Hebrew Bible

Hebrew Bible or Hebrew Scriptures (Latin: Biblia Hebraica) is the term used by biblical scholars to refer to the Tanakh (Hebrew: תנ"ך‎; Latin: Thanach), the canonical collection of Jewish texts. They are composed mainly in Biblical Hebrew, with some passages in Biblical Aramaic (in the books of Daniel, Ezra and a few others). The Hebrew Bible is the common textual source of several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament. The content, to which the Protestant Old Testament closely corresponds, does not act as a source for the deuterocanonical portions of the Roman Catholic or to the Anagignoskomena portions of the Eastern Orthodox Old Testaments. The term does not comment upon the naming, numbering or ordering of books, which vary with later Christian biblical canons.

The term Hebrew Bible is an attempt to provide specificity with respect to contents but avoid allusion to any particular interpretative tradition or theological school of thought. It is widely used in academic writing and interfaith discussion in relatively neutral contexts meant to include dialogue among all religious traditions, but not widely in the inner discourse of the religions that use its text.[1]

Page from an 11th-century Aramaic Targum manuscript of the Hebrew Bible.


Hebrew Bible refers to the Jewish biblical canon. In its Latin form, Biblia Hebraica, it traditionally serves as a title for printed editions of the Masoretic Text. Many biblical studies scholars advocate use of the term "Hebrew Bible" (or "Hebrew Scriptures") as a substitute for less neutral terms with Jewish or Christian connotations (e.g. Tanakh or Old Testament).[2][3] The Society of Biblical Literature's Handbook of Style, which is the standard for major academic journals like the Harvard Theological Review and conservative Protestant journals like the Bibliotheca Sacra and the Westminster Theological Journal, suggests that authors "be aware of the connotations of alternative expressions such as... Hebrew Bible [and] Old Testament" without prescribing the use of either.[4] McGrath points out that while the term emphasises that it is largely written in Hebrew and "is sacred to the Hebrew people", it "fails to do justice to the way in which Christianity sees an essential continuity between the Old and New Testaments", arguing that there is "no generally accepted alternative to the traditional term "Old Testament." However, he accepts that there is no reason why non-Christians should feel obliged to refer to these books as the Old Testament, "apart from custom of use."[5]

Additional difficulties

In terms of theology, Christianity has recognised the close relationship between the Old and New Testaments from its very beginnings, although there have sometimes been movements like Marcionism (viewed as heretical by the early church), that have struggled with it.[5][6][7] Modern Christian formulations of this tension include Supersessionism, Covenant Theology, New Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism and Dual-covenant theology. All of these formulations, except some forms of Dual-covenant theology, are objectionable to mainstream Judaism and to many Jewish scholars and writers, for whom there is one eternal covenant between God and the Israelites, and who therefore reject the term "Old Testament" as a form of antinomianism.

In terms of canon, Christian usage of "Old Testament" does not refer to a universally agreed upon set of books but, rather, varies depending on denomination. Lutheranism and Protestant denominations that follow the Westminster Confession of Faith accept the entire Jewish canon as the Old Testament without additions, although in translation they sometimes give preference to the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic Text; for example, see Isaiah 7:14.

In terms of language, "Hebrew" refers to the original language of the books, but it may also be taken as referring to the Jews of the Second Temple era and Jewish diaspora, and their descendants, who preserved the transmission of the Masoretic Text up to the present day. The Hebrew Bible includes small portions in Aramaic (mostly in the books of Daniel and Ezra), written and printed in Aramaic square-script, which was adopted as the Hebrew alphabet after the Babylonian exile.

Origins of the Hebrew Bible and its components

The books that constitute the Hebrew Bible developed over roughly a millennium. The oldest texts seem to come from the 11th or 10th centuries BCE, whilst most of the other texts are somewhat later. They are edited works, being collections of various sources intricately and carefully woven together. [8]

In the late 19th century, a classical consensus emerged that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Scripture) consisted of four sources which had been woven together, known as the J (Yahwist), D (Deuteronomist), E (Elohist) and P (Priestly writer) sources.[9] The classic explanation of their relationship and dating was proposed by Julius Wellhausen.[10] Scholars concluded that J and E were amalgamated after the fall of Samaria in 721 BCE, D was dated to the time of Josiah. The Deuteronomist source, which was credited with the Pentateuch's book of Deuteronomy, is also said to be the source of the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings (the Deuteronomistic history, or DtrH), and the book of Jeremiah. This theory, known as the documentary hypothesis, dominated scholarship into the 20th century,[11]

Today, there is no consensus about the dates of the source documents; some scholars reject the existence of the E source and others have suggested that four sources are inadequate.[12]

Scholarly editions

Several editions, all titled Biblia Hebraica, have been produced by various German publishers since 1906.

Other projects include:

See also


  1. ^ Eliezer Segal, Introducing Judaism (New York, NY: Routledge, 2009). Page: 12
  2. ^ Safire, William (1997-05-25). "The New Old Testament". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Hamilton, Mark. "From Hebrew Bible to Christian Bible: Jews, Christians and the Word of God". Retrieved 2007-11-19. Modern scholars often use the term 'Hebrew Bible' to avoid the confessional terms Old Testament and Tanakh.
  4. ^ Alexander, Patrick H; et al., eds. (1999). The SBL Handbook of Style (PDF). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. p. 17 (section 4.3). ISBN 1-56563-487-X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-14. See Society of Biblical Literature: Questions Regarding Digital Editions…
  5. ^ a b McGrath, Alister, Christian Theology, Oxford: Blackwell, 2011, p. 120, 123. ISBN 9781444335149.
  6. ^ "Marcion", Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
  7. ^ For the recorded teachings of Jesus on the subject see Antithesis of the Law#Antitheses, for the modern debate, see Christian views on the old covenant
  8. ^ McDermott, John J. (2002). Reading the Pentateuch : a historical introduction. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 9780809140824.
  9. ^ Birch, Bruce C., Walter Brueggemann, Terence E. Fretheim and David L. Petersen. A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd edition. Nashville: Abingdon, 2005, p. 31.
  10. ^ Childs, Brevard S. Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011, p. 123
  11. ^ Hamilton, Mark (April 1998). "From Hebrew Bible to Christian Bible: Jews, Christians and the Word of God". Frontline. From Jesus to Christ. WGBH Educational Foundation.
  12. ^ Drane, John. Introducing the Old Testament, 3rd edition. Oxford: Lion, 2011, pp. 175-176.

Further reading

External links

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