Judaism’s Religious Texts

Judaism is the oldest of the Abrahamic religions, and its primary sacred text is the Tanach, or the Jewish Bible, which is composed of the Pentateuch (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Writings (Ketuvim). Tanach is an acronym for these three books.


The importance of Judaism’s sacred texts extends far beyond their religious significance. These ancient documents embody not only Judaism’s religious precepts, but also the historical, cultural and social heritage of the Jewish people. In Israel, where attitudes towards tradition range from the ultra-orthodox to the secular, sacred texts carry a variety of meanings – from a spiritual, moral and practical guide to everyday life, to a historical and cultural wealth which is critically examined and studied.

Photographic reproduction of the Great Isaiah Scroll, the best preserved of the biblical scrolls found at Qumran. It contains the entire Book of Isaiah in Hebrew, apart from some small damaged parts. This manuscript was probably written by a scribe of the Jewish sect of the Essenes around the second century BC. It is therefore over a thousand years older than the oldest Masoretic manuscripts.

Judaism’s Sacred texts

Written Torah

Oral Torah

Rabbinic literature

Rabbinic literature

The Midrash


Later works by category

Major codes of Jewish law


Jewish thought, mysticism and ethics


Judaism’s Religious Books

The Profets Tanakh Scrolls

Outline of Judaism’s Religious Books

Outline of Judaism’s Religious Books Judaism’s religious books documents embody not only Judaism‘s religious precepts, but also the historical, cultural and social heritage of the Jewish people. In Israel, where attitudes towards tradition range from the ultra-orthodox to the secular, sacred texts carry a variety of meanings – from a spiritual,...

Saul, the shade of Samuel and the witch of Endor;

Witchcraft and Divination in The Hebrew Bible

Witchcraft and Divination in The Hebrew Bible Various forms of witchcraft and divination in the Hebrew Bible are mentioned in a generally disapproving tone. The Masoretic Text of the Torah forbids: nahash;[1][2] as a noun, nahash translates as snake, and as a verb it literally translates as hissing. The verb form can be extended to mean whispering. onan;[1][2] onan literally translates as clouds, possibly referring to nephomancy....

Torah scrolls are escorted into a new synagogue in Kfar Maimon, Israel, 2006

Sefer Torah

Sefer Torah Sefer Torah (ספר תורה; “Book of Torah”; plural: ספרי תורה Sifrei Torah), is a handwritten copy of the Torah, meaning: of the Pentateuch, or the five books of Moses (the first books of the Hebrew Bible). It must meet extremely strict standards of production. The Torah scroll is...

Composition of the Torah

Composition of the Torah The composition of the Torah (or Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) was a process that involved multiple authors over an extended period of time. While Jewish tradition holds that all five books were originally written by Moses sometime...

Torah in Islam

Torah in Islam Within an Islamic context, Tawrat (also Tawrah or Taurat; توراة‎) refers to the Torah, which Muslims believe to be a holy book of Islam given by God to Musa (Moses). When referring to traditions from Tawrat, Muslims did not only identify it with the Pentateuch, but also with the other books of the Old...

Rabbi Micah shows Torah scroll on Simchat Torah

Torah Reading

Torah Reading Torah reading (קריאת התורה, K’riat haTorah, “Reading [of] the Torah“; Kriyas haToire) is a Jewish religious tradition that involves the public reading of a set of passages from a Torah scroll. The term often refers to the entire ceremony of removing the scroll (or scrolls) from the Torah ark,...

Jewish English Bible Translations

Jewish English Bible Translations Jewish English Bible translations are English translations of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) according to the Masoretic Text,  in the traditional division and order of Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim. Most Jewish translations appear in bilingual editions (Hebrew–English). Jewish translations often reflect traditional Jewish exegesis of the Bible; all such translations eschew the Christological interpretations...

Jewish Commentaries on The Bible

Jewish Commentaries on The Bible Jewish commentaries on the Bible are biblical commentaries of the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) from a Jewish perspective. Translations into Aramaic and English, and some universally accepted Jewish commentaries with notes on their method of approach and modern translations into English with notes are listed. Earliest printing The complete Tanakh...


Targum The targumim (singular targum, תרגום; interpretation, translation, version) were originally spoken translations of the Jewish scriptures (also called the Tanakh) that a meturgeman (professional interpreter) would give in the common language of the listeners when that was not Hebrew. This had become necessary near the end of the 1st century BCE, as the common...

The 16 Scrolls of the complete Tanakh, Old Testament Scrolls on display in Glen Rose, Texas

Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible, also called the Tanakh (Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach) or Mikra, is the canonical collection of Hebrew scripture, which is also the textual source for the Christian Old Testament. These texts are composed mainly in Biblical Hebrew, with some passages in Biblical Aramaic (in the books of Daniel, Ezra...

Oral Torah

Oral Torah According to Rabbinic Judaism, the Oral Torah or Oral Law (תורה שבעל פה, Torah she-be-`al peh, lit. “Torah that is on the mouth”) represents those laws, statutes, and legal interpretations that were not recorded in the Five Books of Moses, the “Written Torah” (תורה שבכתב, Torah she-bi-khtav, lit. “Torah that is in writing”), but...

The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus

The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus A Prologue made by an uncertain Author This Jesus was the son of Sirach, and grandchild to Jesus of the same name with him: this man therefore lived in the latter times, after the people had been led away captive,...


Psalms The Book of Psalms (תְּהִלִּים‬, Tehillim, “praises”), commonly referred to simply as Psalms or “the Psalms”, is the first book of the Ketuvim (“Writings”), the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and thus a book of the Christian Old Testament.[1] The title is derived from the Greek translation, ψαλμοί, psalmoi, meaning “instrumental music” and, by extension, “the words accompanying...

Torah Bible Studying Learning Reading Books Book

Development of The Hebrew Bible Canon

Development of The Hebrew Bible Canon Rabbinic Judaism recognizes the 24 books of the Masoretic Text, commonly called the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, as authoritative.[1] Modern scholarship suggests that the most recently written are the books of Jonah, Lamentations, and Daniel, all of which may have been composed as late as the second century BCE....

Primary Texts Of Kabbalah

Primary Texts Of Kabbalah The primary texts of Kabbalah were allegedly once part of an ongoing oral tradition. The written texts are obscure and difficult for readers who are unfamiliar with Jewish spirituality which assumes extensive knowledge of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Midrash (Jewish hermeneutic tradition) and Halakha (practical Jewish law). The Torah For kabbalists, ten utterances in Genesis with which...

Yiskor for Herzl, by Boris Schatz.

Bereavement In Judaism

Bereavement In Judaism Bereavement in Judaism (אֲבֵלוּת, avelut, mourning) is a combination of minhag and mitzvah derived from Judaism’s classical Torah and rabbinic texts. The details of observance and practice vary according to each Jewish community. Mourners In Judaism, the principal mourners are the first-degree relatives: parent, child, sibling, and spouse. There are some...

Jewish Apocrypha

What is Jewish Apocrypha? Jewish apocrypha includes texts written in the Jewish religious tradition either in the Intertestamental period or in the early Christian era, but outside the Christian tradition. It does not include books in the canonical Hebrew Bible, nor those accepted into the canon of some or all...



What is Zohar? The Zohar (זֹהַר, “Splendor” or “Radiance”) is the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah. It is a group of books including commentary on the mystical aspects of The Torah (the five books of Moses) and scriptural interpretations as well as material on...


Biblical Apocrypha

What is Biblical Apocrypha? The biblical apocrypha (‘hidden’) denotes the collection of apocryphal ancient books found in some editions of Christian Bibles in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments[1] or as an appendix after the New Testament.[2] Some Christian Churches include some or all of the same texts within the body of their version of the Old...

Weekly Torah Portion

Weekly Torah Portion It is a custom among religious Jewish communities for a weekly Torah portion, popularly referred to as a parashah, to be read during Jewish prayer services. The parashah (Hebrew: פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ Parashat ha-Shavua), popularly just parashah (or parshah /pɑːrʃə/ or parsha) and also known as a Sidra (or Sedra /sɛdrə/) is a section of the Torah (Five Books...

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