Introduction to the Hebrew Bible

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  • C O M M E N C I N G A C R I T I C A L S T U D Y

    Introduction to the Hebrew Bible

  • Hebrew Bible Introductory Topics

    Defining the HB

    Canon of the HB

    Text of the HB

    Interpretation of the HB

    Contexts of the HB

  • T O W A R D A W O R K I N G D E F I N I T I O N O F T H E H E B R E W B I B L E

    Defining the Hebrew bible

  • Working Definition Proposal

    The Hebrew HB is an ancient collection of diverseand complex texts reflecting interdependentexpressions of the life, thought, and witness ofancient Israel and primitive Judaism that isregarded by Jewish and Christian religioustraditions as possessing a special sanctity andauthority.

  • Antiquity of the HB

    HB is a witness from the distant past

    HB is a textual relic that provides valuable insight into the Ancient Near Eastern cultural milieu during the final two millenniums before common era.

  • Understanding the HB as an Anthology

    The HB is a collection of documents from different sources.

    The genres of the HB are manifold

    The interrelationship of documents that compose the HB is a literary complex.

  • Contents of the HB

    The contents of the HB represent the life, thought and witness of ancient Israel and primitive Judaism.

    Despite the composite nature of the HB, the unification and organization of its content suggests an interdependence of expression.

  • Sacredness of the HB

    Despite the difference in content organization, Judaism and Christianity regard the HB as scripture.

    The HB is divinely inspired.

    The HB is a rule by which these religious traditions measure themselves.

    The HB is a norm by which these religious traditions govern themselves.

  • C O N T E N T & F O R M O F T H E H B

    Canon of the HB

  • Canon Defined

    The word canon is derived from the Greek noun "kanon" meaning "reed" or "cane," or also "rule" or "measure," which itself is derived from the Hebrew word kaneh" and is often used as a standard of measurement

    A canon is regarded as an official list of central importance to a particular community.

    Additionally, in the case of the HB, canon refers to a divinely inspired official list.

  • Canonical Formats of HB

    The HB represents a proto-text and exists to date in three major canonical forms. These are the Jewish, Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox and Protestant canons.

  • Jewish Canon

    The HB consists of twenty-four books divided into three major sections.

    The major divisions of the HB are the Torah (Law or Teachings), Nebiim (Prophets), and Kethubiim (Writings).

    The prophetic division is divided into Former and Latter Prophets in contrast to Major and Minor Prophets in other two canonical forms.

    In the cases of the books of Samuel, Kings, and the prophetic books that include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi one book is used in the HB in contrast to multiple book enumerations utilized in other two canonical forms.

    The Book of Daniel is not considered a prophetic book in the HB.

  • Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox Canon

    The Roman Catholic canon possesses a total of forty-six books in contrast to the HB canon.

    The books in the Roman Catholic canon that are not included in the HB are: Tobith, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (or Wisdom of benSirach), Baruch (including the so-called Epistle of Jeremiah), and I & II Maccabees. (These books were declared to be deuterocanonical books at the Council of Trent between 1545-1563 C.E.)

    Moreover, the Greek Orthodox canon has a still larger canon, including I Esdras (which reproduces the substance of the book of Ezra and parts of II Chronicles and Nehemiah), Psalm 151, the Prayer of Manasseh, and III Maccabees.

    Further, other Eastern Christian canons include Jubilees and even I Enoch attained canonical status in the Ethiopian Church.

    A fourth book of Maccabees is included in Greek HBs, but is regarded as an appendix to the canon, while another book, II Esdras, is included as an appendix in the Latin Vulgate.

  • Protestant Canon

    The Protestant canon contains a total of thirty-nine books that, while differing in order and number, are based solely on the contents of the Hebrew HB.

    The additional Greek based books contained in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons are relegated to so-called Apocryphal (hidden) books that were traditionally placed at the end of the HB. Albeit, some Protestant traditions have begun to place these books between the testaments.

    Like the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons, the Protestant canon orders the contents according to Pentateuch, History, Poetry and Wisdom, and Prophets (major and minor).

  • HB Canonical Benchmarks

    By 400 b.c.e. torah is believed to have been canonized. By 200 b.c.e. neviim is believed to have been canonized. By 90 c.e. kethuviim is believed to have been canonized By the end of the first-century c.e. early Christians recognized

    a Greek version of the HB probably closely akin to Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox OT

    At the end of the fourth-century c.e. NT is canonized By the thirteenth-century c.e. the Vulgate (Latin translation

    of the HB in 382 c.e.) recognized as the commonly used canon of the church.

    1537 c.e. Luthers canon (Protestant canon) 1546-1563 Books declared by Protestant Reformation to be

    apocryphal are declared by the Council of Trent to be deuterocanonical.

  • O R I G I N A L W O R D I N G & H I S T O R Y O F T R A N S M I S S I O N

    Text of the HB

  • Language of the HB

    The language in which the majority of the HB was written was Hebrew, a language belonging to the family of Semitic languages.

    Biblical Hebrew is a dead language (no longer spoken)

    HB (Gen. 31:47; Jer. 10:11; Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; and Dan. 2:4-7:28) was written in a closely related Semitic language, Aramaic, which was the successor to Hebrew as a spoken language in Palestine.

  • HB Autographs

    At present, no original copy of any HB book exists.

    The oldest forms books of the HB exist in today are manuscript (hand-written) form and possess varying relationships to the supposed originals.

    It was not until the invention of the printing press with moveable type in the fifteenth-century c.e. that copies could be produced in a more efficient and error free way.

    Of several thousand textual copies existing today of the HB none are identical.

  • HB Textual Materials

    The two most common writing materials in the production of the HB were papyrus (a plant) and parchment (skin of an animal).

  • Masoretic Text

    HB texts were originally written without punctuation marks and division.

    The Old Hebrew script (Paleo-Hebrew) was purely consonantal.

    Gradually a system for representing vowels had to be worked out.

    This led to the development of the Masoretic Text (MT) which consisted of a text with commentary, kethib/qere and pointing (insertion of vowels).

  • HB Textual Benchmarks

    ca400 b.c.e.700 c.e. Development of MT ca520 b.c.e.-late first millennium Aramaic translation of HB. By the third-century b.c.e. Greek translation of the HB had begun. By the second-century c.e. Syriac translation of the HB had begun. By the third-century c.e. Latin translation of the HB had begun. 1382 c.e. first English translation of the Bible from the Vulgate. 1611 c.e. Authorized Version (King James Version KJV) 1901 c.e. American Standard Version ASV 1952 c.e. Revised Standard Version RSV 1989 c.e. New Revised Standard Version NRSV

  • A S S U M P T I O N S , M E T H O D S & A P P L I C A T I O N S

    Interpretation of the HB

  • HB & Hermeneutics

    The science of interpretation

    See additional handout on HB interpretation

  • H I S T O R I C A L & G E O G R A P H I C A L

    Contexts of the HB

  • History and the HB

    Archaeological Periods 1500-1200 b.c.e. Late Bronze Age Origins 1350-1330 b.c.e. Amarna Letters 1200-1000 b.c.e. Iron Age I 1200 b.c.e. Merneptah Stele 1000-586 b.c.e. Iron Age I 853 b.c.e. Battle of Qarqar 841 b.c.e. Tel Dan Stele 830 b.c.e. Mesha Stele 722 b.c.e. Destruction of Israel 597 b.c.e. First Deportation and ancient Judah 587 b.c.e. Babylonian Exile 537 b.c.e. Cyrus Edict 520 b.c.e. Rebuilding of the Temple

  • Geography

    Fertile Cresent

    Coastal Plain

    Hill Country