I- The TORAH, Tanakh (law, teaching):
It is the most sacred book, the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch)… but Torah may also apply to the whole of the Hebrew Bible, called “Tanakh”, an acronym formed from the Hebrew words for the Bible’s 3 sections: “Law” (Torah), “Prophets” (Nevlim), and “Writings” (Hagiographa).
We do not have the “original documents”; what we have today mainly are the “Greek Bible”, the “Hebrew Bible”, and the “Dead See Scrolls”:
The Greek Bible, the Septuagint:
- From the third century before Christ, is the oldest document we have: It is the Greek translation made in Alexandria by a Group of 72 rabbis (6 from each one of the 12 Tribes of Israel), and hence the name of “Septuagint” given to the translation. It has 46 books, like the Catholic Bibles, and it was the common version of the Bible among the Jews well after Christ; the one used and quoted by the Evangelists and Apostles when they wrote the New Testament, and the one mostly quoted in the Talmud. It was then translated to Syriac in the 1st century AC, to Coptic in the 3rd century AC, and to Latin in the 4th century AC (the “Vulgata”).
- The Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic Text: Written in the 6th to 10th centuries after Christ, by a Group of scholars from Babylon and Palestine , the Karaites, introducing vowels and accent signs to the original Hebrew. It has 39 books, and it is the one mostly used by Protestants.
- The Dead See Scrolls: Very important, because they are in Hebrew, dating from 300 “before Christ”, when the oldest Hebrew Bible we had, the Masoretic, is from 700 “after Christ”… it pushed back the curtain 1,000 years on the earliest known surviving Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament.
Only from the Cave IV of the Qumran finds, there are fragments of 382 manuscripts. Every book of the Bible, except Esther, is represented, and same books by many copies. Seven scrolls are in Israel, at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. But most of them are in Jordan at the Palestine Archeological Museum of Jerusalem.
All manuscripts are with a remarkable similarity to those Greek and Hebrew we had!… and they have been qualified as “the most important discovery ever made in Old Testament manuscripts”, also very valuables in New Testament studies.
The Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, are kept in several “Codex”: The “Codex Vaticanus”, the oldest, from the 4th century AC, in the Vatican Library, Rome . In the British Museum of London are kept the “Codex Sinaiticus” of the 4th century AC, and the “Codex Alexandrinus” of the 5th century. In Cambridge , the “Codex Bezae” of the 5th century AC.
There are also fragments of the Bible kept in “papiry” in Manchester and Oxford (England), in Washington (USA), and Geneva (Switzerland).
II- The TALMUD:
The Talmud is the “oral tradition”, written down by the Palestinian rabbis after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AC, with their commentaries (The “Mishnah”).
– In the 4th century the rabbis from Babylon added their commentaries to the Mishnah (“Gemara”).
– Together, the Mishnah and the Gemara make up the “Babylonian Talmud”, with the 613 commandments.
– At the same time, another Gemara was created in Palestine , that became the Palestinian Talmud , shorter than the Babylonian one.
A Page of the TALMUD:
– Center Column: The Mishna, Gemara, or Bible are placed in the center column, and printed with heavy type.
– Inner Column: The commentary of Rashi is always located in the inner column.
– Outer Column: The Tosafot in the outer column, other commentaries and references in the outside columns in smaller type.
A Page of the Talmud
The materials of the 2 Talmud are of 3 kinds:
- Halakah: Interpretations of the Law; the meaning of each commandment. The largest body.
- Aggadah: Proverbs, Psalms, Parables…
- Misdrashim: Commentaries of the Bible.known as purushartha
III- Other Scriptures:
A myriad of works and commentaries:
– Commentary of Rashi (1040-1105) Jewish Theologians
– The great law code, known as “Mishneh Torah” of the Spaniard
Maimonides (1135-1204), and the same author’s philosophical “”magnum opus”, “The guide for the Perplexed”, with his 13 fundamental principles of the Jewish creed. Jewish Theologians
– Writings of the Rabbinic Judaism, Anti-rabbinic reaction, Karaites, the Geonim, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Jewish Mysticism, Kabala, Hasidism, Gnosticism, Haskala or Enlightenment, Zionism. Jewish Theologians from the Second Century to Present
– Present Writings: Orthodox, Chasidim, Reform, Conservative, Reconstrucionist, Sephardic, Traditional, Humanistic
By Dr Dominguez