Old Testament, Torah and Hebrew Bible (Tanakh)

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Cain slays Abel in the Old Testament

The "Hebrew Bible" — "Jewish Bible" or the Tanakh (also spelled Tanach and Tanak) — is more less the same thing as the Old Testament of the Bible. It is is divided into three parts — The Law (Torah), the Writings (Ketuviym) and the Prophets (Navi'im). The word Tanakh is derived from the first letters of each of the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible. The Christian Bible is divided into two main parts — the Old Testament and the New Testament. Judaism does not accept the New Testament. [Source: Jeff Benner, Quora.com, Biblical Hebrew scholar, 2017]

The Torah is is the first five books — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy — of the 39-book Hebrew Bible.
Most of the books in the Hebrew Bible were written in Hebrew between 1200 and 100 B.C. The New Testament was written in the Koine Greek language. The Hebrew names for the first five books of the Torah are; Bereshiyt (in the beginning), Shemot (names), Vayiqra (and he called), Bemidbar (in the wilderness) and Devariym (words). These names of the books are the first principle word in each of the books.

The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is essentially the story of a people and their relationship with God, written for and addressed to the same people. It is not all that different in its concept than the folklore and oral history of tribal peoples. Prophets (Nevi'im) — the second of the three part of the Tanakh is made up of the books of seven major and 12 minor prophets and included I Kings, II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other books that record the life and teachings of the prophets of Judaism. Writings (Ketuvim or Hagiographa) — the third division of the Tanakh — includes the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and other works said to have be written under holy guidance.

The original Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) was translated into Greek between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C.. This translation is called the Septuagint (or LXX, both 70 in Latin), because there is a tradition that seventy Jewish scribes compiled it in Alexandria. It was quoted in the New Testament and is found bound together with the New Testament in the 4th and 5th century Greek uncial codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and Vaticanus. The Septuagint included books, called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical by Christians, which were later not accepted into the Jewish canon of sacred writings

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Judaism Virtual Jewish Library jewishvirtuallibrary.org/index ; Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu Christianity: BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library www.ccel.org ; Sacred Texts website sacred-texts.com ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu

Old Testament

The Old Testament (OT) is the first division of the Christian bible. It is comprised of 39 to 49 books, and roughly corresponds and is based primarily upon the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible. The books contain the main texts of law, prophecy, history, and wisdom literature of ancient Israelites, mostly written in Hebrew but occasionally in Aramaic, a kindred language of Hebrew which came into common usage among the Jews during the post-Exilic era (after the sixth century B.C.). [Source: Wikipedia]

The Old Testament was composed and edited by members of the Hebrew-Jewish community between the twelfth century B.C. and the beginning of the Christian era. It includes a wide range materials such as teachings of wise men, oracles, instructions of priests and ancient records of the royal courts. Some material is historical, some is legendary; some is legalistic, The word "Testament" is an archaic synonym to the word "covenant,” which means promise.

The term "Old Testament," or more properly "Old Covenant," is a Christian designation, reflecting the belief of the early Christian Church that the "new covenant" mentioned in Jer. 31:31-34 was fulfilled in Jesus and that the Christian scriptures set forth the "new covenant," just as the Jewish scriptures set forth the "old covenant" (II Cor. 3:6-18; Heb. 9:1-4). The Aramaic portions include Dan. 2:4b-7:28; Ezra 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26; Jer. 10:11; and one phrase in Gen. 31:47 "Jegar-sahadutha," translated "Heap of Witness.[Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,”1968, infidels.org ]


face of God as he produces the Moon and Sun

The Torah is the first part of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and equivalent to the first five books of the Christian Bible. The central and most important document of Judaism and used by Jews through the ages, it refers to the five books of Moses which are known in Hebrew as Chameesha Choomshey Torah. The Torah is is the holiest book in Judaism, the foundation of Christianity and Islam, and the key to all religious thought in Judaism. The term Torah means “to teach,” “guidance and instruction” or "law". It usually refers to the Five Books of Moses (also known as the Pentateuch). Sometimes the term refers to Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) or Old Testament, or even the Old Testament and the Talmud. [Source: BBC, August 13, 2009 |::|]

In Judaism there are "two" Torahs (Torot in Hebrew); the written Torah and the oral Torah. The written Torah is, as mentioned before, are the first five books of the Bible. The oral Torah is the ancient commentaries on the written Torah that was originally passed down orally, but later (in the first centuries A.D.) were written down in the Mishneh and Talmud. Most but not all sects of Judaism accepts both the written and oral Torah as authoritative but most only accept the Written Torah as the word of God.

If the Torah is bound into book form it is called the ‘Chumash’ (which also means ‘five’, just like Pentateuch means ‘five’). The five book are comprised of 1) Bresheit (Genesis), meaning “At the beginning”; 2) Shemot (Exodus), meaning "Names"; 3) Vayicra ("He Called”, Leviticus), 4) Bamidbar ("In the Wilderness.", Numbers), and 5) Devarim ("Words", Deuteronomy). Leviticus is Latin for ‘of the Levites’).

According to traditional Jewish and Christian teachings, the Torah contains the revelation of God, written down by Moses. Jews believe that God dictated the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai 50 days after their exodus from Egyptian slavery. They believe that the Torah shows how God wants Jews to live. It contains 613 commandments and Jews refer to the ten best known of these as the ten statements. Modern scholars say The Torah was put together from a collection of writings from different authors and sources over hundreds of years. The Torah begins with the creation of the world and ends with Moses’ death. The names of the five books of the Torah are derived from the first unique word that appears in the book.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica: Torah, in Judaism, in the broadest sense, the substance of divine revelation to Israel, the Jewish people: God’s revealed teaching or guidance for humankind. The written Torah, in the restricted sense of the first five books of the Bible, is preserved in all Jewish synagogues on handwritten parchment scrolls that reside inside the ark of the Law. They are removed and returned to their place with special reverence. Readings from the Torah form an important part of Jewish liturgical services. Since for some Jews the laws and customs passed down through oral traditions are part and parcel of God’s revelation to Moses and constitute the “oral Torah,” Torah is also understood to include both the Oral Law and the Written Law. Rabbinic commentaries on and interpretations of both Oral and Written Law have been viewed by some as extensions of sacred oral tradition, thus broadening still further the meaning of Torah to designate the entire body of Jewish laws, customs, and ceremonies. [Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

Differences Between The Torah and Old Testament

The main difference between Torah and Old Testament is that Torah comprises the first five books of the Hebrew bible, while the Old Testament comprises 39 books, including the five books of the Torah. In addition, the Torah was written almost exclusively in Hebrew whereas the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.

Gold Hunter posted on Quora.com: The Tanakh - the Hebrew Bible - contains all the same books as a Christian Protestant version of 'the Old Testament' with some trifling variations in verse numbering, except (and this is a big 'except') the books are not entirely in the same order. A Christian OT arranges the books such that the 'end' of the OT consists of prophecies of a return to Jerusalem and re-establishment of God's worship there. OUR Bible ends with the story of the return from Babylon and the re-establishment of God's worship in Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple. [Source: Gold Hunter, Quora.com, 2023]

We also use the word Torah sometimes, to refer to the whole entire, thousands of years old body of all Jewish law and practice. So we might say so and so is a 'Torah Jew' or such and such is a law from Torah, when that makes little sense if you think that Torah ONLY means the scroll with the five books of Moses, but makes perfect sense when you think of Torah 'enlarged' from those five books, to include 'everything about Judaism'.

What are the five books of Moses? They are the same five books in a Tanakh, or in the OT — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy We use slightly different titles of course, and in Hebrew, but they are the same set of books. Our names are just the first significant word of the first sentence in each book — Bereishit (at the beginning), Sh'mot (names), Vayikra (and He called), Bamidbar (in the wilderness) and D'varim (words)

Aaron Breceda wrote in Quora.com: The difference between the Torah and the Christian Old Testament isn’t really in the text, but how the text is approached and understood. English is a very exact language, it’s rarely ambiguous. Hebrew on the other hand, is a word poor language, which means that most words can have 3 or 4 different meanings depending on the surrounding context. Therefore, English speaking Christians want to know THE meaning of the text. Whereas Judaism embraces the Hebrew and wants to know what possible MEANINGS can we interpret from the text. Great example would be that the story of the serpent in the garden of Eden. The texts are the same, yet to Christians, the serpent can only be the satan/devil. To Jews, the serpent could be: a literal serpent, the animal/selfish desire of mankind, the satan, the subconscious, and the list goes on. [Source: Aaron Breceda, Quora.com, 2018]

Content Differences Within the Bible

The content of the Bible is different with different denominations and is read differently too. Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast: Jews, Catholics, and Protestants do not use the same Bible. Catholics and Protestants don’t even agree on which books the Bible should contain, much less how we should understand the content of those books. Add to this the fact that some denominations read certain passages metaphorically while others are more invested in literalist interpretations. [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, February 10, 2019]

The Bible tells us two diverging things about how David kills Goliath. In the first version David kills Goliath with a slingshot and specifically without a sword (1 Samuel 17:50); in the second version he knocks Goliath down with the slingshot, pulls his sword out, kills Goliath and beheads him (1 Samuel 17:51). The reason for the discrepancy, according to Yale professor of Hebrew Bible Joel Baden’s The Historical David, is that two different, conflicting versions of the David and Goliath story were combined. Presenting descriptions of the geology of the region makes everything – and especially the Biblical text itself – seem more straightforward than it is.

Book Order — a Key Difference Between the Tanakh and Old Testament

The Protestant Old Testament contains all the same books as the Tanakh (39-Book Jewish Bible) but the books are not in the same order and some books are given more weight than others. Gold Hunter posted on Quora.com: As far as I can tell, Christians give pretty much equal authority (‘word of God’) to ALL the books of the Jewish Bible, and — honestly — Jews don’t. We divide the books of the Jewish Bible into three major sections, and only one of them is ‘word of God’. The second is ‘contains a message from God’ but filtered through people, and the third isn’t really ‘word of God’ at all, but just consists of useful, interesting or inspiring literary works. Okay? That’s a big difference right there. [Source: Gold Hunter, Quora.com, 2023]

Of the three major divisions — Torah, Nevi’im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings).— The Torah is oldest and most authoritative. It is the part we would consider to be ‘the Word of God’ most directly. At a synagogue, the Torah is on a single scroll, and we read from the scroll weekly, going through the entire Torah over the course of a year (some synagogues take three years, but most do it in one). The Torah in scroll form is written entirely without vowels or punctuation, and is without ‘book chapter verse’. (Division of the Bible — both Christian and Jewish — into chapters and verses didn’t take place until sometime in the Middle Ages. The Jewish chapter and verse divisions are almost the same as the Christian ones, with a couple of minor exceptions). The Torah scroll does not assign names to these books, but each book is set off by some white space in the scroll, and the names we use are taken from the first major word in the first sentence of each book.

In the Jewish Bible — in a Tanakh — we start with Torah, proceed through the historical and prophetic books, which prophesy a return of the people to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple, and we end up with the writings, which include the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which relate the story of the return from exile to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple.Nice and neat, prophecies fulfilled.

A Christian OT puts Torah at the front — and then mixes the prophets and writings together, managing to end up with a prophet at the very end, leaving the general reader with a feeling that the story has NOT been neatly fulfilled, but something is hanging and waiting for something else. This leads some people to say that the OT and the Jewish Bible are not the same book at all, even though each contains all the same material. Order also sends a message.

Old-Testament-Torah and Jewish History

According to the Encyclopedia of World Cultures: “The connection of the Jewish people to the land called "Palestine" by the Romans is one of the oldest religio-political claims in the world. Jews (and many Christians as well) will point to God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:17 and Deuteronomy 1:7 and 11:24 as proof of the sacred "birthright" of Jews to what they call the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). Jewish presence in Palestine has been constant (if very small in number), even after the final Roman suppression of the Jewish revolt in 135 C.E. Throughout premodern times, pious Jews lived in Palestine, concentrated in the four "holy cities" of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad, and Tiberias. They were supported by funds, called halukkah, collected by special emissaries sent from Palestine to Jewish diaspora communities. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures]

According to the BBC: “The history of Judaism is inseparable from the history of Jews themselves. The early part of the story is told in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). It describes how God chose the Jews to be an example to the world, and how God and his chosen people worked out their relationship. It was a stormy relationship much of the time, and one of the fascinating things about Jewish history is to watch God changing and developing alongside his people.” [Source: BBC]

Silver amulet with scrolls found in Ketef Hinom contain the world known passage of a Bible. : In 1979 two silver mini scrolls (actually amulets in antiquity) were discovered at Ketef Hinnom, an archaeological site that now has been incorporated into the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Dating to around 2,600 years ago they are written in paleo-Hebrew and contain the oldest biblical passage that survives to present day, part of a priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26. The amulets say that Yahweh is stronger than evil and a "rebuker of evil." Researchers think the amulets would have offered protection to those who wore them. [Source: Owen Jarus, Live Science, September 30, 2013]

Historical Periods of the Torah-Old-Testament

Gerald Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “In its present form, the Old Testament opens with religious traditions concerning the origin of the world and of mankind. In broad literary strokes, the transition is made to the beginnings of the Hebrew people with the adventures of the patriarchs-Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-as they dwelt in the land of Canaan. Because of famine, the Hebrews migrated to Egypt where Joseph attained high office and his descendants were treated well. Change in Egyptian leaders altered their attitude to the newcomers, and the Hebrews were pressed into virtual slavery. Led by Moses, they escaped to the wilderness. After Moses' death, under the leadership of Joshua, a successful invasion of Canaan gave them control of the land, a mastery maintained with great difficulty and many wars. Ultimately, internal and external pressure became so great that a single leader, a king, became a necessity. Under Saul, David, and Solomon, Canaan was united into a single empire. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org ]

“When Solomon died, the Hebrew kingdom split into northern (Israel or Ephraim) and southern (Judah) sections, and during the next few centuries the great prophetic figures (Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, etc.) proclaimed their messages. Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and was absorbed by the Assyrian empire, never again to become a nation. In 586 B.C. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians and Judaeans (Jews) were taken into exile in Babylon, where they managed to maintain their identity.

“Release came with the conquest of Babylon by the Persians under Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C. The exiled Judaeans were permitted to return to their homeland, reestablish themselves, and rebuild Jerusalem. Two leaders in the restoration movement, which reached its peak about the middle of the fifth century, were Ezra and Nehemiah. For two centuries, or until the coming of the Greeks tinder Alexander the Great in 333 B.C., 'Judah was ruled as a Persian province and the Jews enjoyed comparative freedom in matters of religion and social conduct. The introduction of Greek culture brought drastic changes.

“When Alexander died in 323 B.C., his kingdom was divided among his generals and Judah was eventually controlled by the Seleucids of Syria. From this time onward, Greek social and cultural patterns made inroads into Jewish life, causing anguish and suffering to those who opposed change. Unable to endure the situation any longer the Jews rebelled and won freedom. For a short time, under Maccabaean leadership, Judah enjoyed the status of an independent nation, only to come under the control of the Roman empire. Here we leave the Old Testament period and enter the Christian era. However, as we shall see, there is far more than history or the interpretation of historical events within the literature of the Old Testament.

Is the Old Testament So Compelling Because It’s a “Loser’s Tale”

Adam Gopnik wrote in The New Yorker: The Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, is, perhaps, unique on the planet inasmuch as it is, as the scholar Jacob L. Wright suggests in his 2023 book, “Why the Bible Began”, so entirely a losers’ tale. The Jews were the great sufferers of the ancient world — persecuted, exiled, catastrophically defeated — and yet the tale of their special selection, and of the demiurge who, from an unbeliever’s point of view, reneged on every promise and failed them at every turn, is the most admired, influential, and permanent of all written texts. Wright’s purpose is to explain, in a new way, how and why this happened. [Source: Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, August 21, 2023]

The easiest explanation is that it happened this way because that’s the way God wanted it to happen. But this does not lessen the need to say how it happened. Or, as Edward Gibbon wrote, in one of the most perfect of sentences, explaining his ambition to provide a rational account for the rise of Christianity, “As truth and reason seldom find so favourable a reception in the world, and as the wisdom of Providence frequently condescends to use the passions of the human heart, and the general circumstances of mankind, as instruments to execute its purpose, we may still be permitted, though with becoming submission, to ask, not indeed what were the first, but what were the secondary causes?”

The “secondary cause” for the Bible’s triumph, in Wright’s view, can be put simply: losers rule. More people remember the record-losing ’62 Mets than the pennant-winning ’62 Yankees. Division and defeat, Wright explains, made the Bible memorable. Successive expulsions and exiles forced the Jewish poets and prophets, like Red Sox fans of yore, to imagine defeat as a virtue, dispossession as a gift, failure today as a promise of victory tomorrow. Defeat usually compelled other ancient peoples, as it does us, to invent rationalizations for what happened. (Yes, we failed to pacify Afghanistan, but nobody could have done so.) In the face of regular defeat, however, the Jewish scribes had to ask whether defeat wasn’t God’s will in the first place, and so opened mankind unto a new contemplative possibility: that spiritual success and failure were not to be judged on worldly terms. Nice guys, or, anyway, pious guys, finish last and should be proud of their position.

Books of the Tanakh and Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments

The Protestant Old Testament has 39 books. The Catholic Old Testament has 46 books). The Eastern Orthodox Old Testament has 49 books. The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) has 24 books. Several of the books in the Eastern Orthodox canon are also found in the appendix to the Latin Vulgate, formerly the official Bible of the Roman Catholic. [Source: Wikipedia Wikipedia ]

Pentateuch, Torah (Law) the Five books of Moses
Protestant — Catholic — Orthodox — Tanakh — Original language
Genesis — Genesis — Genesis — Bereshit — Hebrew
Exodus — Exodus — Exodus — Shemot — Hebrew
Leviticus — Leviticus — Leviticus — Vayikra — Hebrew
Numbers — Numbers — Numbers — Bamidbar — Hebrew
Deuteronomy — Deuteronomy — Deuteronomy — Devarim — Hebrew

Historical books (Nevi'im (Prophets))
Protestant — Catholic — Orthodox — Tanakh — Original language
Joshua — Joshua (Josue) — Joshua (Iesous) — Yehoshua — Hebrew
Judges — Judges — Judges — Shoftim — Hebrew
Ruth — Ruth — Ruth — Rut (Ruth) — Hebrew
1 Samuel — 1 Samuel (1 Kings) — 1 Samuel (1 Kingdoms) — Shmuel — Hebrew
2 Samuel — 2 Samuel (2 Kings) — 2 Samuel (2 Kingdoms) — Shmuel — Hebrew
1 Kings — 1 Kings (3 Kings) — 1 Kings (3 Kingdoms) — Melakhim — Hebrew
2 Kings — 2 Kings (4 Kings) — 2 Kings (4 Kingdoms) — Melakhim — Hebrew
1 Chronicles — 1 Chronicles (1 Paralipomenon) — 1 Chronicles (1 Paralipomenon) — Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles) — Hebrew
2 Chronicles — 2 Chronicles (2 Paralipomenon) — 2 Chronicles (2 Paralipomenon) — Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles) — Hebrew
Ezra — Ezra (1 Esdras) — Ezra (2 Esdras) — Ezra–Nehemiah — Hebrew and Aramaic
Nehemiah — Nehemiah (2 Esdras) — Nehemiah (2 Esdras) — Ezra–Nehemiah— Hebrew
Esther — Esther — Esther — Ester (Esther) — Hebrew
1 Maccabees (1 Machabees) — 1 Maccabees — — Hebrew and Greek
Tobit (Tobias, Aramaic and Hebrew), Judith (Hebrew) and 2 Maccabees (2 Machabees, Greek)are only in the Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments. 1 Esdras, 3 Esdras, 3 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees — all originally in Greek are old in the Orthodox Old Testament.

Wisdom books (Ketuvim (Writings))
Protestant — Catholic — Orthodox — Tanakh — Original language
Job — Job — Job — Iyov (Job) — Hebrew
Psalms — Psalms — Psalms — Tehillim (Psalms) — Hebrew
Proverbs — Proverbs — Proverbs — Mishlei (Proverbs) — Hebrew
Ecclesiastes — Ecclesiastes — Ecclesiastes — Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) — Hebrew
Song of Solomon — Song of Songs (Canticle of Canticles) — Song of Songs (Aisma Aismaton) — Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) — Hebrew
Wisdom (Greek) and Sirach (Ecclesiasticus, Hebrew) are only in the Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments. Prayer of Manasseh (Greek) is only in the Orthodox Old Testament.

Major Prophets (Nevi'im (Latter Prophets))
Protestant — Catholic — Orthodox — Tanakh — Original language
Isaiah — Isaiah (Isaias) — Isaiah — Yeshayahu — Hebrew
Jeremiah — Jeremiah (Jeremias) — Jeremiah — Yirmeyahu — Hebrew
Lamentations — Lamentations — Lamentations — Eikhah (Lamentations) — Hebrew
Ezekiel — Ezekiel (Ezechiel) — Ezekiel — Yekhezqel — Hebrew
Daniel — Daniel — Daniel — Daniyyel (Daniel) — Aramaic and Hebrew
Baruch (Hebrew) is only in the Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments. Letter of Jeremiah (Greek) is only in the Orthodox Old Testamentl

Twelve Minor Prophets (In the Tanakh all are included in The Twelve (Trei Asar))
Protestant Catholic Orthodox Original language
Hosea — Hosea (Osee) — Hosea — Hebrew
Joel — Joel — Joel — Hebrew
Amos — Amos — Amos — Hebrew
Obadiah — Obadiah (Abdias) — Obadiah — Hebrew
Jonah — Jonah (Jonas) — Jonah — Hebrew
Micah — Micah (Michaeas) — Micah — Hebrew
Nahum — Nahum — Nahum — Hebrew
Habakkuk — Habakkuk (Habacuc) — Habakkuk — Hebrew
Zephaniah — Zephaniah (Sophonias) — Zephaniah — Hebrew
Haggai — Haggai (Aggaeus) — Haggai — Hebrew
Zechariah — Zechariah (Zacharias) — Zechariah — Hebrew
Malachi — Malachi (Malachias) — Malachi — Hebrew

Pentateuch: First Five Books of the Tanakh and Bible


The Pentateuch is the First Five Books of the Bible, which is also The Torah, the first five books of the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) and Old Testament. "Penta" means five in Greek. The word “Pentateuch” is derived from the Greek word pentateuchos, which means “five-volume work.”

The Five Books of the Torah (Law, or Instructions)) and the first five books of the Bible and Tanakh are:
1) Genesis (Bereshit),is named for the Hebrew word for “in the beginning.” Itt describes the creation of the world, the birth of Adam and Eve, the fall of mankind, and the generations of Adam, including Noah and Cain and Abel. It ends with Joseph’s sale into slavery in Egypt.
2) Exodus (Shemot) narrates the story of the Israelites’ suffering in Egypt, their liberation by Moses, their journey to Mount Sinai, and their wanderings in the wilderness.
3) Leviticus (Vayikrah) focuses mainly on priestly matters, offering instructions for rituals, sacrifices, and atonement, but not on the history of the Jewish people.
4) Numbers (Bamidbar) depicts the wanderings of Israelites in the wilderness as they journey toward the promised land in Canaan.
5) Deuteronomy (Devarim).narrates the end of the journey and ends with Moses’ death just before they enter the promised land.

The five books of the Pentateuch were named by the Jews of Palestine according to the opening Hebrew words:
1) Bereshith: "in the Beginning"
2) We'elleh Shemoth: "And these are the names"
3) Wayyiqra': "And he called"
4) Wayyedabber: "And he spoke"
5) Elleh Haddebarim: "These are the words" [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org ]

“The names now used in the English translations are from the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament):
1) Genesis means the beginnings of the world and of the Hebrew people
2) Exodus describes the departure from Egypt under Moses
3) Leviticus encompasses: legal rulings concerning sacrifice, purification, and so forth of concern to the priests, who came from the tribe of Levi
4) Numbers (Arithmoi) refers the numbering or taking census of Israelites in the desert
5) Deuteronomy: means"second law," because many laws found in the previous books are repeated here

Oldest Known Passage from The Torah and Bible

Silver amulet with scrolls found in Ketef Hinom contain the world known passage of a Bible. : In 1979 two silver mini scrolls (actually amulets in antiquity) were discovered at Ketef Hinnom, an archaeological site that now has been incorporated into the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Dating to around 2,600 years ago they are written in paleo-Hebrew and contain the oldest biblical passage that survives to present day, part of a priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26. The amulets say that Yahweh is stronger than evil and a "rebuker of evil." Researchers think the amulets would have offered protection to those who wore them. [Source: Owen Jarus, Live Science, September 30, 2013]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860, except Timelines, Relevancy 22, Documentary Theory, Donsnotes

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; Wikipedia, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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