changed over time. Early biblical criticism, in agreement with literary theories of the time, believed that there was one true interpretation defined by what the "original authors" meant. Literary theory has changed and with it biblical criticism. Some more recent criticism, also based on literary theory, views text as a cooperative act between author and reader[citation needed]. Academic articles have accordingly expanded their scope to include the reader's point of view at various points in history, including the present. (see Hermeneutic circle for further discussion).
  • Second Temple era. Naming conventions for Hellenistic Judaism, Dead Sea scrolls, and other Second Temple era sources such as archaeological inscriptions and papyri, are generally, whether by secular or religious academic authors, made following the SBL Handbook of Style.
  • Zohar the key esoteric commentary on the Torah.
  • Classical Midrash. WP:NPOV expositions of biblical text also need to consider the midrashic tradition. From the academic point of view it represents the understanding of the text by a particular community (the reader side of interpretation). From the religious point of view, midrash has played an essential role in Jewish thought and it would be nearly impossible to understand that thought without the midrash upon which it is based.
  • Bible translations - it is often hard to find words in two languages that exactly match both the connotation and denotation. As a result almost all translations include some measure of interpretation. Furthermore ancient cultures understand the concept of a "literal" translation differently than most people of our day. Thus ancient translations in particular (for example the Targumim) often have significant amounts of interpretive material. Like midrash, this interpretive material has had a profound influence on Jewish thought.
  • other – please fill in ...

While it is understandable that some Jewish editors might feel uncomfortable about actively writing paragraphs based on strictly Christian sources, WP:NPOV does require that we respect the viewpoints of established religious traditions. Thus, we all need to at least be aware of what counts as reliable sources within other religious traditions that consider the bible one of the canonical texts.

  • Is there a wiki list available? Do we need to create one?

Articles on biblical terms[edit]

Note: Some usages state "biblical" as B'iblical as in Bible.

When an article explicates a specific term rather than a specific verse (such as tzedaka), it is important to make sure we consider all biblical uses, not just one or two verses. Both modern and traditional secondary sources often focus on specific verses and so omit the broad picture. This can result in an unbalanced article.

To verify that all uses of the term have been included, it is a good idea to check a Hebrew concordance (such as Evan-Shoshan's "A New Concordance of the Bible"). The first part of each Even-Shoshan entry may be especially helpful because it lists (in dictionary fashion) all the definitions of the term along with all the citations that exemplify it.

It can also be difficult to interpret a word that appears in only a few verses. In such cases those with traditional yeshiva educations may be accustomed to relying on Rashi for a primary definition. It is important to realize that Rashi's interpretations are sometimes disputed in Medieval sources: compare, for example, Rashi and Ibn Ezra's exegesis of the word b'reshit. To the extent that an article needs to capture how medieval Jewish commentators saw the text, the view points of all recognized medieval Jewish commentators are necessary. Any other reliable Torah source may also be used.

Modern critical techniques expect one to consider definitions of the word in languages which influenced Hebrew (for example, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Hittite, and Phoenician). "The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew English Lexicon" (commonly known as the "BDB") is another important reference for this purpose. It provides information on the etymology of each word alongside a list of definitions and some sample citation. The list of citations may not be complete so one will generally need to check both the BDB and a concordance.

For first time users sources like Evan-Shoshan and BDB can be a bit confusing. If you are interested in using these sources and need help, please leave a message on the WikiProject Judaism talk page. Someone will be happy to help you find your way around these resources. Please be patient though – if you are meet with silence it may just mean that the editors best able to help you are on a wiki break.

Articles on halachic topics[edit]

Some of our articles may pick only one classical rabbinic POV, and present it as the only classical rabbinic POV. This happened in the articles on the 613 mitzvot and Korban. When discussing the views of the classical rabbis strive to also present the full array of views within classical rabbinic literature.

As you will be aware, some views just don't make it to mainstream Jewish thought. You will be hard pressed to find an educated Jew who doubts that there are 613 mitzvot in the Torah. The debate is interesting, but please do not make it out as if the matter is completely undecided. Although in some matters there has been no clear psak (binding law); still, when a view is widely favoured it can be presented in Wikipedia as the generally accepted view, with dissenters as a historical curiosity. In some matters that may be considered non-halachic by many, psakim have been issued – that once the Jewish people is considered to have accepted a specific viewpoint, someone who disputes that is considered by the rabbinic authorities to hold heretical beliefs. For example, the famous Ra'avad arguing against the Rambam states that even though he doesn't believe it, someone who believes that G-d has a body is not a heretic. No Jew today would espouse that viewpoint, it has been rejected in halacha.

Common differences between Jewish and Christian perspectives and avoiding such bias[edit]

Many articles on Jewish topics exist side-by-side with articles on Christian views on the same topics. Here are some issues to consider, in responding to and standardizing articles relating to Torah, Tanakh and "Scripture" etc.:

  • Many articles on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) are drawn from the Christian dominated Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 and from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica (there are even templates for them, as there is for the 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia). There is a need for good Jewish sources as alternatives to "Eastons" and the 1911 Britannica alone.
  • Jewish and Christian translations of the Tanakh are not always similar; they may have different interpretations of some verses.[note 1]
  • Use Jewish-based translations in articles or sections on Jewish viewpoints; avoid using Christian-based translations in such articles or sections.
  • Usage of words such as "Old Testament" and "New Testament" in articles. Need to standardize introductions and usages of Torah and Tanakh / Hebrew Bible etc. and to explain why and how Judaism views and uses these terms (differently).
  • Within articles there is a need to create a standardized method for presenting a Jewish view separately from the Christian views. At the moment many paragraphs and sentences in Tanakh articles often jump from "New Testament" views to "Old Testament" views. Articles need to be clear about each religion's view and not become a hodge-podge shoddy attempt at ersatz ecumenism that represents nothing in reality.
  • Usages of words relating to the Tetragrammaton and the names of and for God. Much work has already been done via "redirects" when words like "Jeho-va" or "Yah=we" etc. are used, but this subject needs further attention and standardization.
  • Responding to those who would classify Judaism and its texts as Mythology, as some do with Christianity.
  • Many articles refer to Jesus Christ; the word "Christ" is a formal title, used by those people who believe that Jesus is the son of God and the messiah. This usage violates Wikipedia policy, and it never hurts to remind editors to refer to him as "Jesus of Nazareth" or simply "Jesus."
  • Standardize a method of citation for books, chapters, and verses. Also, some Christians include different Jewish books in their canon such as the Book of Baruch and the way they classify and use Category:Old Testament Apocrypha in general runs counter to Jewish scholarship. Need to respond in a standardized manner.
  • Sometimes articles related to the Tanakh, or "Old Testament", are written from a distinctly Christian perspective. It's a worthy goal to ensure that Jewish perspectives are taken into account.
  • Messianic Judaism viewpoints should almost always be considered Christian viewpoints; only cover such viewpoints in sections devoted to Judaism if they are distinct from Christianity, and only briefly.[note 2] Also, be careful to not cite Messianic Judaism-based sources to support mainstream Jewish viewpoints.
  1. ^ For example, in Isaiah 7:14, Christian translations often translate עלמה (almah - usually refers to a young woman of childbearing age) as "virgin", linking it to Jesus' Messiahship; however Jewish translations translate it to "young woman", its usual translation.
  2. ^ For example, do not put references to the New Testament in sections devoted to Judaism, despite the Messianic Judaism movement.

Article introduction[edit]

The following is a sample article introduction:

Sukkot (Succos) is one of the most important Jewish holidays in Judaism. During this holiday, Jews traditionally enjoy their meals in a sukka, and shake a lulav and etrog during morning prayers.

The word being defined should be the first word in the article and should be bold. If it is a Hebrew word, it should also be italicized, but not capitalized. The first sentence should be a summary of the word and should contain a link to Judaism. Article titles may be in either Israeli or Ashkenazi transcription. Whichever transcription method was used to start the article remains the title of the article, and the other transcriptions should be redirected to the article.

Including Jewish and Hebrew words or terms[edit]

  • this section, as with any Manual of Style by any Wikipedia Project, should firstly remain subject to the general principles of Wikipedia for all users, particularly Wikipedia:naming conventions (use English) per English vs foreign language usage in WP:RS

The following is a sample sentence which includes Jewish terms:

  • During the holiday of tabernacles (Succos, Succot, in Hebrew: סוכות) Jews are commanded (have a mitzva, in Hebrew: מצוה) to shake a palm branch (lulav, in Hebrew: לולב) and lemon-like citrus fruit (esrog, etrog, in Hebrew: אתרוג) ("eθroɣ").

Whenever a Hebrew term is first used in an article, it should be rendered in English followed by a parenthesis containing two transliterations of the Hebrew word: One in an Israeli Sefardi transliteration and one in the Artscroll transliteration. The order of the transliterations is left to the writer. Subsequently, either transliteration may be used in the article. The first two transliterations should be links. All transliterations should be italicized, and should not use capitals (except for proper nouns).

Hebrew usage[edit]

Main article: Hebrew language

For important guidelines see:

and the discussions at Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Hebrew).


  • When used as titles (that is, followed by a name), items such as king, rabbi and rosh yeshiva start with a capital letter: Rabbi Goldstein, not rabbi Goldstein. The formal name of an office is treated as a proper noun: “Shmuel Salant was Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem” and “David was King of Israel” (where King of Israel is a title).
  • When used generically, such items are in lower case: “Chaim Leib Shmuelevitz‎ was the rosh yeshiva” and “David was the Israelite king”. Similarly, “Three chief rabbis attended the conference”, but “The British Chief Rabbi is Ephraim Mirvis”.


Italics should be used when referring to books, e.g. Shulchan Aruch, Mishnah Berurah; conversely when referring to a central religious work in generic terms, e.g. the Bible or the Talmud, references should not be italicsed. However, when referring to a specific version or edition, it should be italicised, e.g. The Jerusalem Bible.

See also: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (titles)

See also[edit]