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Is Judaism the religion of the Old Testament?

A common explanation of the term Old Testament is that it is the first part of the
Christian Bible. However, things are often more complicated than they first appear.
Christianity began as one of several subsets of Judaism in the first century CE. It
quickly moved away from its parent in beliefs and practices, in part because many
non-Jews also became Christians. But as in parent-child relationships, the separation
was never complete. Early Christian writers accepted the Jewish scriptures as
authoritativethere was not yet a New Testament, for they were still writing it.
The Hebrew Bible consists of three major parts: the Law, the Prophets, and the
Writings. Under their Hebrew names, Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim, these parts,
abbreviated by the first letter of the names of each, eventually came to be called
Tanakh a term Jews frequently use for the Bible. The first part is the Torah, a word
that means not only law but also teaching or instruction. It consists of the
first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy. The Book of Genesis
opens with accounts of Creation and the Flood, and continues with stories of the
ancestors of the ancient Israelites the lives of four generations of Israels
ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacobs twelve sons, the forefathers of the
twelve tribes of Israel. The four following books, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and
Deuteronomy, span a narrower period. They relate how under Mosess leadership
the Israelites escaped from Egypt and journeyed to the eastern border of the
Promised Land, where Moses died. Then there is a continuous history of the
Israelites in the Promised Land, including the establishment of a united monarchy
under the first kings Saul, David and Solomon all way to the separation of the two
kingdoms and the conquest by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Embedded in the
narrative of these first five books of the Bible there are also hundreds of divinely
given lawshence the understanding of Torah as law.
The second part of the Jewish scriptures is the Prophets, divided into the Former and
Latter Prophets. These books continue the narrative where the Torah ended, relating
the Israelites history in the Promised Land of Canaan. The Prophets are the books
named after individual prophets. There are the three major prophets, so called
because of their length, and the twelve minor or shorter prophets.
The third part of the Jewish scriptures, the Writings, is a collection of works in
several different genres, a kind of anthology within the larger anthology that is the
Bible. There is poetry of various kinds in the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Song of
Solomon, and Lamentations. There are reflections on the human condition in the
book of Job, also mostly in poetry and there is historical fiction, as in the books of
Ruth, Esther, and Daniel. The Writings also include some historical narrative as well.
By the end of the first century CE these three partsthe Torah, the Prophets, and
the Writingshad become the Bible of ancient Judaism, its sacred scriptures, the
divinely inspired writings. For Jews today, they are simply the Bible. Modern scholars
often use the term Hebrew Bible to distinguish those books from the Christian Bible,
which includes the New Testament as well, and also because the designation Old
Testament, which was not used until the late second century CE, can be seen as
pejorative, implying that the Jewish scriptures that comprise the Old Testament

have apparently been superseded by the later writings that form the New
But Judaism is not only the religion of the Old Testament. Through the course of
history many additional scriptures, sacred books, customs and beliefs shaped it.
Some very important works of the Rabbinic canon influenced the development of
Judaism we know today. Some of them include:
1. The Mishnah a collection of mostly legal texts organized thematically into
six general areas of law.
2. Talmud Yerushalmi a collection of texts containing legal discussions,
legends, Biblical interpretations etc.
3. Talmud Bavli or Babylonian Talmud which is of the same genre as the
previous Talmud but much more complete. It is the central text of the
traditional Jewish scholarship.
4. Midrash a collection of the Rabbinic texts and interpretations of the Bible.
5. Mishneh Torah the code of law which covers the entire range of Jewish law
including philosophy, liturgy, festivals, family law, criminal law, ethics etc.
6. The Zohar one of the major Kabbalistic books spiritual and mystical
commentaries on the Torah.
These are only some of the major written works, in addition to the oral tradition,
culture, customs, set of ideas, beliefs and practices that make Judaism the first
monotheistic religion in the world.