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What is the Hebrew Bible?


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September 28, 2017 8:34AM

Christian Answer

The Hebrew bible is really a series of 34 books collected together. The Torah, the prophets, and the Writings that were added later make up the Hebrew bible. Some of these books describe events in Jewish history. Others are books of poetry, literature, and proverbs.

For example Genesis, the first book of the Torah, tells how God punished the world for its bad behavior. In Genesis, God tells Noah to build an ark, or large boat. Noah, his family, and two of every animal on Earth boarded the ark. Then a great flood covered the land, and only those on the ark escaped drowning. After the flood, God created a rainbow as a symbol of his promise to never again destroy the world with a flood.

Genesis also explains why the world has languages. It tells how the people of Babel tried to build a tower to heaven. God disapproved and made the people speak different languages, then scattered them across the earth.

Jewish Answer

The Tanach (Jewish Bible) is made up of the following 24 books:

The Torah (Teachings)

  • Bereishit (Genesis)
  • Sh'mot (Exodus)
  • Vayikra (Leviticus)
  • Bamidbar (Numbers)
  • Devarim (Deuteronomy)

Nevi'im (Prophets)

  • Yehoshua (Joshua)
  • Shoftim (Judges)
  • Shmuel (Samuel I &II, treated as one book)
  • Melachim (Kings I & II, treated as one book)
  • Yeshayah (Isaiah)
  • Yirmiyah (Jeremiah)
  • Yechezkel (Ezekiel)
  • Trey Asar ("The Twelve," treated as one book)
  1. Hoshea (Hosea)
  2. Yoel (Joel)
  3. Amus (Amos)
  4. Ovadyah (Obadiah)
  5. Yonah (Jonah)
  6. Michah (Micah)
  7. Nachum
  8. Chavakuk (Habbakkuk)
  9. Tzefanyah (Zephaniah)
  10. Chagai
  11. Zecharyah (Zechariah)
  12. Malachi

K'tuvim (Writings)

  • Tehillim (Psalms)
  • Mishlei (Proverbs)
  • Iyov (Job)
  • Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs)
  • Rut (Ruth)
  • Eichah (Lamentations)
  • Kohelet (Ecclesiastes)
  • Esther
  • Daniel
  • Ezra & Nechemyah (treated as one book)
  • Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles, treated as one book)
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December 01, 2014 9:10PM

The Hebrew Bible is the Tanakh, which contains the following (all in the original Hebrew):

  • The Torah (the Five Books of Moses):
According to tradition, the Torah was given by God to Moses (Exodus 24:12) in 1312 BCE. Moses taught it to the people (Exodus ch.34), and put it in writing before his death (Deuteronomy 31:24) in 1272 BCE.

Link: More about Moses

  • Nevi'im (the Prophets):
Link: Function of the Prophets

Jewish tradition (Talmud, Bava Batra 14b) states that the prophetic books were written by the authors whose names they bear: Joshua*, Samuel*, Isaiah*, Jeremiah*, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel*, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah*, etc. Judges was written by Samuel, and Kings was written by Jeremiah. The prophetic books were written in the time of the prophets, from the 1200s BCE (Joshua) to the mid-300s BCE (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

(*See the Related Links.)

  • Ketuvim (the Writings):

Jewish tradition (Talmud, Bava Batra 14b) states that the Writings were written by the authors whose names they bear: Daniel*, Ezra* and Nehemiah*. Ruth* was written by Samuel; Lamentations was written by Jeremiah; Psalms was set in writing by King David*; Chronicles was written by Ezra; Proverbs, Song of Songs* and Kohellet (Ecclesiastes) were written by King Solomon*; and Esther was written by Mordecai and Esther*. The Writings were written between 900 BCE (Ruth) to the mid-300s BCE (Esther, Daniel, Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah).
Concerning Job*, the Talmud states more than one opinion as to when it was written.

(*See the Related Links.)

  • Hebrew Bible Canon:

The earliest Hebrew Bible manuscripts were the prophetic books that were written by the prophets themselves. At the death of each of the prophets, the original manuscript was deposited with the Sanhedrin, which was the high court of Torah-sages in the Temple premises. This is why the first Torah-scroll, which had been written by Moses himself (Deuteronomy 31:24), was found in the Temple (2 Chronicles 34:14). These originals were used to proofread later copies, to ensure no mistakes would creep in (Talmud, Soferim 6:4).

After the time of the First Destruction, God's presence was no longer felt as clearly as before (see Deuteronomy 31:17-18); and nor is exile is not conducive to prophecy (Mechilta, parshat Bo). At that time, the last of the prophets realized that prophecy would soon cease; and that the dispersal of the Jewish people, plus the almost continuous tribulations from the First Destruction onward, made it imperative to seal the canon of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The Sages of the time, including the last living prophets, convened a special synod for a couple of decades, which was called the Men of the Great Assembly (Mishna, Avot ch.1). This group, who functioned around 340 BCE, composed the blessings and the basic prayers of the siddur (prayerbook) and the early portions of the Passover Haggadah, made many of the Rabbinical decrees, and (most importantly) sealed the canon of the Tanakh. It was they, for example, who set the twelve Minor Prophets as (halakhically) a single book, and who set the books of the Tanakh in their traditional order (see Talmud, Bava Batra 14b). It was the Men of the Great Assembly whom Esther had to approach when she felt that the Divinely inspired Scroll of Esther should be included in the canon (see Talmud, Megilla 7a).
Since the sealing of the Tanakh, no Jewish sage has ever claimed prophecy.

  • Order of the Tanakh's books:
The Hebrew Bible is in chronological order: first the five books of the Torah, since they were given before any of the other prophetic books. Then Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings in that order, since that is chronological. Ruth (and others) could be before Kings, but we keep the Prophets and Writings separate.
After Kings, we have Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, which is in chronological order. All three of them lived well after the kings had already started.
The Twelve Minor Prophets, who also lived during the latter part of the era of the Kings, are gathered together in a single book of their own.
Then we have the Writings. Psalms, Proverbs and Job are together since they (and none of the other books) are a specific type of poetry ("Taamei Emet", with special trope).
The Five Megillot (Song of Songs, Ruth, Eichah, Kohellet, Esther) are together, in the order in which they're read in the synagogue.
Finally, the books of Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles were written in the end of the prophetic period.

Link: How is the Hebrew Bible presented?

  • Importance of the Tanakh:

The Tanakh is important because it tells the history of the ancient Israelites, as well as giving us the teachings of the Israelite prophets and kings, and the laws, ethics and beliefs of the Jewish religion.Our tradition is that the Hebrew Bible is from God (Exodus 24:12), given to us to provide knowledge, guidance, inspiration, awe and reverence, advice, law, comfort, history and more. It is the basis of Judaism. It crystallized, strengthened and codified our beliefs; insured our awareness and knowledge of our identity and history; and provided powerful impetus to be ethical.
It made us stand in awe of God, while also providing optimism and comfort through the prophecies of redemption. It inspired us to strive for holiness and informed us how to pray and to approach God's presence.
And it set detailed laws, practices and traditions for the Jewish people forever.

Link: Jewish history timeline

Link: How was the Torah written?

Link: Refuting the Bible-critics

Link: More about Joshua

Link: More about Samuel

Link: How many Isaiahs?

Link: More about Jeremiah

Link: More about Joel

Link: More about Jonah

Link: More about Daniel

Link: More about Ruth

Link: More about King David

Link: More about the Song of Songs

Link: More about King Solomon

Link: More about Esther

Link: More about Ezra

Link: More about Nehemiah

Link: More about Job