Three Divisions of Tanakh
The Tanakh (Hebrew: תַּנַ"ךְ, pronounced [taˈnaχ] or [təˈnax]; also Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach) is a name used in Judaism for the 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 traditional subdivisions: The Torah ("Teaching", also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings")—hence TaNaKh. The name "Miqra" (מקרא), meaning "that which is read", is an alternative Hebrew term for the Tanakh. The books of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) were relayed with an accompanying oral tradition passed on by each generation, called the Oral Torah.
Books of the Tanakh
Tanakh consists of twenty-four books. The Tanakh counts as one book each Samuel, Kings, Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah and counts Trei Asar (תרי עשר, the Twelve Prophets; literally "twelve") as a single book.
The Torah (תּוֹרָה, literally "teaching") consists of five books, commonly referred to as the "Five Books of Moses". Printed versions of the Torah are often called Chamisha Chumshei Torah (חמישה חומשי תורה, literally the "five five-sections of the Torah"), and informally a Chumash.
In Hebrew, the five books of the Torah are identified by the first prominent word in each book. The English names are derived from the Greek names given to the books in the Septuagint, which are based on the thematic content of each of the books, as follows:
- Bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית, literally "In the beginning")
- Shemot (שִׁמוֹת, literally "Names")
- Vayikra (ויקרא, literally "He called")
- Bamidbar (במדבר, literally "In the desert")
- Devarim (דברים, literally "Things" or "Words")
Bereshit (Genesis) begins with the so-called "primeval history" (Genesis 1–11), the story of the world's beginnings and the descent of Abraham. This is followed by the story of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph (Genesis 12–50). God gives to the Patriarchs a promise of the land of Canaan, but at the end of Genesis the sons of Jacob end up leaving Canaan for Egypt.
Shemot (Exodus) begins the story of God's revelation to his people Israel through Moses, who leads them out of Egypt (Exodus 1–18) to Mount Sinai. There the people accept a covenant with God, agreeing to be his people in return for agreeing to abide by his Law. Moses receives the Torah from God, and mediates His laws and Covenant (Exodus 19–24) to the people of Israel. Exodus also deals with the first violation of the covenant when Aaron took part in the construction of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32–34). Exodus concludes with the instructions on building the Tabernacle (Exodus 25–31; 35–40).
Vayikra (Leviticus) begins with instructions to the Israelites on how to use the Tabernacle, which they had just built (Leviticus 1–10). This is followed by rules of clean and unclean (Leviticus 11–15), which includes the laws of slaughter and animals permissible to eat (see also: Kashrut), the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), and various moral and ritual laws sometimes called the Holiness Code (Leviticus 17–26).
Bamidbar (Numbers) tells how Israel consolidated itself as a community at Sinai (Numbers 1–9), set out from Sinai to move towards Canaan and spied out the land (Numbers 10–13). Because of unbelief at various points, but especially at Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 14), the Israelites were condemned to wander for forty years in the desert in the vicinity of Kadesh instead of immediately entering the land of promise. Even Moses sins and is told he would not live to enter the land (Numbers 20). At the end of Numbers (Numbers 26–35) Israel moves from Kadesh to the plains of Moab opposite Jericho, ready to enter the Promised Land.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) is a series of speeches by Moses on the plains of Moab opposite Jericho. Moses's proclaims the Law (Deuteronomy 12-26), gives instruction concerning covenant renewal at Shechem (Deuteronomy 27-28) and gives Israel new laws (the "Deuteronomic Code)". At the end of the book (Deuteronomy 34) Moses is allowed to see the promised land from a mountain, but it is not known what happened to Moses on the mountain. He was never seen again. Knowing that he is nearing the end of his life, Moses appoints Joshua his successor, bequeathing to him the mantle of leadership. Soon afterwards Israel begins the conquest of Canaan.
Nevi'im (נְבִיאִים, "Prophets") consists of eight books. This division includes the books which, as a whole, cover the chronological era from the entrance of the Israelites into the Land until the Babylonian captivity of Judah (the "period of prophecy"). However, they exclude Chronicles, which covers the same period. The Nevi'im are often divided into the Earlier Prophets (נביאים ראשונים), which are generally historical in nature, and the Later Prophets (נביאים אחרונים), which contain more exhortational prophecies.
Although most versions of the Old Testament count the number of books as totaling twenty-one, counting the books of Samuel and Kings as two books each, and the "Twelve Prophets" (or the minor prophets) as 12 books, Jewish tradition does not:
- 6. (יהושע / Y'hoshua) - Joshua
- 7. (שופטים / Shophtim) - Judges
- 8. (שמואל / Sh'muel) - Samuel (I & II)
- 9. (מלכים / M'lakhim) - Kings (I & II)
- 10. (ישעיה / Y'shayahu) - Isaiah
- 11. (ירמיה / Yir'mi'yahu) - Jeremiah
- 12. (יחזקאל / Y'khezqel) - Ezekiel
- 13. The Twelve Prophets (תרי עשר)
- a. (הושע / Hoshea) - Hosea
- b. (יואל / Yo'el) - Joel
- c. (עמוס / Amos) - Amos
- d. (עובדיה / Ovadyah) - Obadiah
- e. (יונה / Yonah) - Jonah
- f. (מיכה / Mikhah) - Micah
- g. (נחום / Nakhum) - Nahum
- h. (חבקוק /Havakuk) - Habakkuk
- i. (צפניה / Ts'phanyah) - Zephaniah
- j. (חגי / Khagai) - Haggai
- k. (זכריה / Z'kharyah) - Zechariah
- l. (מלאכי / Mal'akhi) - Malachi
Ketuvim (כְּתוּבִים, "Writings") are sometimes also known by the Greek title "Hagiographa" and consists of eleven books. These encompass all the remaining books, and include the Five Megillot (Five Scrolls). They are sometimes also divided into such categories as Sifrei Emet (ספרי אמת, literally "Books of Truth") of Psalms, Proverbs and Job (the Hebrew names of these three books form the Hebrew word for "truth" as an acrostic, and all three books have unique cantillation marks), the "wisdom books" of Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs, the "poetry books" of Psalms, Lamentations and Song of Songs, and the "historical books" of Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles.
The "Sifrei Emet," "Books of Truth":
The "Five Megilot" or "Five Scrolls":
- 17. (שיר השירים / Shir Hashirim) - Song of Songs
- 18. (רות / Rut) - Ruth
- 19. (איכה / Eikhah) - Lamentations
- 20. (קהלת / Kohelet) - Ecclesiastes
- 21. (אסתר / Esther) - Esther
The rest of the "Writings":