|Sroll of the Torah on the Bimah, Reading Stand, in a Synagogue|
This the second post in our series on the Bible. If you missed the first post, you can read it here. 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible and this seemed to be an opportune time to do a series such as this.
THE HEBREW BIBLE OR THE OLD TESTAMENT?
Today we’re going to examine the development of the portion of the Bible you may have grown accustomed to calling the Old Testament. Keep in mind that calling it the Old Testament presumes there is a New Testament. The portion of the Bible consisting of the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Epistles and Revelation contains distinctly Christian writings. To the Jews there is no New Covenant and, thus, no New Testament. Therefore, a more correct name for the earlier books of the Bible would be the Jewish, or Hebrew, Bible.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TANAKH
In its earliest form, the Hebrew Bible existed as an oral tradition passed on from one generation to another by the Priests and Scholars. In its written form, it is known as the Tanakh (Hebrew: תַּנַ"ךְ, pronounced as təˈnax). This name is used in Judaism for the entire canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three subdivisions: The Torah (Teaching, also known by its Greek name the Pentateuch, The Law, or the Five Books of Moses)…Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; The Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuv’im (Writings)—hence TNK or Tanakh. The name Miqra (מקרא), meaning that which is read, is an alternative Hebrew term for the Tanakh.
DEVELOPING THE CANON OF THE HEBREW BIBLE
Biblically speaking, a canon, from the Greek kanon meaning rule or measure, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. According to the Talmud much of the contents of the Tanakh was compiled by the Men of the Great Assembly in 450 BC. They examined the oral traditions as well as written copies of the various books and from them developed a definitive text.
Now they had the books, but a canon had yet to be decided upon. There is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was finalized. A popular position is that the Torah was canonized circa 400 BC, the Prophets circa 200 BC, and the Writings circa 100 CE. Others argue that the Hasmonean dynasty (140-37 BC) fixed the Jewish canon. And still others claim it was established during the transition to Rabbinical Judaism which occurred after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Clearly it remained in a state of flux well into the First Century. This is clear from the twenty-four books mentioned in the Midrash whereas the Jewish historian Josephus, describes 22 sacred books when writing Against Apion.
|The Entire Tanakh on Scrools|
PUTTING IN AND TAKING OUT
Creating a canon involves making both negative and positive choices. It is necessary to not only decide what belongs, but also what doesn’t belong. For instance, there were Early Christian writings that were widely read and considered worthy for teaching and edification that did not make it into the New Testament. The same is true of the Hebrew Bible.
Included in the list of books discarded from the canon is the Book of Jasher, or the Book of the Just. It is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18 and seems to have been a collection of poetry. The Book of the Wars of the Lord, referenced in Numbers 21:14, was also excluded.
The Book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the Seer (also called Story of the Prophet Iddo or The Annuals of the Prophet Iddo) is mentioned in 2 Chr 9:29, 12:15, 13:22. Iddo was a seer who lived during the reigns of Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijah. His deeds were recorded in this book, which has been completely lost to history, save for its title. However, it is interesting to note that Zechariah was the son of Iddo (Ezra 5:1, Zechariah 1:1). Additionally, The Manner of the Kingdom, mentioned in 1Samuel 10:25, The Acts of Solomon, The Annals of King David, The Book of Nathan the Prophet, also called The Acts of Nathan the Prophet, The Book of Gad the Seer, The Acts of Uziah, The Book of Enoch, The Sayings of the Seer and The Book of Jubilees are all books that didn’t make the cut.
There are also significant differences in the arrangement and the way the books are counted.
The Jews count 24, Protestants 39, Catholics 46, and Orthodox Christians up to 53. Part of the reason for this is the way in which the books are subdivided. In the Hebrew Bible, The Twelve Minor Prophets are considered one book, while in Christian Bibles they count as twelve separate books. The arrangement of the books is also different. The later prophets come before the Writings in the Hebrew Bible, whereas all of the prophets come after the Wisdom Literature in a Christian Bible. The books are even categorized differently. In the Hebrew Bible 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Ruth and Lamentations are part of the Writings. In the Christian Bibles these books are placed with the Historical Books.
One way of looking at it is both the Christian Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible consist of four sections. In the Hebrew Bible it is: Torah, Nevi’im A, Nevi’im B, and Ketuv’im. For the Christian Old Testament it is: The Law, the Historical Books, the Wisdom Books, and the Prophets. Of those four, only the Law or Torah is the same in both Bibles.
The final list of the Hebrew Bible consists of the five books of the Torah, and in the Jewish format, the nineteen books of the Nevi’im, Former Prophets, consisting of Joshua, Judges, Samuel (I & II), Kings (I & II), and Nevi’im, Latter Prophets, consisting of the three Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Book of the Twelve: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi along with the eleven books of the Ketuv’im: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, The Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles (I & II). This makes a total of 24 Books in the Hebrew Bible.
|An Essene Studying the Scriptures|
After Christmas we’ll look at what the Dead Sea Scrolls can tell us about the development of the Hebrew Bible, among other topics relating to development and structure of the Bible as we know it. We’ll also spend time examining the process instituted by King James of England as well as other famous translations.
Until then, we wish you Peace and Blessings