>My post “Old Testament or Hebrew Bible?” has generated much discussion in the blogspehere. The following are some of the posts dealing with this question:
Claude Mariottini, “Old Testament or Tanakh: A Response to Chris Heard.”
Christian Brady at Targuman, “Where you stand depends upon where you sit.”
Duane Smith at Abnormal Interests, “Those Mostly Hebrew Writings.”
Metacatholic, “Naming the books we have in common.”
Tyler Williams at Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot, “Once Again… What’s in a Name?”
Airton José da Silva at Observatório Bíblico, “Old Testament/Tanakh/Jewish Scriptures?”
Chris Weimer at Thoughts on Antiquity, “What is the ‘Old Testament’?”
Richie at An Ecclesiastical Mutt, “The Power of Words: Old Testament vs. Hebrew Bible vs. Tanahk”
Patrick George McCullough in kata ta biblia “Old Testament/Hebrew Bible/Tanak/Jewish Scriptures/Etc.”
I was not planning to write again on this topic, but later last week I received a comment from a reader that deserves a detailed answer.
Iris, a Jewish reader from Germany, wrote:
As a Jew I am very active in interreligious dialogue activities in Germany. I know this discussion and that people want to express their respect by avoiding the term “Old Testament”.
But my experience is also, that there are individuals who are very pc in using terms such as “Hebrew Bible”, “First Testament” .. and who have in some respect an anti-Jewish attitude (e.g. in using stereotypes such as the Jewish g-d of revenge and the Christian g-d of love”.
As our (Christian versus Jewish) approaches concerning these texts (tanakh / old testament) are very difficult it seems to me that it might be difficult to find one term which fits for us all.
In Christian-Jewish dialogue groups I use sometimes the term “old testament”. This is when I want to emphasize the Christian view on these texts.
I don`t feel insulted by the term “old testament” as long as Christians behave respectfully.
Read Iris’ comments by clicking here.
I appreciate the discussion in the blogsphere. The discussion is healthy and promotes dialogue and understanding among those who are concerned about the Old Testament/Tanak/Hebrew Bible/First Testament/Jewish Scriptures/Older Testament.
Let me summarize my views and then point to an issue that has been forgotten in this discussion.
The Jewish Bible
The Jewish Bible is divided into three sections: Torah, Nevi’im and Kethuvim. Thus, the acronym “Tanakh” fits perfectly for the name of the Jewish Bible. This is the term used by most Jewish writers and many Christian writers.
“Hebrew Bible” is also a good term to describe the Jewish Bible, even though the term is not precise because there are Aramaic in several sections of the Hebrew Bible.
The term “Jewish Scriptures” is also a good term to use. Although there are a few other books that have religious authority over the Jewish community, it is doubtful that these books are considered Scriptures in the biblical sense.
Thus, the use of Tanakh or Hebrew Bible in a Jewish context or even in an academic context is very appropriate.
The Christian Bible
The Christian Bible is divided into two sections. The first section is almost equal to the Jewish Bible but the second section is unique to the Christian Bible.
It is not proper to call the first section of the Christian Bible, Tanakh. The Tanakh has 24 books while the first section of the Christian Bible has 39 books. In addition, the order of the books in the Tanakh is different from the order in the Christian Bible.
One could call it the Hebrew Bible but such a term is a misnomer because the Hebrew Bible contains several passages in Aramaic. In addition, the Hebrew Bible has more to do with the Bible of Judaism (or the Bible of academia) than the Bible of Christianity.
It is not proper to call the first section of the Christian Bible “Jewish Scriptures,” because these Scriptures are also Christian Scriptures.
Many people use the term “First Testament,” to indicate that there is more than one valid testament. However, it is doubtful that the Jewish community will accept the fact that there is a “Second Testament,” as valid as the first one.
Many people in academic circles refuse to use the term “Old Testament” because it may be offensive to some people and because the expression “Old Testament” may express something from the past that may not fit in the twenty-first century.
Here is the issue that has been left out in this dialogue:
If Christians cease calling the first section of the Christian Bible “Old Testament,” what then should we call the second section?
One alternative is “The Second Testament,” but this term carries as many negative implications as the term “Old Testament” does. In addition, Second Testament professors will spend a lot of time explaining what they teach.
Duane uses the term “Christian New Testament,” but the term is somewhat tautological for there is no Jewish New Testament, or Hindu New Testament. The term “New Testament” is used to describe that second section of the Christian Bible. Moreover, the term “New Testament” presupposes the existence of an “Old Testament.”
Most of the bloggers agree that context determines what we call the Jewish Scriptures and the first section of the Christian Bible. There is a place for Tanakh and Hebrew Bible and there is a place for Old Testament.
If Christian writers stop using the term “Old Testament,” then it becomes imperative that another name be found for the second section of the Christian Bible. I invite you to name those books in the second section of the Christian Bible. If the word “Old” is not good enough for the first section of the Christian Bible, then the word “New” is also not good enough for the second.
If we remove “old” from “Old Testament,” what should we call the books of the New Testament? Someone suggested “Jewish Covenant” and “Christian Covenant.” The word “Jewish Covenant” does not describe the whole content of the Tanakh nor the content of the second section of the Christian Bible.
The name we use for the first section of the Christian Bible will affect the way we call the second sections. It is for this reason I believe that in the life of the church, the names Old Testament and New Testament are here to stay.
Professor of First Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
P. S. The title is not appealing. I have decided to keep my “old” tittle.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary