Titles of Books of the Bible
Jonathan D. safren
yonsaf at beitberl.ac.il
Wed Jan 31 01:50:04 EST 2001
In Jewish tradition the Five Books of Moses (Pentateuch, Torah) are named
after a word in the first verse of the Book.
Thus, the Jewish title of Numbers, Bamidbar (In the wilderness), is actually
the 5th word in the first verse, though the title of Genesis, Bereshit, is
the first word of the first verse.
As for the other books of the Tanakh, they are either named for their
presumed author, like Isaiah; or for an important figure/figures appearing
in them,like Kings; or for the subject matter, like Psalms - Tehillim
There is an ancient tradition, cited in the Talmud, in which the Five Books
of Moses are named for their subject matter, just as in English.
Thus, Genesis is Sefer Beri'at Olam - the Book of the Creation of the World;
Exodus is Sefer Yetsi'at Mitsrayim, the Book of the Exodus from Egypt;
Leviticus is Torat Kohanim - the Law/Instruction of the Priests, etc. The
Greek>English names may have been based on this tradition.
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
----- Original Message -----
From: "Cindy Smith" <cms at dragon.com>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Cc: <cms at dragon.com>
Sent: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 5:26 AM
Subject: Re: Titles of Books of the Bible
> I would like to ask a question about the convention among Jews for
> naming titles of books of the Bible. A friend who was Jewish once
> told me, if I remember right, that Jews call the books of the Bible by
> the same name as the first word in that particular book. For example,
> Exodus is called "The Book of Names" because the first significant
> Hebrew word in Exodus is "These are the names etc." Similarly is the
> "Book of Words" and the Book of Days."
> Can anyone tell me what Jews call the books of the Hebrew Bible from
> Genesis to Malachi? (yes, I know Jews order the books differently,
> too). I have a copy of the JPS Tanakh but it apparently calls the
> books by conventional Christian names.
> Cindy Smith Spawn of a Jewish Carpenter
> GO AGAINST THE FLOW! \\ _\\\_ _///_ // A Real Live Catholic in Georgia
> cms at dragon.com >IXOYE=('> <`)= _<< "Delay not your conversion
> cms at romancatholic.org// /// \\\ \\ to the LORD, Put it not off
> cms at 5sc.net from day to day" Ecclus/Sira 5:8
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