Jewish Scripture and other Writings

A handful of readers will have an inkling what inspired me to create this post.  But the inspiration is irrelevant.  This may or may not prove useful to most readers, but it could be highly educational.  This is basically an annotated list of Jewish religious texts.  I am sure an Orthodox reader or two of this blog would be upset that X or Y is missing.  I am also sure a Reform reader or two of this blog will look at several items on the list, squint, and say, ‘hunh?”  Not all of these books are on my library shelf (physical or digital).

TANAKH – The Hebrew Bible (an acronym) – 24 books

  • Torah – The first five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers
  • Neviim – Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Jonah, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)
  • Ketuvim – Writings: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah

Notes: Those familiar with the Catholic Old Testament might notice a few missing.  These are the ‘Deuterocanonical‘ books, referred to in the King James Version as ‘Apocrypha.’  Their absence doesn’t mean they’re treated as heresy, just that they’re not canon.  Though some of the doctrine in these books are rejected.

Mishnah – Written record of Rabbinical discussions and decisions that occurred over centuries and finally written down around 200 CE.

Talmud (or Gemarah) – Written record of Rabbinical discussions on the Mishnah.  There are actually two Talmuds.  If not specified, it’s the Babylonian Talmud (550 CE).  The less commonly referenced is the Palestinian or Jerusalem Talmud (350 CE).  The only difference is the community of Rabbis involved in the discussion.
Codes of Law – further attempts to organize the Rabbinical decisions in the Talmud(s)

  • Mishneh Torah: Compiled by Moses ben Maimon (aka Maimonides – 1135-1204 CE)
  • Shulkhan Aruch: Compiled by Yosef Karo (1488-1575)

Other books by Maimonides

  • Sefir Hamitzvot (Book of the Commandments): an annotated listing of all 613 commandments from the Torah
  • Guide for the Perplexed: a philosophical work comparing and contrasting Jewish theology with Aristotelian philosophy.

Zohar: Mystical commentary on the Torah.  The basis for Kaballah.  The Zohar was discovered by Moses de Leon in 13th Century Spain. It was written in the 2nd century by Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai.  Some people dispute Moses de Leon’s claim of origin.  Of course, some people dispute that the Torah was handed down on Mt. Sinai.  Heretics!

Midrash: further commentary on the TANAKH.  I’ve written Midrash, myself.  Of course, few have read mine.  There are several classic examples, but I’m not going to bother naming them, except those in the next category.

Aggadah – Legends: Non legal texts from the Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash.

  • Sefer Ha-aggadah – Book of Legends: compiled by Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky. Published in Hebrew in Odessa, Russia in 1908-11.  English translation by William Braude in 1992.  Bialik is also often considered the Father of Modern Hebrew Poetry.
  • Legends of the Jews – compiled by Louis Ginzberg (in German) – English translation by Henrietta Szold published in New York City in 1909.

If anyone thinks I’ve made a mistake, let me know. However, the above was not written off the top of my head…I was familiar with most of it, but I used various websites I trust to make sure I got the descriptions and dates correct.