History of Judaism

What is the history of the Jewish Bible?

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2018-04-09 10:55:56
2018-04-09 10:55:56

Broadly speaking, the history contained in the Jewish Bible describes how the Israelites began and tells of their relationship with God.

The prophetic books were written over a period of one thousand years in the era of the prophets, from the 1200s BCE (Torah, Joshua) to the mid-300s BCE (Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

  • 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.
  • Nevi'im (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).
  • 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.

  • 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 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 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.

  • 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.

(Note that the Hebrew Bible "as is" isn't exactly what Judaism observes. Rather, it's the Hebrew Bible together with the details provided in the Talmud, which is the Oral Law that was handed down since the beginning. Otherwise, many brief verses lack enough detail to be fulfilled as is.)

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2015-01-11 14:27:49
2015-01-11 14:27:49

The Jewish 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).

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. These originals were used to proofread later copies (Talmud, Soferim 6:4).


After the time of the First Destruction, the last of the prophets realized that prophecy would soon cease; and that it was now 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. 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.
Since the sealing of the Tanakh, no Jewish sage has ever claimed prophecy.


(Note that the Hebrew Bible "as is" isn't exactly what Judaism observes. Rather, it's the Hebrew Bible together with the details provided in the Talmud, which is the Oral Law that was handed down since the beginning. Otherwise, many brief verses lack enough detail to be fulfilled as is.)

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 Haggai

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

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