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The Pentateuch – Introduction (First part)

Jews call the sacred text “TANAK,” an acronym composed by the first letters of the three parts of  the Hebrew Bible: the Torah (the Law), Nevi’im (The Prophets), Ketuvim (The Writings).

The Torah corresponds exactly to our Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).

The Prophets are divided into “former prophets” and “latter prophets”. The former prophets are Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings; the latter prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi).

The Writings are the Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles.

The Christian Bible is, of course, different. All the books listed above belong to the Old Testament. However, the Old Testament of the Christian Bible contains other books that are not present in the Hebrew Bible, that is composed exclusively of books written in Hebrew.

The books not present in the Hebrew Bible but contained in the Christian Bible are: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch. Since these books belonged to the Greek Bible – which was declared a heretic by the Jews in 130 AD –  they were excluded from the list of books of the Hebrew Bible.

The Greek Bible (also called “The Septuagint“) was used by the Greek-speaking Jews of the city of Alexandria. The Greek Bible is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The first part translated into Greek was the Torah, in the III cent. BC.  From that time onwards were translated all the others books of the Hebrew Bible plus other ones written in Greek, as mentioned above.

The Hebrew Bible’s books can be 22 or 24. It depends on the different calculation method. If 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Ezra and Nehemiah and the Twelve Prophets are considered one book, so the Hebrew Bible’s books are 24. If also Ruth and Judges are considered one book as well as Lamentations and Jeremiah, then the books of the Hebrew Bible are  22.

It seems that the count of 22 books is the oldest one and also the most fascinating. In fact, Origen – the famous scholar of the third century BC –  said that “the twenty-two books inspired by God are the alphabet of God’s wisdom and an introduction to the knowledge of reality” [Origen, Selecta in Psalmos (fragmenta et Catenis)]. As the letters of the Hebrew’s alphabet are 22, so are the books of the Hebrew Bible. In fact they contain everything you need to learn the wisdom of God.

From the fifth century onwards, the books of Ruth and Lamentations were included in the series of “five meghillot” (ie the “five rolls” to read during the main Jewish feasts). So they were respectively separated by Judges and Jeremiah considered individual books. Then the number the books of the Hebrew Bible went up to 24 (To be continued)

Simone Venturini

Scrittore

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