Bible, Old Testament, and Torah
Communing with His creation
The Bible (sometimes The
Book, The Good Book, Word of God, or Scripture), from Greek (τα) βιβλια, (ta) biblia, "(the) books", plural of βιβλιον, biblion, "book", originally a diminutive of βιβλος, biblos, which in turn is derived from βυβλοςóbyblos, meaning "papyrus", from the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos which exported this writing material), is the classical name for the Hebrew Bible of Judaism or the combination of the Old Testament and New Testament of Christianity ("The Bible" therefore actually refers to at least two different Bibles). It is thus applied to sacred scriptures. Many Christian English speakers refer to the Christian Bible as "the good book". For many people, their Bible is the revealed word of God or an authoritative record of the relationship between God, the world, and humankind.
Both Bibles have been the most widely distributed of books. It has also been translated more times, and into more languages, than any other book. The complete Bible, or portions of it, have been translated into more than 2,100 languages. It is said that more than 5 billion copies of the Bible have been sold since 1815, making it the biggest selling book of all-time.
Because of Christian domination of Europe from the late Roman era to the Age of Enlightenment, the Christian Bible has influenced not only religion, but language, law and, until the modern era, the natural philosophy of mainstream Western Civilization. The Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution in Europe and America brought skepticism regarding the divine origin and historical accuracy of the Bible and Bible prophecy. Scholars such as Professor Peter Stoner and Dr. Hawley O. Taylor have argued that Bible prophecy is of a remarkable nature and did not happen by mere chance.
Although the term "Bible" is most often used to refer to Jewish and Christian scriptures, "Bible" is sometimes used to describe scriptures of other faiths. Thus the Guru Granth Sahib is often referred to as the "Sikh Bible". In the early years after the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, it was sometimes known as the "Golden Bible". The word "bible" (in lower case) is also used to refer to any tome which incorporates comprehensive and/or authoritative coverage of its subject.
As the original meaning of the word indicates, the Jewish and Christian Bibles are actually collections of several books, considered to be inspired by God or to record God's relationship with humanity or a particular nation.
The Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible (also known as the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh in Hebrew) consists of 24 books. Tanakh is an acronym for three parts of the Hebrew Bible: the Torah, Nevi'im, and
The Torah, or "teaching" is also known as the five books of Moses, thus Chumash or Pentateuch (Hebrew and Greek for "five," respectively).
The five books are:
* I Genesis ( Bereishit בראשית ),
* II Exodus ( Shemot שמות ),
* III Leviticus ( Vayikra ויקרא ),
* IV Numbers ( Bemidbar במדבר )
* V Deuteronomy ( Devarim דברים )
The Torah focuses on three moments in the changing relationship between God and people.
* The first eleven chapters of Genesis provide an account of the creation (or ordering) of the world, and the history of God's early relationship with humanity.
* The remaining thirty-nine chapters of Genesis provide an account of God's covenant with the Hebrew patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (also called Israel), and Jacob's children (the "Children of Israel"). It tells of how God commanded Abraham to leave his family and home in the city of Ur, eventually to settle in the land of Canaan, and how the Children of Israel later moved to Egypt
* The remaining four books of the Torah tells the story of Moses, the greatest Hebrew prophet, who lived hundreds of years after the patriarchs. His story coincides with the story of the liberation of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, to the renewal of their covenant with God at Mount Sinai, and their wanderings in the desert until a new generation would be ready to enter the land of Canaan. The Torah ends with the death of Moses.
The Torah contains the 613 commandments mitzvot of God, revealed during the passage from slavery in the land of Egypt to freedom in the land of Canaan, that provide the basis for Jewish law Halakha.
The Torah is divided into fifty four portions which are read in turn, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Deuteronomy, each Sabbath. The cycle ends and recommences at the end of
The Two Torahs
By the Hellenistic period of Jewish history, Jews were divided over the nature of the Torah. Some (for example, the Sadducees) believed that the Chumash contained the entire Torah, that is, the entire contents of what God revealed to Moses at Sinai and in the desert. Others, principally the Pharisees, believed that the Chumash represented only that portion of the revelation that had been written down (i.e. the Written Torah or the Written Law), but that the rest of God's revelation had been passed down orally (thus composing the Oral Law or Oral Torah). Orthodox Jews today believe that the Talmud consists of the Oral Torah committed to writing.
Nevi'im, or "Prophets," tells the story of the rise of the Hebrew monarchy, its division into two kingdoms, and the prophets who, in God's name, judged the kings and the Children of Israel. It ends with the conquest of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians, and the Kingdom of Judea by the Babylonians, and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Book of Jonah is read on Yom Kippor. Portions of other prophetic books are read on the Sabbath (Shabbat).
According to Jewish tradition, Nevi'im is divided into eight books. Contemporary translations subdivide these into seventeen books.
The eight books are:
* I. Joshua or Yehoshua יהושע
* II. Judges or Shoftim שופטים
* III. Samuel or Shmu'el שמואל
(often divided into two books; Samuel may be considered the last of the judges (his sons were named judges, but rejected by the people) or the first of the prophets; it was he who negotiated on behalf of the Children of Israel with God to anoint a King)
* IV. Kings or Melakhim מלכים
(often divided into two books)
* V. Isaiah or Yeshayahu ישעיהו
* VI. Jeremiah or Yirmiyahu ירמיהו
* VII. Ezekiel or Yehezq'el יחזקאל
* VIII. Trei Asar תרי עשר
(The Twelve Minor Prophets)
o 1. Hosea or Hoshea הושע
o 2. Joel or Yo'el יואל
o 3. Amos עמוס
o 4. Obadiah or Ovadyah עבדיה
o 5. Jonah or Yonah יונה
o 6. Micah or Mikhah מיכה
o 7. Nahum or Nachum נחום
o 8. Habakkuk or Habaquq חבקוק
o 9. Zephaniah or Tsefania צפניה
o 10. Haggai or Haggai חגי
o 11. Zechariah Zekharia זכריה
o 12. Malachi or Malakhi מלאכי
Ketuvim, or "Writings," were, according to critical scholars, mostly written during or after the Babylonian Exile and were among the last books to be canonized. According to Rabbinic tradition, many of the psalms in the book of Psalms are attributed to King David; King Solomon wrote three books: Song of Songs in his youth, Proverbs at the prime of his life, and Ecclesiastes at old age; and the prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations. The Book of Job is the only Biblical book that centers on a non-Jew (unless Ruth, a Moabite, is taken to be the primary character of the Book of Ruth). Five of the books, called "The Five Scrolls" (Megilot), are read on Jewish holidays: Song of Songs on Passover; the Book of Ruth on Shavuot; Lamentations on the Ninth of Av; Ecclesiastes on Sukkot; and the Book of Esther on Purim. Collectively, the Ketuvim contain lyrical poetry, philosophical reflections on life, and the stories of the prophets and other Jewish leaders during the Babylonian exile, up to the Persian decree allowing Jews to return to Judea to rebuild the Temple.
Ketuvim contains eleven books:
* I. Tehillim תהלים
* II. Mishlei משלי (Book of Proverbs)
* III. `Iyyov איוב (Book of Job)
* IV. Shir ha-Shirim שיר השירים
(Song of Songs)
* V. Ruth רות (Book of Ruth)
* VI. Eikhah איכה (Lamentations)
[Also called Kinnot in Hebrew.]
* VII. Kohelet קהלת (Ecclesiastes)
* VIII. Esther אסתר (Book of Esther)
* IX. Daniel דניאל (Book of Daniel)
* X. Ezra עזרא (often divided into two books, Book of Ezra and Book of Nehemiah)
* XI. Divrei ha-Yamim דברי הימים
(Chronicles, often divided into two books)
Translations and Editions
The Tanakh was mainly written in Biblical Hebrew, with some portions (notably in Daniel and Ezra) in Aramaic.
Some time in the 3rd century BCE, the Torah was translated into Koine Greek, and over the next century other books were translated as well. This translation became known as the Septuagint and was widely used by Greek-speaking Jews and, later, by Christians. It differs somewhat from the Hebrew text as standardized later (Masoretic Text).
From the 800s to the 1400s, Rabbinic Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes compared the text of all known Biblical manuscripts in an effort to create a unified standardized text; a series of highly similar texts eventually emerged, and any of these texts are known as Masoretic Texts (MT). The Masoretes also added vowel points (called niqqud) to the text, since the original text only contained consonants. This sometimes required the selection of an interpretation, since words can differ only in their vowels, and thus the meaning can vary in accordance with the choice of vowels to insert. In antiquity other variant readings existed, some of which have survived in the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea scrolls, and other ancient fragments, as well as being attested in ancient versions in other languages.
Versions of the Septuagint contain several passages and whole books additional to what was included in the Masoretic texts of the Tanakh. In some cases these additions were originally composed in Greek, while in other cases they are translations of Hebrew books or variants not present in the Masoretic texts. Recent discoveries have shown that more of the Septuagint additions have a Hebrew origin than was once thought. While there are no complete surviving manuscripts of the Hebrew texts on which the Septuagint was based, many scholars believe that they represent a different textual tradition from the one that eventually became the basis for the Masoretic texts.
The Old Testament
The collection of books that the majority of Christians (including members of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Churches) call the Old Testament include not only the 24 books of the Jewish Tanakh, but also certain deuterocanonical books preserved in the Greek of the Septuagint. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes seven such books (Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch), as well as some passages in Esther and Daniel, that are not included in the Jewish Scriptures. Various Orthodox Churches include a few others, typically 3 Maccabees, Psalm 151, 1 Esdras, Odes, Psalms of Solomon, and occasionally even 4 Maccabees. Protestants in general do not recognize these books as truly part of the Bible, though they may print them along with the books they do recognize.