The Karaite Korner
Bible FAQ

What is the Hebrew Bible?

Do Karaites have the same Bible as Rabbanite Jews?

Why do Jews say there are 24 books in the Hebrew Bible when in the English Bible there are 39?

Who made the divisions into Chapters and Verses in the Bible?

What about the divisions of the Torah into Parashot used in Jewish Synagogues?

What books are in each of the 3 sections of the TaNaKH (Hebrew Bible)?

What are the Hebrew Names of the books of the Tanach?

What is the Hebrew Bible?

The Hebrew Bible or Tanach is the word of God transmitted to the Prophets of Israel and preserved by the People of Israel. The Hebrew Bible contains God's instructions on to live as a moral human being. The Hebrew Bible consists of 24 books, all of which were written under divine instruction through prophecy.

Back

Do Karaites have the same Bible as Rabbinic Jews?

Yes. In fact, all printed Hebrew Bibles are either directly or indirectly based on the "Ben Asher" Bible Manuscripts, which were produced by Karaite scribes in the 9th-10th centuries! So really the Rabbis use the Karaite Bible and not the other way around.

Back

Why do Jews call the Old Testament by various names such as "Tanach", "Mikra", "Hebrew Bible", "Jewish Bible", "Katuv", "Scriptures"?

The name "Old Testament" is a term invented by Christians to de-legitimize the Hebrew Bible and implies that in contrast to the "New Testament" of Christianity the "Old Testament" is antiquated and no longer valid. Jews fervently reject this label and use the ancient names for the Hebrew Bible. The most commonly used name is "Tanach" (or Tanakh) which is an acronym for the three sections of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim Kedoshim (Holy Writings). Jews also refer to the Hebrew Bible as "Mikra" which simply means "that which is read" and this term functions as the Hebrew equivalent of the English "Bible". The name Mikra comes from the verse "And they read in the book, in the Torah of God... and they understood that which was read (Mikra)" (Neh 8,8). It should be noted that when Jews say Bible without any further explanation what is meant is the Hebrew Bible alone. In contrast, when Christians say Bible they mean both the "Old Testament" and the so-called "New Testament". Because of this confusion some Jews prefer the names Hebrew Bible or Jewish Bible when referring to the Tanach. It should be noted that 2 books (Ezra and Daniel) of the "Hebrew" Bible contain large sections written in Aramaic! Because of this, some prefer the term "Jewish Bible". The Hebrew Bible is also called "HaKatuv" which means "that which is written" and this term is equivalent to the English term "Scripture" or "Scriptures".

Back

Why are there 39 books in English Bible Translations and only 24 Books in the Hebrew Bible?

The counting of 24 books in Hebrew Bibles is based on the division of the books in the ancient Hebrew manuscripts. In contrast, the counting of books in many English Bibles are based on the division of the books employed by the "Septuagint" (Greek Translation of the Bible). Both systems have the same books but simply divide them differently. One of the reasons for the difference is that some of the 24 books are not really a single book but rather a collection of books. For example, one of the books in the Hebrew Bible has a book called Trei Asar ("The Twelve") consisting of 12 individual works each representing the writings of a single prophet [also called the "Twelve Minor Prophets" because of the relatively small size of each of the books]. The Septuagint (and KJV) count "The Twelve" as 12 individual books instead of a single large book.

Another reason that the Septuagint (and KJV) count more than 24 books is that they split some of the larger books into 2 separate books including:

  1. 1Kings and 2Kings (Hebrew: Kings).
  2. 1Chronicles and 2Chronicles (Hebrew: Chronicles);
  3. 1Samuel and 2Samuel (Hebrew: Samuel);
  4. Ezra and Nehemiah (or in Latin 1Esdras and 2Esdras) (Hebrew: Ezra or Ezra-Nehemiah).

Ever since Bible aides such as concordances and lexicons adopted the Septuagint Bible divisions it has been universally accepted to cite verses using these book divisions.

Back

Who made the divisions into Chapters and Verses in the Bible?

In the earliest Hebrew manuscripts the Bible was divided into verses, but the verses were not numbered and there was no division into chapters. The divisions into Chapters were added in Christian Bibles by the English Archbishop Stephen Langton in the 13th century. At first the Jews did not accept these artificial divisions and instead continued the ancient practice of referring to a Biblical passage by quoting the first few words of the verse. It was only later that the Jews adopted the Christian Chapter divisions for use in religious debates forced upon them by the Christian authorities. The Jews were compelled to find a method of citing verses that would be comprehensible to their Christian oppressors.

The verse numbers were only adopted in an even later period and as a result different Bibles have different verse numbering systems to this day. The verse numbers in Hebrew Bibles are at times off by one or more verses from the English verse numbers. A common cause for this is that English Bibles do not count introductory verses in the numbering system, whereas the Hebrew system does. For example, Psalms 20,1 in the Hebrew is not counted in the English Bible as a verse and is instead considered a "supernumerary" title. As a result Psalms 20,2 in the Hebrew is Psalms 20,1 in the English. Neither numbering system is "correct" or "better" since both are arbitrary systems used for convenience without any religious significance. Although the numbering of verses in the Hebrew Bible is a late innovation, the actual division into (un-numbered) verses is an original part of the text, which goes back to the time of the prophets.

It should be noted that in many instances the Christian division into chapters betrays an intentional attempt to corrupt the meaning of the Biblical text by dividing it incorrectly, often for clear theological reasons. For example, in the original Creation Account the entire narrative leads up to the 7th day of rest, which provides an explanation for the origins of the Sabbath day. However, according to the Christian division of the story, God's resting on the Seventh Day begins a new chapter and is therefore an independent event, not in any way related to the 6 days of creation! There can be little doubt that the Christian chapter division removes the 7th day of rest from the Creation Account in order to justify the Christian practice of observing the Sabbath on the 1st day of the week and not the 7th!

Back

What about the divisions of the Torah into Parashot used in Jewish Synagogues?

In Rabbanite synagogues one "Parashah" (Torah Portion) is read every week so that in the course of a year the entire Torah is read in the synagogue. This "annual cycle", which divides the Torah into 54 portions, is not an original division in the Torah and was only invented for the purpose of the annual reading. As a matter of fact, several other systems of dividing the Torah for Synagogue reading have existed over the years. One of the earliest systems, used by both Rabbanites and Karaites, divided the Torah into more than 150 portions. In this system the Torah was read in the Synagogue over a period of about 3 years. Another system, used by Karaites in the 8th century, divided the Torah so that it was read in the Synagogue twice a year. All of these systems are arbitrary divisions created for use in the Synagogue which do not comprise original divisions of the Torah and they have no religious significance.

Upuntil the 15th century many Karaites read the Torah in the Synagogue according to the annual cycle used in Rabbanite synagogues, but the reading was begun in the First Month (Nissan). In contrast, the Rabbanites begin the annual reading cycle in the Seventh Month (Tishrei), based on their erroneous understanding of Yom Teruah as the beginning of the year. In the 15th century, under the influence of the Rabbanizing Baschyatchi family, many Karaites adopted the Rabbanite practice of beginning the annual reading of the Torah in the Seventh Month (Tishrei), and this misguided Rabbanite custom is practiced in many Karaite Synagogues up until today.

Back

The Tanach

(Hebrew Bible)

Torah (Law/ Pentateuch)

Nevi'im (Prophets)

Ketuvim Kedoshim

(Holy Writings)

Bereshit (Genesis)

Yehoshua (Joshua)

Tehillim (Psalms)

Shemot (Exodus)

Shofetim (Judges)

Mishlei (Proverbs)

VaYikra (Leviticus)

Shemuel

(1Samuel and 2Samuel)

Iyyov (Job)

BaMidbar (Numbers)

Melakhim

(1Kings and 2Kings)

Shir HaShirim

(Song of Songs)

Devarim (Deuteronomy)

Yeshayahu (Isaiah)

Rut (Ruth)

Yermiyahu (Jeremiah)

Eykhah (Lamentations)

Yehezkel (Ezekiel)

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes)

Trei Asar

(12 Minor Prophets:

Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggay, Zechariah, Malachi)

Ester (Esther)

Daniyel (Daniel)

Ezra-Nehemyah

(Ezra and Nehemiah)

Divrei HaYamim (Chronicles)

 

Books of the Hebrew Bible

English Name

Hebrew Name

Abbreviation

Pentateuch/ Law

Torah

 

Genesis

Bereshit

Gen

Exodus

Shemot

Ex

Leviticus

VaYikra

Lev

Numbers

BaMidbar

Nu

Deuteronomy

Devarim

Dt (or Deut)

Prophets

Nevi'im

 

Joshua

Yehoshua

Jos

Judges

Shofetim

Jud

1Samuel and 2Samuel

Shemuel

1Sam and 2Sam

1Kings and 2Kings

Melakhim

1Ki and 2Ki (or 1R and 2R)

Isaiah

Yeshayahu

Isa

Jeremiah

Yermiyahu

Jer

Ezekiel

Yehezkel

Ez

Twelve Minor Prophets

Trei Asar

---

Hosea

Hoshea

Hos

Joel

Yo'el

Joel

Amos

Amos

Amos

Obadiah

Ovadyah

Oba

Jonah

Yonah

Jon

Micah

Michah

Mic

Nahum

Nahum

Nah

Habakkuk

Habakkuk

Hab

Zephaniah

Tzefanyah

Zeph

Haggay

Haggay

Hag

Zechariah

Zecharyah

Zech

Malachi

Mal'achi

Mal

Hagiographa/ Holy Writings

Ketuvim Kedoshim

 

Psalms

Tehillim

Ps

Proverbs

Mishlei

Prov or Prv

Job

Iyyov

Job

Song of Songs

Shir HaShirim

Song or Cant

Ruth

Rut

Ruth

Lamentations

Eykhah

Lam

Ecclesiastes

Kohelet

Ecc

Esther

Ester

Esther

Daniel

Daniyel

Dan

Ezra and Nehemiah

Ezra-Nehemyah

Ezra and Neh

(or 1Esd and 2Esd)

Visit Nehemia's new website NehemiasWall.com.