The Holy Books

The Hebrew Scriptures, referred to by Christians as the Old Testament, are called the TANAKH, which is the Hebrew acronym for the three different parts:

  • The Torah which is the first five books of the Old Testament or the Pentateuch;
  • The Nevi'im which are the books of the prophets; and
  • Ketuvim which are the remaining writings.

A chart at explains the different parts of the TANAKH and what's included in each section.

The other Holy Book for the Jewish religion is the Talmud which includes the Mishnah, which means "repetition" or "study" and the Gemara, which means "addition" or "completion."

As society changed, the Jews found that the Torah needed to be updated from its original agricultural emphasis. Those changes became part of the Mishnah. The Mishnah also includes a description of Jewish life was during the period of the Second Temple. The Mishnah is divided into six sections (sedarim):

  • Zeraim (seeds) regarding the agricultural laws
  • Moed (seasons) regarding the Sabbath and festivals
  • Nashim (women) regarding marriage, divorce and family law
  • Neziqin (damages) regarding civil and criminal laws
  • Qodashim (holy things) regarding sacrificial cult and dietary laws)
  • Tohorot (purifications) regarding ritual defilement and purification

The sedarim are divided into 63 treatises. Also included in the Mishnah are a collection of wise sayings called the Pirke Avot (Chapters of the Fathers).

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., the Talmud defines the Jews' religious life more than the Torah. Jewish tradition says Moses received two Torahs on Mount Sinai.  The first is the written Torah above and the second is an oral Torah passed down from generation to generation. The oral Toral finally was written down at the end of the second century. Biblical scholars and scribes in Babylon edited the written "oral Torah" between 200 and 600 A.D. and that is now known as the Gemara, which means "completion" in Aramaic.

Although there is only one Mishna, there are two Gemaras. The first Gemara called the Yerushalmi was created in Israel and the second called the Bavli was created in Babylon. The Gemara is always printed with the Mishnah. The Gemara adds to the Mishna and are a source of history and legend.

From Canaan to Egypt

The Ten Plagues


Promised Land

Jewish Holidays

Holy Books


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