This article is about Hebrew and Aramaic texts that constitute Jewish scripture. For the Jewish canon, see Tanakh. For the various Christian canons, see Old Testament. For the modern critical edition by Oxford, see Oxford Hebrew Bible.
It has been suggested that this article be merged with Tanakh. (Discuss) Proposed since June 2014.
Page from an 11th-century AramaicTargum manuscript of the Hebrew Bible.
The term Hebrew Bible is an attempt to provide specificity with respect to contents, while avoiding allusion to any particular interpretative tradition or theological school of thought. It is widely used in academic writing and interfaith discussion in relatively neutral contexts meant to include dialogue among all religious traditions, but not widely in the inner discourse of the religions which use its text.
Many biblical studies scholars advocate use of the term "Hebrew Bible" (or "Hebrew Scriptures") when discussing these books in academic writing, as a neutral substitute to terms with religious connotations (e.g., the non-neutral term "Old Testament"). The Society of Biblical Literature's Handbook of Style, which is the standard for major academic journals like the Harvard Theological Review and conservative Protestant journals like the Bibliotheca Sacra and the Westminster Theological Journal, suggests that authors "be aware of the connotations of alternative expressions such as... Hebrew Bible [and] Old Testament" without prescribing the use of either.
In terms of canon, Christian usage of "Old Testament" does not refer to a universally agreed upon set of books but, rather, varies depending on denomination. Lutheranism and Protestant denominations that follow the Westminster Confession of Faith accept the entire Jewish canon as the Old Testament without additions, however in translation they sometimes give preference to the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic Text; for example, see Isaiah 7:14.
Origins of the Hebrew Bible and its components
The books that constitute the Hebrew Bible developed over roughly a millennium. The oldest texts seem to come from the eleventh or tenth centuries BCE, whilst most of the other texts are somewhat later. They are edited works, being collections of various sources intricately and carefully woven together.
Since the nineteenth century, most scholars have agreed that the Pentateuch (the first five books of Scriptures) consists of four sources which have been woven together. These four sources being combined together to form the Pentateuch sometime in the sixth century BCE. This theory is now known as the documentary hypothesis, and has been the dominant theory for the past two hundred years. The Deuteronomist credited with the Pentateuch's book of Deuteronomy is also said to be the source of the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings (the Deuteronomistic history, or DtrH) and also in the book of Jeremiah.
Several editions, all titled Biblia Hebraica, have been produced by various German publishers since 1906.