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The 24 books of the Tanach ( T a N a K h )
T ora (instruction, teaching)
N evi'im (prophets)
K etuvim (writings)
Indented: the five megillots .
Order according to BHS ; may differ depending on the edition.

Tanach [taˈnaχ] or Tenach [təˈnaχ] ( Hebrew תנ״ך TNK ) is one of several names for the Hebrew Bible , the collection of sacred writings of Judaism . The Tanakh consists of the three parts Torah 'instruction', Nevi 'in the' prophet 'and Ketuvim' writings'. TNK is the acronym of the first letter of these parts (תנ״ך). They contain a total of 24 books written in Hebrew ; two of them also contain longer Aramaic text passages.

The Christianity has taken all the books of the Tanakh and - in a slightly different arrangement - as Old Testament canonized ( Biblical canon ).


“TNK” is an acronym made up of the Hebrew first letters of the names of the three main parts. The consonants Taw ת, Well נand Kaph כ (Final form: ך) are vocalized to Tanakh or Tenakh ( [taˈnaχ] or [təˈnaχ] ); the Schlusskonsonant is a fricative [⁠ χ ⁠] pronounced.

The Tanakh is the worship of Judaism as miqra מִקְרָא('Reading') or as the written Torah (after its first main part, which is most important for Judaism and in contrast to the oral Torah in the Mishnah and Talmud ).


The Tanach was created as a collection of various religious and profane Jewish writings in a complex process of around 1200 years within the history of Israel . Its oldest components are orally handed down wreaths of legends , etiologies and legends of origin of individual clans and tribes. These gradually grew together, were later recorded, integrated into a theologically conceived salvation history and thus acquired all-Israelite significance.

Text history

Complete set of scrolls from the Tanakh

The Hebrew script is not suitable for clay tablets that were otherwise written in cuneiform in the ancient Orient . Pottery shards ( ostraka ) described with sacred texts have not yet been found in Israel. The usual writing materials were handcrafted papyrus , and occasionally leather rolls, which were written on with ink made from sooty olive oil or iron gall ink .

The oldest extant text of the Tanach is the Aaronic Blessing and another blessing in the silver scrolls of Ketef Hinnom from the 7th century BC.

The oldest known coherent Bible texts are the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating from around 250 BC. originated until 100 AD. They cover most of the books in the first two main parts. The oldest reliably datable fragments include 4Q52 (4QSam b ) and 4Q17 (4QExod-Lev).

The Isaiah scroll , which is almost 7.5 meters long, contains the entire book of Isaiah (66 chapters) and differs only minimally from the Masoretic Bible manuscripts that are 1100 years younger . The role thus demonstrates an enormous discipline and accuracy of the generational copies of Bible texts.

Since the 1st century, parchment has gradually replaced papyrus as a writing material: This enabled several extensive scrolls to be bundled into a “codex”. The oldest surviving Hebrew Bible code is the Codex Cairensis from 895, a copy of the Book of the Twelve Prophets .

The Samaritan Pentateuch , rediscovered in 1616, mostly only deviates orthographically from the previously known Masoretic text in about 6000 cases, but in one third of these cases it agrees with the Septuagint . From 1896, finds from a geniza (sealed chamber for the disposal of texts that were no longer used) in Cairo were added. As a result, we now know that the text version known up to 1945 has largely passed on the Palestinian tradition, which was not the only one before 135.

The consonant text , especially the Torah, was fixed around 135, after the defeat in the Jewish Bar Kochba uprising against the Roman Empire . That he followed old pre-Christian, but not yet canonized tradition, has been proven by the finds in Qumran and the Papyrus Nash (created around 170 BC). Until then there were several versions of the Bible texts side by side: the Greek Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Hebrew-Aramaic preforms of the Tanach with slight deviations, which are indicated in parallel texts within the Bible: for example Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22 or Isaiah 2: 2-4 and Micah 4,1-3.

After the consonant text was determined, the 1,000-year-old philological work (מסורה Masora ) of Jewish scribes ( Masoretes ) began in Palestine, especially in Tiberias , and Babylonia , who were concerned with collecting, copying and editing Biblical manuscripts. Her tasks included puncturing the specified consonant text with vowel marks, accents, punctuation marks and divisions. Furthermore, according to their strict regulations, older copies that deviated from the text version agreed as valid had to be destroyed. They standardized the text of the Tanakh by around the year 1000. The oldest completely preserved text witness is the Codex Leningradensis (manuscript B19) from the year 1008. This Hebrew-Aramaic Masoretic text was only rediscovered by Christians in the age of the Renaissance and the Reformation and then became the basis of their Bible translations , especially the Luther Bible (1534). These Masoretic Bible manuscripts, known since the Middle Ages , have long been considered the “ original text ” of the Bible. All modern editions of the Tanach, such as the Biblia Hebraica and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, are based on their codices .

Oral and written sources

The oldest traditions of the Tanach are collected in the Torah, also called “Pentateuch” (from Greek pente = five, teuchos = scroll). This tells of the creation of the world and prehistory of mankind up to the "election", liberation and immigration of Israel in Canaan . This salvation story was composed over the centuries from many different materials, including sagas, local etiologies , tribal traditions and corpora of law. The individual sources and traditions were probably already linked in literary terms to larger units in the royal era (from 1000 BC), but especially during the exile period (587 BC):

  • the " patriarchal " stories (Genesis 12-47),
  • the story of Israel's exodus from Egypt , its wandering in the desert and the revelation of the law on Sinai (Exodus),
  • the settlement, conquest and defense ("land grab") of the promised land (parts of the 4th book of Moses and the books of Joshua and Judges),
  • the prehistory (Genesis 1–11),
  • Law collections (parts of the 2nd and 4th books of Moses as well as the entire 3rd and 5th books of Moses).

In addition, there have been traditions about the political history of Israel since the time of the kings, which during and after the exile were combined into larger units such as the " Deuteronomic History ": These include the Book of Joshua , the Book of Judges , the Book of Samuel and the 1st Book of Kings and 2nd Book of Kings as one book.

Since the 9th century BC In addition, prophetic traditions were collected and later either integrated into the historical works of the royal era (Samuel, Nathan, Elijah , Elisha ) or compiled into separate prophetic books (from Isaiah to Malachi).

Since the reign of Solomon in the 10th century BC BC, but especially in exilic-post-exilic times from the 6th century BC. Liturgical, poetic and wisdom scriptures were created in the 4th century BC:

  • Prayer poetry like the psalms, proverbs like proverbs or the love poems of the Song of Songs,
  • reflective wisdom literature like the books of Kohelet and Job.

Become the three main parts

The Torah arose since the formation of the state in Israel and already existed in pre-exilic times as a written code of law and the basis of the Jerusalem temple cult . It was used until 250 BC. It was finally completed and then translated into Greek, thus forming the basis for the Septuagint.

Since around 400 BC The Torah is divided into five books. This was due to theological reasons and the amount of rolled up parchment writings. That is why the Torah is also called Chumash [חומש] ("the five") in Hebrew and also the Pentateuch ("five-scroll container") in Greek.

Most of the scriptures of the prophets and the Twelve prophets were up to 200 BC. BC before. In around 190 BC A three-part collection of holy scriptures is required for the first time in the book Jesus Sirach , which was created in the 3rd century BC . At that time only the third part was still incomplete.

Around 90 Flavius ​​Josephus divided the Tanach into 22 individual books (Greek biblia ) according to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet . He counted the books Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra / Nehemiah, the Book of the Twelve Prophets, Judges / Ruth and Jeremiah / Lamentations as one book each. The 4th book of Esra, on the other hand, divided the Tanakh into 24 books by counting Judges, Ruth, Jeremiah and Lamentations individually. It thus achieved an analogy with the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the twelve-month annual cycle.

Many of the books counted as "Scriptures" were written after the return of some of the exiled Jews from 539 BC (Ezra, Nehemia, Esther, Ruth). In the post-exilic period, at least the Torah became the “Holy Scriptures” of Judaism; which prophets and scriptures should belong to them remained a matter of dispute among the various branches of Judaism. The sequence of the books in the prophets and scriptures and the inclusion and assignment of further books to the scriptures remained controversial for a long time. The extent and division of the Tanach were finally determined in Judaism around AD 200. Of the apocalyptic literature that emerged since the Maccabees, only that around 165 BC. The book of Daniel , which originated in BC, was included in the canon, but assigned to the scriptures, not to the prophets.


The three main parts of the Tanakh (Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim) are arranged in the order of their canonization. According to Orthodox-Jewish belief, their ranking reflects a decreasing degree of inspiration : the Torah is based on the direct dialogue between Moses and God, the Nevi'im are based on God's-sent word, dreams and visions , and the Ketuvim are based on the indirect influence of human authors the Ruach HaQodesh , literally “Breath of Holiness”, also referred to as Ruach YHWH “Breath Adonais ”. Further biblical books were classified according to the assumed or actual date of origin and from theological point of view in this graduated classification scheme.


The Torah (the five books of Moses, scientifically referred to as the Pentateuch) contains YHWH's permanently valid election of the people of God and the revelation of their legal order, which the creation of the world aims at from the beginning: That is why this first part is also the theologically most important main part of the Tanach, the the two parts that were created later remain covered.


The Hebrew title Nevi'im or Nebiim ( Hebrew נְבִיאִים, Prophets ) denotes the books of the prophets of the Tanach and connects their two parts. The so-called Front Prophets ( Hebrew נְבִיאִים רִאשׁוֹנִים Neviim Rishonim ) contain the records of the history of Israel , which today are mostly counted as part of the Deuteronomistic history in science . To the rear prophets ( Hebrew נְבִיאִים אֲחָרוֹנִים Neviim Acharonim ) belong the books of classical prophecy in the Tanakh . These interpret the history of Israel from the start not as a mere memory of the past, but as a promise. The fore prophets, whose preaching was not recorded in their own books, appear as legitimate successors of the Torah recipient and prophet Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18; 34:10) and as pioneers of scriptural prophecy, whose theology had a decisive influence on the historical work. Samuel, Natan, Ahijah of Shiloh , the Man of God from Judah, Micha ben Jimla , Elijah, Elisha and the prophetess Hulda repeatedly set the course for the future of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the books of kings, often referring to the ones in the Torah remember the revealed will of God and justify their intervention with it.

The fore prophets include the four books Yehoshua, Shoftim, Shemuel, and Melachim. The books Schemuel and Melachim were divided into two scrolls each because of their length, the roles Schemuel A and B and Melachim A and B, respectively . However, they each count as one book. Overall, they tell the story of the people of Israel from the death of Moses to their exile in Babylon . The rear prophets are primarily collections of prophetic sayings, the narrative parts take a back seat. They also comprise four parts, namely Jeschajahu, Jirmejahu, Jechezkel and tre asar , in which the books of the twelve little scriptural prophets are united.


The Ketuvim (also Ketubim , Ketuwim , Hebrew כְּתוּבִים- the scriptures ) form the third main part of the Tanakh. They are also referred to as hagiographs ( ancient Greek ἁγιόγραφα Hagiographa , German “Holy Scriptures” ).

The ketuvim include eleven books:

  • the three Sifre Emet ( Hebrew ספרי אמ״ת '' Emet books or books of truth ' , ' ' is a memo from the first letters of the three books): The poetic books Psalms (תהלים Tehilim ), Job (איוב 'Iyov ) and Proverbs (משלי Mischle ). They have their own accent system , which differs from that of the other 21 books of the Tanakh .
  • the five megillot Ruth (רות), Song of Songs (שיר השירים Shir Hashirim ), Kohelet (קהלת), the lamentations (איכה Ekha ) and the Book of Esther (אסתר). One of these is read at one of the Jewish festivals Shavuot (Ruth), Passover (Song of Songs), Sukkot (Kohelet), Tisha beAv (Lamentations) and Purim (Esther).
  • the other books of Daniel (דניאל), Ezra-Nehemiah (עזרא ונחמיה, a book) and the chronicle (דברי הימים Divre Hajamim , a book).

Above all, they are books that treat and depict the human response to God's revelation (Part 1) and his self-interpretation in the prophetically guided history of Israel (Part 2). That is why this third main part of the Tanakh contains pre-exilic parts such as the collected psalm prayers as well as books written later and partly in Aramaic (Ezra and the apocalyptic book of Daniel). The chronicle, which is divided into two parts, deals with the same period as the books of kings but continues beyond the end of the first Jerusalem temple , and was placed at the end of the third main part. The Cyrus edict for the release of exiled Jews with permission to rebuild the Jerusalem temple around 539 B.C. B.C. as the programmatic conclusion of the Tanakh: The salvation history of YHWH aims at a renewed life of his chosen people in the promised land and the restoration of their sanctuary, on Israel's peace ( Shalom ) with its neighbors and God. However, there is no standardized order in the manuscripts and the printed editions. The chronicle in the Codex of Aleppo and Codex L is not at the end, but at the beginning of the Ketuvim, before the Psalms. The ketuvim were generally recognized as canonical in Judaism by 100 AD at the latest, with most of these books as early as 190 BC. Were considered holy scriptures.


The Tanakh tells the story of creation and the people of Israel under YHWH's gracious guidance over a period of approximately 1300 years. It contains different traditions of the individual tribes of semi-nomads who united around the belief in the God YHWH in the area of ​​today's Palestine to a people. This includes local aetiologies , cult sagas, memories of victories and defeats of all kinds and collections of commandments. They were editorially combined by various authors to form a complete history of Israel.

Some of these commandments reflect long-gone, pre-ancient living conditions that were regulated down to the last detail. Such commandments are difficult to understand today and must be understood against the background of the living conditions at that time and reinterpreted for the present day.

However, essential core components of the Torah have become part of the cultural heritage of modern times : These include above all the Decalogue and the human dignity of each individual. It is justified in the Tanakh with the liberation of Israel from the slavery common in antiquity , which is understood as the election of a people as a blessing for all peoples, and man's likeness to God .

Some layers of the Tanakh reflect other than the Yahwist tradition. When the semi-nomad tribes immigrated to the cultivated land of Canaan , each tribe brought its clan god with them. These were first merged with one another and then with the experience of God of the Hebrews from the area of Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula (Exodus 3), but in some cases they were also syncretically worshiped together with deities of the Canaanites . While the creator deity of the Canaanite pantheon El could easily be identified with YHWH (Gen 14.17 f.), Fertility and astral gods such as Baal , Astarte , Marduk etc. a. rejected as alien to one's own religious identity. The unifying role of the monotheism of the first commandment only gradually gained acceptance in Israel.

Use in worship

The Tanach is regularly used for reading scriptures in the Jewish worship service on Shabbat in the synagogue . The Torah is read continuously in weekly sections ( Parascha ) so that the entire Torah is recited over the course of a year. A selected, shorter prophetic text ( Haftara ) belongs to each Torah week segment , which is then recited. From the third part, the Scriptures, the psalms are used liturgically as well as the five festive scrolls for the five feasts of Passover (Song of Songs), Shavuot (Book of Ruth), 9th Av (Lamentations), Sukkot (Kohelet), Purim (Book of Esther) .

Reception in Christianity

In Christianity, all books of the Tanakh, together with some others of the Septuagint, were compared as the Old Testament (OT) with the New Testament (NT) from around 190 and finally canonized around 400. The Tanach thus remained a fully valid part of the Bible canon and thus the normative Word of God . The Church Fathers thus rejected the separation of the Creator God of the Bible from Jesus Christ , the Redeemer, as a heresy , which Marcion had represented around 150.

The entire text of the Tanakh books was taken over, but arranged differently and divided into three main parts: The first part comprises the "history books" (Genesis to the Book of Esther), the second part "poetry" or "wisdom" ( Job, Psalms, Proverbs Solomon, Preacher, Song of Songs) and the third part includes the "prophets". The assignment and sequence of the scriptures adopted differ depending on the Christian denomination. Many evangelical OT only contain the writings of the Tanach. Some other scriptures were added as Apocrypha , with the Bible editions based on the Luther Bible going the furthest. The Roman Catholic Church also counts the books of Tobit and Judit among the history books , which are not part of the Tanach.

The scriptural prophets were distinguished from the history books and moved to the end. This already shows that Christians saw Jewish history more as a closed past and related the promises to Jesus Christ, while for Jews the entire ongoing history of Israel retained a prophetic dimension: for them, memory of history was at the same time a current promise.

The Torah opens the Bible in both religions. In the OT it does not form a separate part, but rather stands in a row with the books Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Ruth, Chronicle, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. In this way, the will of God revealed in the Torah becomes, in a certain way, a reminder of past history. The other scriptures (Ketuvim) are also assigned differently. In the order of the so-called “rear” prophets (Nevi'im), both versions agree.

In Christianity, the five books of Moses are read mainly as historical testimony to the people of Israel and less as current teaching or instruction, apart from the Ten Commandments , early promises to the patriarchs and messianic prophecies of the prophets of Israel. The Fathers of the Church pushed through the inclusion of the OT in the Christian Bible canon, but interpreted many prophetic promises, psalm prayers and creation narratives allegorically or typologically as references to the coming of Jesus Christ.

The name “Old Testament” goes back to the talk of the “old” and “new” covenants in Hebrews . In the past it was often seen as the replacement of God's covenant with Israel by the new people of God, the church, so that “old” was interpreted as “out of date” or “outdated”. This was associated with the “theological expropriation” of Judaism in substitution theology . In order to avoid this traditional devaluation, some Christians, theologians and churches call the Tanach or OT today the First Testament or the Hebrew Bible . In doing so, they distance themselves from Christian anti-Judaism and emphasize the common basis of both religions. For the NT proclaims the “new covenant” as the final affirmation of God's first covenant with his people Israel (Rom 11: 2), which, as promised in the Tanach, includes all other peoples (e.g. Acts 2:16; Jn 4). After the experience of the Holocaust , professing Jews and Christians hold on to the living relationship of the one God to his first and forever chosen people .

Available editions of the Hebrew Bible


Jewish translations of the Tanach into German

Full translations:

Partial translations:

  • Annette M. Böckler (Ed.): The Torah. The five books of Moses translated by Moses Mendelssohn . With the prophet readings in the appendix. (1783) Jewish publishing house, Berlin 2004, ISBN 978-3-934658-10-3 .
  • Samson Raphael Hirsch : The five books of the Torah. Pentateuch translated with Haftarot and explained, repositioned. The classic commentary of German Orthodox Judaism, German, Hebrew. (1867–1873) Five volumes, Morascha, Basel / Zurich 2008–2011, ISBN 978-3-033-02899-9 . Online .
  • Samson Raphael Hirsch: Sefer Tehilim - The Psalms. A classic psalm commentary, translated and explained. (1883) Morascha, Basel / Zurich 1995.
  • Ludwig Philippson : The Torah. The Five Books of Moses and the Readings of the Prophets (Hebrew-German) . Ed .: Walter Homolka , Hanna Liss , Rüdiger Liwak . Herder, Freiburg Basel Vienna 2015, ISBN 978-3-451-33334-7 (with the collaboration of Susanne Gräbner and Daniel Vorpahl).


  • Hanna Liss , Annette M. Böckler, Bruno Landthaler: Tanach. Jewish Bible textbook. (2005) 3rd edition, Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-8253-5904-1 .

Christian reception

See also

Web links

Commons : Tanach  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Tanach  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Also called "ach-Laut" because it occurs in the pronunciation of the German word "ach".
  2. Contra Apionem I, 8
  3. Erich Zenger: Introduction to the Old Testament. 6th edition, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2006, p. 23
  4. Erich Zenger: Introduction to the Old Testament , Kohlhammer, 6th edition 1995, pp. 21-26
  5. ^ Adolf M. Ritter: On the formation of canons in the old church , in: Charisma and Caritas. Essays on the Old Church , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1997, ISBN 3-525-58160-2 , p. 273 ff.