Glossary of Terms and Sources

Glossary of Terms & Sources

Aggadah

From a Hebrew word, that means narrative. Aggadah “is … that portion of rabbinic teaching which is not halachic … The Aggadah is, for the most part, an amplification of those portions of the Bible which include narrative, history, ethical maxims, and reproofs and consolations of the prophets.”38

Amorim

Plural form of Aramaic amar, “to interpret”—Jewish scholars, predominantly at Caesarea and Tiberias in Palestine (c. c.e. 220–375) and in Babylonia (c. c.e. 200–500), who interpreted the Mishnah and other Tannaitic collections. Serving as judges, communal administrators, teachers, and collectors of charity, they were responsive to contemporary problems. After the destruction of the Temple, they helped establish the idea that all Jews should devote themselves to study of the Torah. Their discussions constitute the section of the Talmud known as the Gemara. In addition, they were responsible for much of the non-legal or aggadic material that appears in the Talmud and the Midrashim.

Apocrypha

From a Greek word, that means hidden. It consists of fourteen books which “form part of the sacred literature of the Alexandrian Jews, and with the exception of the Second Book of Esdras are found interspersed with the Hebrew Scriptures in the ancient copies of the Septuagint ... They are the product of the era subsequent to the Captivity; having their origin partly in Babylonia, partly in Palestine and Egypt ... Most of them belong to the last three centuries b.c. ... Some of them form an historical link between the Old and New Testament”39 The Apocrypha is included in the Roman Catholic Bible, but not accepted as genuine by Jews and Protestants.

Dead Sea Scrolls

Caches of ancient, mostly Hebrew, manuscripts found at several sites on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea (1947–1960). The writings date from between the 3rd century b.c.e. and the 2nd-century c.e. and total 800 manuscripts in 200,000 fragments. Many scholars believe that those deposited in 11 caves near the ruins of Qumran belonged to a sectarian community whom most scholar's believe were Essene's.

The Blessings of the Wise (4Q525)*—Also known as “Beatitudes” is a “wisdom text” that contains a string Beatitudes that are very similar to the Beatitudes of Yeshua.

The Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521)—The apocalypse foretells the appearance of an anointed one (or Messiah), to whom heaven and earth will listen (see pp. 73-74 for more information).

The War Scroll (1QM + 1Q33)—A manual for military organization and strategy, it is also known by the names “War Rule,” “Rule of War,” and “War Scroll.” It is made up of various scrolls and fragments including 1QM, 4Q491-496 and contains an apocalyptic prophecy of a war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness.

*4Q = Qumran, cave 4; 525 = the 525th manuscript found in cave 4.  When identified, Frag. = the number of the fragment for the manuscript being translated; Col. =  indicates the column number of the fragment and superscript numbers indicate the line number—not the verse number of the fragment.

Gemara

From a Hebrew word, that means completion. The rabbinic commentary on the Mishnah  (Oral Law). The Mishnah and Gemara  together constitute the Talmud. Halacha

From a Hebrew word, that means to go. The “legal side of Judaism (as distinct from Aggadah, the name given to the non-legal material, particularly of the rabbinic literature) embraces personal, social, national, and international relationships and all the other practices and observances of Judaism.”40

Kabbalah

From the Hebrew, “to receive,” the body of Jewish “mystical” literature. It includes the Book of Creation and the Zohar. The Zohar is a mystical interpretation of the Pentateuch ascribed to Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai (c. 2nd-century c.e.).

Machzor

From the Hebrew, “cycle,” a special Siddur (Prayerbook) for each of the festivals and holy days. It contains all of the essential prayers, Torah readings, and piyyutim  (liturgical poems in the alphabetical or acrostic style) that are supposed to be recited on that particular day.

Masoretes (Masoretic Text)

“The Masoretes were those scholars who were responsible for (determining the total orthography* of the Hebrew Bible). Their activities date from the 4th-century C.E. but, are based on an oral tradition which goes back centuries earlier. Most of the Masoretes are anonymous; among the few known to us, perhaps the most prominent were the ben Asher family. (They produced) the Biblical Hebrew text (that is) accepted by both Jews and Christians. The only complete extant manuscript available is the Leningrad Codex (1008 c.e.), which was written by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher. This codex arose from earlier traditions of the Masoretic Text.”41

*orthography—The study (or science) of spelling (or correct writing). It concerns itself with and determines the correct use of writing materials, including the materials themselves, the correct sizes and shapes of letters, the length of lines, spaces between words and proper punctuation.

Midrash

From the Hebrew, “investigation, interpretation or exposition,” most Midrashim (the plural form) are continuous exegetical* commentaries on books of the Bible. An example of Midrashic exposition is mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah (8:8), “So they (the priests) read the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused (the people) to understand the reading.”

*exegetical—From exegesis, the exposition, critical analysis, or interpretation of a word or passage.

Aggadat Bereshit—A homiletic Midrash on Genesis written in Hebrew, about the 10th-century c.e.

Derekh Eretz Zuta—A non-canonical tractate of the Babylonian Talmud. The word “zuta” (small) would seem to indicate that it is a shorter version of the treatise “Derek Eretz Rabbah,” which is not the case, the two having little in common. It is a collection of ethical teachings.42

Midrash Rabbah—The Midrash Rabbah (the Great Midrash ) is a collection of Midrashim on the Torah and other books of the Bible. Genesis Rabbah, Leviticus Rabbah, Lamentations Rabbah and Esther Rabbah were probably edited in Israel c. 400-500 c.e. “Ruth Rabbah, like Song of Songs Rabbah and Ecclesiastes Rabbah, occupies an intermediate position between the older Midrashim ... and the later Midrashim such as Exodus Rabbah and Deuteronomy Rabbah.”43 Exodus Rabbah “was a product of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.”44 Numbers Rabbah I “cannot be much older than the twelfth century of the common era,”45 whereas Numbers Rabbah II dates to an earlier period (c. 775-900 c.e.).46

The separate volumes of the Midrash are divided into chapters and sections. The chapter divisions, however, do not  necessarily correspond to the chapter divisions of the Bible, nor even to the weekly Torah portion that they comment upon. Numbers Rabba 1:7, does not correspond to the Book of Numbers, chapter 1, v. 7, but to chapter 1, section 7 of Numbers Rabbah. Actually, the first nine sections of chapter 1 deal with alternative expositions of Numbers 1:1.

The volumes of the Midrash may also be referred to (and frequently are) by their Hebrew names as well, e.g., Genesis Rabbah—Bereshit Rabbah and Lamentations Rabbah—Ekah Rabbah.

Midrash Konen (BhM)—Midrash Konen deals with the Creation, the heavens, paradise, and hell. It was influenced by apocalyptic* sources of the Second Temple period, and by the mystical literature of the beginning of the Middle Ages. It was composed c. 11th-century c.e. Another version was published from a manuscript by, A. Jellinek (Beit ha-Midrash, 1938).”47

*apocalyptic—A genre (or type) of literature, both Jewish and Christian, that deals with “last days” events. Represented in the Bible by such books as Daniel and Revelation, but there are many other “apocalypses” from the intertestamental and early Christian periods.

Midrash Samuel—Haggadic Midrash on the books of Samuel quoted for the first-time by Rashi in his commentary on 1Sam. ii. 30.48

Mikhilta—“Measure” or “Form,” a Hebrew commentary on the Book of Exodus. One of the exegetic commentaries known as the Halakhic Midrashim, the Mekhilta presents a composite of three kinds of materials concerning the Book of Exodus: exegeses of certain passages, propositional and argumentative essays on theological principles, and topical articles on the written and oral Torah.

Pesikta de-Rav Kahana—A compilation of Rav Kahana’s discourses or lessons for Sabbaths and holidays compiled in Israel about 500 c.e.

Pesikta Rabbati—A medieval Midrash on the festivals of the year. The word pesikta means “section.” It consists of a series of separate sections (or chapters) on the pen­tateuchal and prophetic lessons of the festivals. Most other Midrashim are continuous exegetical commentaries on the Bible. It is called Rabbati (“the greater”) in contrast to the earlier Pesikta de-Rav Kahana. It was written c. 9th century c.e. It is divided into Piskas (i.e., sections) and sub-sections, e.g., Pesikta Rabbati 33:6, refers to Piska (section or chapter) 33, section (or sub-section) 6. 

Pirque Mashiah—“Chapters of the Messiah,” a Midrash fragment of Persian provenance, dating from the 7th to 10th century.

Sifre Deuteronomy—completed about 350-400 c.e. It is traditionally associated with the school of Rabbi Akiva. 

Tanhuma—A commentary on the Pentateuch (“The Exegesis of Rabbi Tanhuma”) was compiled about 800 c.e. although some authorities say as early as 400 c.e. 

Yalkut Shimoni—a 13th-century aggadic compilation on the books of the Hebrew Bible.

Mishnah

From a Hebrew word, that means to repeat or to teach by means of repetition. According to tradition, it is the oral explanation of the written Law that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. This explanation (was also thought to be inspired and) was passed on orally from Moses to Joshua, to the priests and judges, to the scribes and ultimately to the rabbis. Others believe that it developed at a later date and represents “a deposit of four centuries of Jewish religious and cultural activity in Palestine, beginning ... (during the earlier half of the second century b.c.) and ending with the close of the 2nd-century a.d. The object of this activity was the preservation, cultivation, and application to life of ‘the Law’ (Torah), in the form in which many generations of like-minded Jewish religious leaders had learned to understand this Law.”49 It was eventually compiled in written form by R. Judah Ha–Nasi (the Patriarch) c. 200 c.e. and “serves as the core of the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds.”50

“The Mishnah presents the substance of the Oral Law divided into six main sections (Sedarim, lit. ‘orders’), which are further divided into sixty-three subsections ... or tractates. This arrangement is probably as early as the Mishnah of Rabbi Akiva. Each main division contains a group of tractates dealing with closely related topics.”51 The six main Divisions are:

Zeraim (Seeds)—laws dealing with agriculture and the various tithes required.

Moed (Set Feasts)—laws relating to the various feasts and holidays.

Nashim (Women)—laws dealing with vows, marriage, and divorce.

Nezikin (Damages)—laws dealing with civil and criminal law.

Kodashim (Hallowed Things)—laws dealing with sacrifices and sacred things.

Tohorot (Cleanliness)—laws dealing with ritual purity.

The reference Rosh HaShanah 1:1 (sometimes rendered I,1) refers to a tractate in the second main division of the Mishnah (Moed) on Rosh HaShanah (Feast of the New Year), section 1, paragraph 1.

Parchment

“Material on which writing is inscribed, consisting of the processed skins of certain animals, chiefly sheep, goats, and calves. The name apparently derives from Pergamum (modern Bergama, Tur.), where parchment is said to have been invented in the 2nd-century b.c. Skins had been used for writing material even earlier, but a new, more thorough method of cleaning, stretching, and scraping made possible the use of both sides of a manuscript leaf, leading to the supplanting of the rolled manuscript by the bound book (codex).”52

Philo (c. 10–15 b.c.e.—d. 45–50 c.e.)

Greek-speaking Jewish philosopher. A leader of the Jewish community of Alexandria, he led a delegation to the emperor Caligula c. 40 c.e. to ask that Jews not be forced to worship him. His writings provide the clearest view of this development of Judaism in the Diaspora. His philosophy was influenced by Plato, Aristotle, the Neo-Pythagoreans, the Cynics, and Stoicism. He is regarded as the most important representative of Hellenistic Judaism and a forerunner of Christian theology.53

Pseudepigrapha

“… the term ‘pseudepigrapha’ … denotes writings ‘with false superscription.’ The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha ... denotes writings falsely attributed to ideal figures featured in the Old Testament.”54 Unlike the Apocrypha “these (writings) never approached canonical status. They nevertheless played an important role during the inter-testamental period and are valuable for the light they shed on the Jewish background of the NT.”55

1Enoch—Also known as the Ethiopic Apocalypse of Enoch, it is the oldest of the three pseudepigraphical books attributed to him … originally written in either Hebrew or Aramaic … but survives in complete form only in Ethiopic ... The materials in 1Enoch range in date from 200 b.c.e. to 50 c.e.56

2Enoch—Also known as the Slavonic Apocalypse of Enoch, this work is an amplification of Genesis 5:21-32, i.e., it covers events from the life of Enoch to the onset of the flood. No manuscripts older than the 14th-century c.e. are known.57

4Ezra (Esdras)—A late 1st-century c.e. Jewish writing, it contains seven visions that God gave to Ezra the scribe/prophet.

Psalms of Solomon—a pseudepigraphical work made up of eighteen psalms that were originally written in Hebrew, although only Greek and Syriac translations survive. Like the canonical Psalms, the Psalms of Solomon contains hymns, poems of admonition and instruction, and songs of thanksgiving and lamentation.

Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs—purport to be the final utterances of the twelve sons of Jacob, on the model of Jacob’s last words in Genesis 49. They “were written between 109 and 106 b.c.e. by a Pharisee who greatly admired John Hyrcanus at the zenith of the Maccabean (or Hasmonean) dynasty. The conviction was that Hyrcanus and his Levite family constituted the messianic line. Later revisions condemn the apostate Hasmonean line and expect Messiah to come from the tribe of Judah.”58

Septuagint

The Septuagint is the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The word comes from the Latin, septuaginta, which means seventy. According to tradition, it was translated by 72 elders of Israel, six from each tribe, in Alexandria, Egypt, during the first half of the third century b.c.e. It was considered authoritative by the rabbinic community until the beginning of the second century c.e. when Rabbi Akiva had a new translation made under his careful supervision. The new translation justified the evolving perspective of Messianic prophecy by a rabbinic community that did not hold to the traditional view maintained by Jewish believers in Yeshua.

Talmud

From a Hebrew word, that means to study or learning. The Talmud “is not a single book, but rather dozens of separate treatises, encompassing many volumes and existing in two major versions: the Palestinian (abbreviated “Y” or “J”) and the Babylonian (abbreviated “B”). The latter is the longer of the two, and is accepted by Jews today as the more authoritative.”59 “It is an encyclopedia of law, civil and penal, human and divine ... It is divided into two parts, Mishnah and Gemara.60 

Avot—Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”), transmits the favorite moral advice and insights of the leading rabbinic scholars of different generations.

Avot de-R. Nathan—“The Fathers according to Rabbi Nathan,” a “minor” tractate of the Talmud. Rabbi Nathan was a Palestinian tanna of the third generation (2nd-century c.e.), the son of a Babylonian exilarch.

Berachot—Primarily addresses the rules regarding the Shema, the Amidah, Birkat Hamazon (“Grace after Meals”), Kiddush (“Sanctification”), Havdalah (“Separation”) and other blessings and prayers.

Baba Bathra—“The Last Gate,” the third part of a Tractate which originally contained along with it the two previous ‘Gates’, Baba Kamma and Baba Metzi’a. It deals with property claims.

Haggigah—“Festival Offering,” it deals with the proper observance of the “Three Pilgrimage Festivals.”

Kallah—a “minor” tractate of the Talmud. It concerns issues related to marriage, chastity, and moral purity.

Makkot—“Lashes,” deals primarily with laws of Jewish courts and the punishments which they may administer.

Megillah—“Scroll,” it deals with the laws of Purim and offers exegetical understandings to the Book  of Esther. It also includes laws concerning the public reading of the Torah and other communal synagogue practices.

Nedarim—“Vows,” deals with various types of vows and their legal consequences.

Sotah—“One who goes astray,” deals with the ritual of the Sotah (the woman suspected of adultery [Num 6]) as well as other rituals involving a spoken formula (such as breaking the heifer’s neck … the Blessings and Curses of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, etc …61

Ta’anit—“Fast-days,” is devoted chiefly to the fast-days, their practices and prayers.

Tannaim

Plural form of Aramaic tanna, “one who studies or teaches”—Jewish sages of the period from Hillel to the compilation of the Mishna. The Tannaim were succeeded by the Amoraim.

Targum

Any of several translations of the Hebrew scriptures into Aramaic. The earliest date from after the Babylonian Exile and were designed to meet the needs of uneducated Jews who did not know Hebrew. After the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem (70 c.e.), Targums became established in synagogues, where scripture was read aloud with a translation in Aramaic. These readings eventually incorporated paraphrase and commentary. Targums were regarded as authoritative throughout the Talmudic period (see Talmud) and began to be committed to writing in the 5th century.

Tanach

An acronym for the Hebrew Bible. It is divided into three parts. Each of the letters of the acronym, Tav (t), nun (n), and final kaf ($), refer to the first letter of one of the Hebrew Bible’s three main divisions—the Torah (hr"AT—the Law, i.e., of Moses), the Nevi’im (~yaiybiN>—the Prophets) and the K’tuvim (~ybWtK.—the Writings). The Torah is attributed to Moses as early as the Book of Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Ben Sira) c. 190 b.c.e. (Sir 24:23-24) and by Yeshua in the New Testament (Luke 24:44).

Tosefta (Tosafot)

Critical and explanatory glosses on the Talmud, printed, in almost all editions, on the outer margin and opposite Rashi’s notes. The authors of the Tosafot are known as Tosafists … the period of the Tosafot began immediately after Rashi had written his commentary; the first tosafists were Rashi’s sons-in-law and grandsons, and the Tosafot consist mainly of strictures on Rashi's commentary … The Tosafot resemble the Gemara … for just as the latter is the work of different schools carried on through a long period, so the former were written at different times and by different schools, and gathered later into one body.62

YHVH

“The principal name of God in the Hebrew Bible ... spelled yod (y), hay (h), vav (w), hay (h). This is often referred to as the Tetragrammaton, which in Greek means ‘four-lettered word.’ In Jewish tradition (this) name of God ... is sacred and is not to be abused or used indiscriminately ... Its sanctity ... is reaffirmed in the third of the Ten Commandments, which cautions that we should ‘not utter God's name in vain’ (Exo 20:7). To safeguard against the violation of this principle, the Tetragrammaton is never pronounced ... as it is written. Rather, it is pronounced Adonai, which has the ... meaning of ‘lord’ or ‘master.’”63 To be sure that the letters yod, hay, vav, hay are pronounced Adonai, the letters are accompanied in vocalized texts of the Hebrew Bible with the vowels of the word Adonai (yn"doa]). Transliterated, these letters would be spelled YeHoVaH. In the 19th-century this combination of consonants and vowels was rendered Jehovah. However, Jehovah is not a “real” word. It contains the consonants of one word—the Tetragrammaton and the vowels of another—Adonai.

There has NEVER been a text of the Hebrew Bible (at any time in Jewish history) in which the consonants that make up God’s “Name” were written out with the vowels that make it possible to properly pronounce.