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The Hebrew Bible (Hebrew: תנ"ך acronyms for תורה נביאים כתובים) is a term referring to the books of the Jewish Bible as originally written mostly in Biblical Hebrew with some Biblical Aramaic. The term closely corresponds to contents of the Jewish Tanakh and the Protestant Old Testament (see also Judeo-Christian) and does not include the deuterocanonical portions of the Roman Catholic or the Anagignoskomena portions of the Eastern Orthodox Old Testaments. The term does not imply naming, numbering or ordering of books, which varies (see also Biblical canon).

The term Hebrew Bible is an attempt to provide specificity with respect to contents, while avoiding 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 amongst all religious traditions, but not widely in the inner discourse of the religions which use its text.


Hebrew Bible is a term that refers to the common/shared portions of the Tanakh (Jewish canon) and the Christian canons. In its Latin form, Biblia Hebraica, it traditionally serves as a title for printed editions of the Masoretic Text.

Many scholars advocate use of the term Hebrew Bible when discussing these books in academic writing, as a neutral substitute to terms with religious connotations (e.g., the non-neutral term "old testament"). The Society of Biblical Literature's Handbook of Style, which is the standard for major academic journals like Harvard Theological Review and conservative Protestant journals like Bibliotheca Sacra and 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.

Additional difficulties include:

  • In terms of theology, Christianity has struggled with the relationship between "old" and "new" testaments from its very beginnings. Modern Christian formulations of this tension, sometimes building upon ancient and medieval ideas, include supersessionism, covenant theology, dispensationalism, and dual covenant theology. However, 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 only one everlasting covenant, and who therefore reject the very term "Old Testament".
  • 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.
  • The term Old Testament is used exclusively to identify the Hebrew Bible as a portion of the Christian scriptures. This however, is not historically correct. Since the Hebrew Bible was composed by the people of ancient Israel hundreds of years before Christianity existed. Referring to it as the Old Testament suggests that it is a Christian work. When it fact, it's authorship is Jewish, not Christian; and it's content deals with the religion, politics, and culture of the ancient Hebrew people of Israel, and not with that of Christianity.
  • Though commonly used by Jews, the term Tanakh is derived from an acronym of the Hebrew names of the constituent parts of the Hebrew Bible, Torah ("Teaching"), Nevi'im ("Prophets"), and Ketuvim ("Writings"), and is unlikely to be appreciated by readers unfamiliar with that language and culture. It also refers to the particular arrangement of the biblical books as found in Judaism, and even to the exact features of the Masoretic Text. None of this is central to the Bible in the Christian textual tradition.

Hebrew in the term Hebrew Bible 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 the Diaspora, who preserved the transmission of the text up to the age of printing . The Hebrew Bible includes some small portions in Aramaic (mostly in the books of Daniel and Ezra), which are nonetheless written and printed in the Hebrew alphabet and script, which is the same as Aramaic square-script. Some Qumranmarker Hebrew biblical manuscripts are written using the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet of the classical era of Solomon's Templemarker. The famous examples of the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet are the Siloam inscription (8th century BCE), the Lachishmarker ostraca (6th century BCE), and the Bar Kokhba coin (circa 132 CE).

Origin and History

According to traditional Jewish belief, the Hebrew Bible existed as an oral tradition for a long time before it was written, and it was forbidden to be documented in written form. According to that tradition, the date on which permission was given to write down the Bible is considered one of mourning. Contemporary conservative scholars date the origin of the Hebrew Bible between the tenth and seventh centuries BCE, while most contemporary secular biblical scholars date its finalization in the Persian period (539 to 334 BCE).

Biblia Hebraica

The Biblia Hebraica is edited by various Germanmarker publishers.

See also


  1. For a prominent discussion of the term's usage and the motivations for it, see "The New Old Testament" by William Safire, New York Times, 1997-25-5. Also see:
  2. 'Marcion', in Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
  3. For the modern debate, see Biblical law in Christianity
  5. John Joseph Collins, "The Bible After Babel", (2005)

Further reading

  • Kuntz, John Kenneth. The People of Ancient Israel: an introduction to Old Testament Literature, History, and Thought, Harper and Row, 1974. ISBN 0-06-043822-3
  • Nothing old about it by Shmuley Boteach (Jerusalem Post, November 28, 2007).

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