Tanakh 101

You’ve likely heard the term “Tanakh” at some point.  For those who are new to Hebrew Roots, here’s a quick guide to what Tanakh means.   In general this word refers to the Hebrew Bible or what Christians call the “Old Testament”.  It is an acronym from the traditional Biblical divisions used by Jews:  Torah (Instructions), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).

The Torah refers to the first Five Books of the Bible, or the Five Books of Moses:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  These truly are YHWH’s instructions to His people.

The Prophets are traditionally divided into two sections, the former prophets and the latter prophets.  The former prophets include Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings.  (In Judaism, Samuel and Kings are each one book, not separated into two as in the Christian Bible.)  The major latter prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  The latter prophets also includes the “twelve minor” prophets that consist of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.  In Judaism these are all one book called “Trei Asar” or “The Twelve Minor Prophets”.

The final section is called the Writings.  Judaism believes these are divinely inspired but hold a place lower in authority than the Prophets.  The Writings include the poetic books of Psalms, Proverbs and Job; the “five scrolls” of Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther; and “other” books of Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles (these last ones are combined instead of separated as in the Christian Bible).

While these books were translated into Aramaic and Greek before Yeshua’s birth, they were still in scroll format for centuries.  In Yeshua’s day and in the first century (when Paul and the other Apostles lived), individuals did not have bound Bibles to read on their own.  They certainly did not have “New Testaments”.  The only Scriptures in existence in those days were scrolls of the books of the Tanakh.

So, back to our question from the last post.  What Scriptures were the faithful Bereans searching to test Paul’s accuracy?  They were the Tanakh scrolls.  These were the only “Scriptures” of that day.

So, if the Bereans were lauded as “more noble” for their diligence in testing Paul to the “Scriptures”, shouldn’t we study them as well?  Yes, the poorly named “Old Testament” is as valuable to us today as it was to them.  We can only understand Yeshua, Paul and the entire New Testament if we truly comprehend the Tanakh.  Shalom!


One thought on “Tanakh 101

  1. Agreed. Also, you can add the Targums and certainly the Septuagint as well, which the apostles quoted from extensively. It is also likely that the Oral Traditions were in view in their analysis.


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