Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index



Tanakh [תנ״ך] (also spelt Tanach) is an acronym for the three parts of the Hebrew Bible, based upon the initial Hebrew letters of each part:

Table of contents
1 Terminology
2 The Canon
3 Sections of the Tanakh
4 External links: Jewish Tanakh
5 External Links: Christian


The threefold division of the Hebrew Bible reflected in the acronym Tanakh is well attested to in documents from the Second Temple period and in Rabbinic literature. During that period, however, the acronym Tanakh was not used; rather, the proper term was Mikra ("Reading", also spelt Miqra). The term Mikra continues to be used to this day alongside Tanakh to refer to the Hebrew scriptures. (In modern spoken Hebrew, Mikra has a more formal flavor than Tanakh.)

Because the books included in the Tanakh were largely written in Hebrew, it may also be called the Hebrew Bible. (Parts of Daniel and Ezra are in Aramaic, but even these are written in the same Hebrew script.)

The Canon

According to the Jewish tradition, the Tanakh consists of twenty-four books (enumerated below). The Torah has five books, Nevi'im ("The Prophets") contains eight books, and Ketuvim ("The Writings") has eleven.

These twenty-four books are the same books found in the Protestant Old Testament, but the order of the books is different. The enumeration differs as well: Christians count these books as thirty-nine, not twenty-four. This is because Jews often count as a single book what Christians count as several.

As such, one may draw a technical distinction between the Jewish Tanakh and the similar, but non-identical, corpus which Christians call the Old Testament. Thus, some scholars prefer Hebrew Bible as a term that covers the commonality of Tanakh and the Old Testament while avoiding sectarian bias.

The Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments contain six books not included in the Tanakh; see apocrypha and deuterocanonical books.

Sections of the Tanakh

Tanakh is divided into three sections: The Torah (Hebrew for "Teaching"), Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings, also hagiographa).

The Hebrew text originally consisted only of consonants, together with some inconsistently applied letters used as vowels (matres lectionis). During the early middle ages, the Masoretes codified the oral tradition for reading the Tanakh by adding two special kinds of symbols to the text: niqqud (vowel points) and cantillation signs. The latter indicate syntax, stress (accentuation), and the melody for reading.

The books of the Torah have generally-used names which are based on the first prominent word in each book. The English names are not translations of the Hebrew; they are based on the Greek names created for the Septuagint which in turn were based on Rabbinic names describing the thematic content of each of the Books.

(It should be noted that the terms Torah, Chumash, Pentateuch and "Five Books of Moses" all refer to the same books.)

The Torah (also called the Pentateuch, meaning five books) consists of:

1. Genesis (בראשית)
2. Exodus (שמות)
3. Leviticus (ויקרא)
4. Numbers(במדבר)
5. Deuteronomy (דברים)

The books of Nevi'im (The Prophets) are:
6. Joshua (יהושע)
7. Judges (שופטים)
8. Books of Samuel (שמואל)
I Samuel
II Samuel
9. Books of Kings (מלכים)
I Kings
II Kings
10. Isaiah (ישעיה)
11. Jeremiah (ירמיה)
12. Ezekiel (יחזקאל)
13. The Twelve Minor Prophets (תרי עשר)
I. Book of Hosea (הושע)
II. Book of Joel (יואל)
III. Book of Amos (עמוס)
IV. Book of Obadiah (עובדיה)
V. Book of Jonah (יונה)
VI. Book of Micah (מיכה)
VII. Book of Nahum (נחום)
VIII. Book of Habakkuk (חבקוק)
IX. Book of Zephaniah (צפניה)
X. Book of Haggai (חגיי)
XI. Book of Zechariah (זכריה)
XII. Book of Malachi (מלאכי)

The Ketuvim (The Writings) are:
14. Psalms (תהילים)
15. Book of Proverbs (משלי)
16. Book of Job (איוב)
17. Song of Songs (שיר השירים)
18. Book of Ruth (רות)
19. Lamentations (איכה)
20. Ecclesiastes (קהלת)
21. Book of Esther (אסתר)
22. Book of Daniel (דניאל)
23. Ezra-Nehemiah (עזרא נחמיה)
Book of Ezra
Book of Nehemiah
24. Books of Chronicles (דברי הימים)
I Chronicles
II Chronicles

Rabbinical Judaism believes that the Torah was transmitted side by side with some sort of oral tradition. Other groups, such as Karaite Judaism, the ancient Saducees, and Christianity do not accept this claim. Rabbinical Judaism believes that many terms and definitions used in the written law are undefined within the Torah itself; the reader is assumed to be familiar with the context and details. These traditions are recorded in a collection of rabbinic works collectively known as "the oral law". These works include the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the two Talmuds (Babylonian and Jerusalem), and the early Midrash compilations.

External links: Jewish Tanakh

External Links: Christian