The Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible is the Jewish collection of scriptures, which is in Hebrew. Jews refer to it as the Tanakh. The name Tanakh comes from the Hebrew names for the three major groupings of Jewish scriptures: Torah (The Five Books of Moses or the Law), Nevi’im (the Prophets), and Kethuvim (the Writings).

The Five Books of Moses The Prophets  The Writings
Genesis Joshua Psalms
Exodus Judges Proverbs
Leviticus 1 Samuel Job
Numbers 2 Samuel The Song of Songs
Deuteronomy 1 Kings Ruth
2 Kings Lamentations
Isaiah Ecclesiastes
Jeremiah Esther
Ezekial Daniel
The Twelve Minor Prophets Nehemiah
Hosea 1 Chronicals
Joel 2 Chronicals

The rabbis (Jewish teachers) determined which books would be in the Jewish Bible in the second and third centuries A.D. after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. This was when the form of Judaism as it is today began to take shape as Rabbinic Judaism.

The Protestant Old Testament has the same books as the Hebrew Bible, but in a different order.

The Old Testament of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians includes additional books that were a part of the collection of Jewish scriptures in Greek. This collection of Jewish scriptures in Greek known as the Septuagint. (The name Septuagint is based on the Latin for 70. A writing known as the Letter of Aristeas claims that the 72 Jewish translators produced identical translations of the Hebrew scriptures independently of each other.)

The Septuagint includes Jewish writings written in Greek (in addition to the scriptures written in Hebrew), which some early Jews and Christians considered scripture. Protestants call these additional writings the Apocrypha. Most protestants don't consider these books inspired or they give them a secondary status. Roman Catholics call these scriptures the Deuterocanonical ("second-listed," i.e. secondary because it took them longer to be accepted as scripture) books.

The early Christians used the Septuagint as their Old Testament. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians include all the writings from the Septuagint in their Old Testaments. Protestants usually only include the books of the Hebrew Bible in their Old Testament. Some Protestant Bibles include the Apocrypha in a separate section in between the Old and New Testaments. Most protestants don't consider the apocrypha to be inspired or they give it a secondary status.

For Further Reading

Marc ZVI Bretter, How to Read the Jewish Bible
  • A Jewish introduction to the Hebrew Bible.

Jewish Publication Society, The Jewish Bible: A JPS Guide
  • A Jewish introduction to the Hebrew Bible; including its origins, translation, and interpretation.

Jewish Publication Society, The Jewish Bible: Tanakh - The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text
  • The main Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into English.

Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, & Michael Fishbane, The Jewish Study Bible: featuring The Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation
  • The main Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into English, with introductions, notes, and a section of topical essays.

John Barton, How the Bible Came to Be
  • An accessible description of how the various biblical books were written and collected as scripture to form the Bible.

  • Gives an easy-to-understand overview of the formation of the Bible and why some books were included and others were not.

Lee M. McDonald, The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority
  • A more detailed explanation of the formation of the Bible than in his The Origin of the Bible.

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