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Judaism 101 : The Written Tradition

Published by ePublicist.ca

Lecturer: Yoel Ben-Avraham Date: Overhead sheet 1


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What is the 'Torah'

The Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, as it is written almost


entirely in the Hebrew language, with some small
portions in Aramaic. It is traditionally divided into three
parts: the Torah ("teaching" or "law"), the Nevi'im
("prophets"), and the Ketuvim ("writings").

Lecturer: Yoel Ben-Avraham Date: Overhead sheet 2


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What is included?

The Torah, or "Instruction," is also known as the "Five


Books" of Moses, thus Chumash from Hebrew
meaning "fivesome," and Pentateuch from Greek
meaning "five scroll-cases."
The Torah comprises the following five books:
 Genesis, Ge—Bereshit (‫)בראשית‬
 Exodus, Ex—Shemot (‫)שמות‬
 Leviticus, Le—Vayikra (‫)ויקרא‬
 Numbers, Nu—Bamidbar (‫)במדבר‬
 Deuteronomy, Dt—Devarim (‫)דברים‬
The Hebrew book titles come from the first words in the respective texts. The
Hebrew title for Numbers, however, comes from the fifth word of that text.

Lecturer: Yoel Ben-Avraham Date: Overhead sheet 3


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How were they chosen?

 The term "canon" refers to the closed corpus of biblical


literature regarded as divinely inspired. The Hebrew
biblical canon represents a long process of selection,
as testified to by the Bible itself, which lists some
twenty‑two books that have been lost to us, no doubt,
among other reasons, because they were not included
in the canon. Books were only included if they were
regarded as holy, that is, divinely inspired.

Lecturer: Yoel Ben-Avraham Date: Overhead sheet 4


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When were they selected?

Rabbinic Judaism recognizes the twenty-four books of the Masoretic Text, commonly
called the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible. Evidence suggests that the process of
canonization occurred between 200 BCE and 200 CE. A popular position is that
the Torah was canonized circa 400 BCE, the Prophets circa 200 BCE, and the
Writings circa 100 CE perhaps at a hypothetical Council of Jamnia—this position,
however, is increasingly criticised by modern scholars.

The book of Deuteronomy includes a prohibition against adding or subtracting (4:2,


12:32) which might apply to the book itself (i.e. a "closed book," a prohibition
against future scribal editing) or to the instruction received by Moses on Mt. Sinai.

The book of 2 Maccabees, itself not a part of the Jewish canon, describes Nehemiah
(around 400 BCE) as having "founded a library and collected books about the
kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive
offerings" (2:13-15). The Book of Nehemiah suggests that the priest-scribe Ezra
brought the Torah back from Babylon to Jerusalem and the Second Temple (8-9)
around the same time period.

Lecturer: Yoel Ben-Avraham Date: Overhead sheet 5


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How were they preserved?

The Masoretic Text (MT) is a Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh). It
defines not just the books of the Jewish canon, but also the precise
letter-text of the biblical books in Judaism, as well as their vocalization
and accentuation for both public reading and private study.
The MT was primarily copied, edited and distributed by a group of Jews
known as the Masoretes between the seventh and tenth centuries CE.

The Hebrew word mesorah (‫מסורה‬, alt. ‫ )מסורת‬refers to the transmission of


a tradition. In a very broad sense it can refer to the entire chain of Jewish
tradition (see Oral law), but in reference to the masoretic text the word
mesorah has a very specific meaning: the diacritic markings of the text of
the Hebrew Bible and concise marginal notes in manuscripts (and later
printings) of the Hebrew Bible which note textual details, usually about
the precise spelling of words.

Lecturer: Yoel Ben-Avraham Date: Overhead sheet 6


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‫‪Demonstration of Consistency‬‬

‫רץ‪.‬‬ ‫הא ֶ‬ ‫את ָ‬ ‫מים‪ ,‬ו ְ ֵ‬ ‫ש ַ‬‫את הַ ׁ ָ‬ ‫הים‪ֵ ,‬‬ ‫רא אֱלֹ ִ‬ ‫שית בָ ָ‬ ‫רא ִ‬ ‫)א( בְ ֵ‬
‫ח‬
‫תהום; ְורו ַ‬ ‫ני ְ‬ ‫על‪-‬פ ְ ֵ‬ ‫ך‪ַ ,‬‬ ‫ש ְ‬ ‫ח ֶ‬ ‫בהו‪ ,‬ו ְ ֹ‬ ‫תהו ו ָ ֹ‬ ‫תה ֹ‬ ‫רץ‪ ,‬הָי ְ ָ‬ ‫הא ֶ‬ ‫)ב( ו ְ ָ‬
‫מים‪.‬‬ ‫ני הַ ָ‬ ‫על‪-‬פ ְ ֵ‬ ‫פת ַ‬ ‫ח ֶ‬ ‫הים‪ ,‬מְר ַ ֶ‬ ‫ל ִ‬ ‫אֱ ֹ‬
‫הי‪-‬אור‪.‬‬ ‫הי אור; ו ַי ְ ִ‬ ‫הים‪ ,‬י ְ ִ‬ ‫ל ִ‬ ‫מר אֱ ֹ‬ ‫)ג( ו ַֹיא ֶ‬
‫בין‬
‫הים‪ֵ ,‬‬ ‫ל ִ‬
‫דל אֱ ֹ‬ ‫כי‪-‬טוב; ו ַי ַבְ ֵ‬ ‫האור‪ִ ,‬‬ ‫את‪ָ -‬‬ ‫הים ֶ‬ ‫ל ִ‬ ‫)ד( ו ַי ַר ְא אֱ ֹ‬
‫ך‪.‬‬
‫ש ְ‬
‫ח ֶ‬ ‫בין הַ ֹ‬ ‫האור ו ֵ‬ ‫ָ‬
‫הי‪-‬‬
‫לה; ו ַי ְ ִ‬ ‫רא לָי ְ ָ‬ ‫ק ָ‬
‫שך ְ ָ‬ ‫ח ֶ‬ ‫לאור יום‪ ,‬ו ְלַ ֹ‬ ‫הים ָ‬ ‫ל ִ‬ ‫רא אֱ ֹ‬ ‫ק ָ‬ ‫)ה( ו ַי ִ ְ‬
‫חד‪} .‬פ{‬ ‫קר‪ ,‬יום אֶ ָ‬ ‫ב ֶ‬ ‫הי‪ֹ -‬‬ ‫רב ו ַי ְ ִ‬ ‫ע ֶ‬ ‫ֶ‬

‫‪Lecturer: Yoel Ben-Avraham‬‬ ‫‪Date:‬‬ ‫‪Overhead sheet 7‬‬


‫‪File: C:\Documents and Settings\YBA\My Documents\My Projects\Judaism101\Written Tradition01.odp‬‬
Additional Resources

 Blog : Cannonization of Jewish Bible


 Book: “From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic
Judaism” (Ktav) by Lawrence Shiffman
 Wikipedia : Canonization of Jewish Bible
 Wikipedia: Masoretic Tradition

Lecturer: Yoel Ben-Avraham Date: Overhead sheet 8


File: C:\Documents and Settings\YBA\My Documents\My Projects\Judaism101\Written Tradition01.odp