Essays: Jewish Tradition
Scripture and Commentary
Although there are many more religious and legal texts written pertaining to the
Jewish tradition, the main texts are the TaNaKh, the Torah (a subdivision of the
TaNaKh), the Midrash, the Mishnah, and the Talmud.
Along with these texts are the
many writings of the philosophers.
The TaNaKh is the Hebrew Bible used in Judaism.
It consists of the Law, the
Prophets, and the sacred writings.
In Hebrew, these are the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the
Ketuvim, respectively (Oxtoby 77).
The Hebrew subsections form the name of the
Hebrew Bible, which is often simply an acronym T-N-K.
The Torah, also known as the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses, is the first
five books of the Hebrew Bible:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and
The Torah is arguably the central writing of Judaism.
Most Jews will say
that the Torah was created 974 generations ago by God before the world was created.
tells the story of creation, how God created the world.
After much persecution of the Jews, the idea arose that the only way to preserve
the Oral traditions was to write them down.
Some oral traditions, the commentaries, and
interpretations of the Bible were written down in the Midrash in about 200 CE “generated
by rabbinic sermons” (Oxtoby 78).
The Midrash helps to answer questions posed by the
people pertaining to interpretation of the Torah.
According to Oxtoby, the Mishnah is the “oldest datable rabbinic document” (78),
dating back to 220 CE and written by Rabbi Judah.
The Mishnah has six subdivisions: