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I know that basically, the first 6 5 books in Christian's Bible forms the Torah. However are there any subtle difference between torah and those books?

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closed as off topic by msh210 Feb 29 '12 at 16:52

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In Christian terms, these first five books are sometimes called the Pentateuch (Greek, five books). –  TRiG Jun 14 '11 at 15:56
Near-duplicate: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/7278. –  msh210 Jun 14 '11 at 15:59
I'm closing this as out of scope. –  msh210 Feb 29 '12 at 16:52
@msh210 Why is this out of scope but the dupe isn't? –  Seth J Jun 8 '12 at 11:46
@SethJ, the other is too, I guess. –  msh210 Jun 8 '12 at 14:23

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

See this summary on Wikipedia.

The first five books of the Bible -- Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy -- form the "Torah" (like would be in a Torah scroll). The text of these is, as far as I know, identical between Jewish and Christian Bibles (though there will certainly be differences in translation; studying the original Hebrew is extremely common for Jews, but rare for most Christians).

It's the next set of books of the Bible that are a bit different between the Jewish Tanach and Christian "Old Testament." See Wikipedia for more. Some books are ordered differently (such as what comes after Judges?); some are in one canon but not the other (such as Ecclesiasticus); and some are counted as single/multiple books differently (e.g. The Jewish Bible counts Samuel I & II as one book, and Ezra & Nechemiah as one book).

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Some of those translation differences are pretty important. The Christian version passed through Greek and Latin on the way to English, and as you noted, most Christians don't study the Hebrew. –  Monica Cellio Jun 14 '11 at 13:01
@Monica Most Christian translations were done by people who knew Hebrew. In fact, the KJV was based on the same Masoretic text we use. (The particular edition was the Bomberg Bible, from the same publisher who did the first shas with "tzuras Hadaf" –  Yitzchak Jun 14 '11 at 13:40
Ecclesiasticus is a deuterocanonical book ("second cannon"), not accepted as canonical by many branches of Christianity. The Roman Catholics and, I think, the Eastern Orthadox accept it. Most Protestants wouldn't accept it, calling it part of the Apocrypha. There are other important differences: most Christians would count Daniel among the Prophets (and, again, the Catholics accept certain "additions to Daniel" as part of their deuterocanon), whereas Jews number Daniel among the Writings. –  TRiG Jun 14 '11 at 16:00
@MonicaCellio: There are many different "Christian" translations of the Torah in English, and most of them did not pass through Greek or Latin on the way. Some did use the Greek LXX or Latin Vulgate as a reference or sounding board because of their historical perspective on translating the original Hebrew, but basically all modern respected translations are based on Hebrew scholarship. –  Caleb Oct 26 '11 at 13:05
@Caleb and Yitzchak, thanks -- I thought most of them went through the Septuigent. –  Monica Cellio Oct 26 '11 at 13:08

There are sometimes also differences in chapter/verse numeration. For example, Gen. 31:55 in the KJV is 32:1 in (most if not all) printed Hebrew Tanachs, so the numbering of all of the verses in ch. 32 is one off. Similarly, in Ex. 20 (the Ten Commandments) the KJV divides and numbers each of Commandments 6-9 as a separate verse (paralleling the way it's done in the public Torah reading, called Taam Elyon), whereas printed Tanachs follow the verse structure used for private reading (Taam Tachton) and combine all of them into one verse.

(Note that this doesn't apply to Torah scrolls; those don't have chapter or verse markings at all, since they are a medieval invention.)

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Okay I need to organize the answer.

So we have

Torah itself (the theoretical master copy). We got how it's preserved We got how it's translated We got how it's presented We got how it's interpreted (I think this one doesn't count so I'll just do this briefly)

Torah itself (the theoretical master copy).

There is one big difference between Torah and first 5(not 6) books in Christian Bible. Wikipedia said that Torah actually have an oral counter part, at least for jews. Christians do not have oral Torah. The first 5 books in christian bible is only the written torah. Oral torah does not have influence on christianity.

As for the difference between first 5 books of christian bible and the torah, in theory, there is none. It's like asking if creationists live on the same planet. Yes they do. They just perceive our world differently.

Even when the ancient scrolls are slightly different septuagint/masoretic/and dead sea scrolls, christians would claim that the their torah is the same, namely one of those version is "the right" version and that's the original one (whatever that is) and that the hebrew version (original) is the correct one. Christians would claim that they did their best to translate the torah to be as close as the original as possible and that "their" torah is the exact same thing with jewish torah.

How it's preserved

Christians used many ancient scrolls. The main ones are similar to the one Jewish used. Masoretic. Chritians also used Samaritan, Septuagint, and a lot of other ancient scrolls. Experts then decide which copies are the most likely correct. When their opinion differs, Christians have a lot of different "version" or translations.

Some actual differences in the torah due to actual different sources. This is more of a difference between what people think is the original rather than differences between Jewish and Christian tradition. Sample is Deuteronomy 32:8-9 where christians translation sometimes use the dead sea scroll and septuagint that use children of God rather than children of Israel. It's a very important verse because it decide whether YHWH is the God of all universe or a mere God of a small nomadic (not to mention genocidal) tribe. More info about that is http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/DT32BibSac.pdf

How it's translated

Most christians learn Torah through their native language translation instead of hebrew. English speaking christians only have 2 words to describe God. YHWH (I don't know the vowel, I don't want to know), Adonai is translated as Lord. El and Elohim is translated as God. Lord in english is not even a word for God. Landlords, for example, are typically not divine. In south east Asia the word God is translated as Allah and the word Lord becomes Tuhan, which is cognate with non divine lord, "Tuan". While aware of Jewish' tradition of hiding God's only personal name from ever being uttered out of respect, christians are not familiar with the "extra mile" approach Jews go through. Jehovah witness are christians' sects that want to make YHWH name famous again.

  1. Christians mainly use translation. Most christians can't speak hebrew. English language has only 2 words for God. God and lord. The other one is not even a word for God. Your landlord, for example, is not divine.

  2. Christians translation is more consistent than hebrew. More consistent doesn't mean more correct. But more consistent.

Actual vagueness in the Torah itself give a certain leeway in translation and interpretation. The word elohim, for example, is a homonym that can be (correctly?) translated as God or angels or power. Okay, maybe I am wrong here. But that as far as most christians go when it comes to understanding torah given our language limitation. English translation tend to hide the controversy. Christians, are more "open" to the idea of anthropomorphic God. In fact, the idea that God incarnates at least once is the central theme of christianity. You can see discussion here: https://sites.google.com/site/yahwehelohiym/the-messengers/jacob-wrestles-with-a-man and http://www.mayfieldsalisbury.org/files/SermonSunday17thOctober.pdf.

Jewish translation translate Elohym as either God or power depending on either context inherent in the language or their own theological filter that God is spirit and can't take human form. I don't know which one. The translation is actually quite difference. I'll research more on this.

Curiously both christian translation and jewish translation translate Israel to mean wrestle with God (rather than wrestle with power)

http://bible.cc/genesis/32-28.htm compare that to http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0132.htm (it turns out jewish translation also use translate El as God). Hmm... I think somewhere it translates differently. Got to update this section.

We got how it's presented 1. Verses and number differs but the verses are not part of the original right? 2. I've heard the title is different. Christians name those first 5 books based on the theme, namely genesis, exodus, levitichus, numbers, and deuteronomy. Wikipedia said that jews name the books based on the first words on the book. Can anyone please correct me on this.

How it's interpreted

I'll add this latter. There are some major notable differences and a bunch of others.

  1. Christians seem to think that thou shall not commit adultery as the most important commandment judged by the number of sermon enforcing it. Christians interpret adultery as all sex outside life long legally binding monogamous heterosexual marriage as defined by congress rather than actual biblical marriage defined in the torah (which have some notable differences).

  2. Christians interpret love thy neighbor as love those who live close to you. In Indonesia it's translated as fellow human. Jews interpret that to mean fellow jews. A jew in quora told me that the actual word means comrade. Note: I'll add more references.

  3. Christian interpret though shall not kill to mean not killing any human. Some Christians interpret kill here as murder defined as either secret killing or unlawful killing. I do not know what the actual jewish words are and what does it mean because Torah seems to condone many killing, even genocide.


See more about http://www.annomundi.com/bible/should_christians_observe_torah.htm . In short, the idea that gentiles should circumcised their penis and stop eating pork, for a bunch of different reasons, simply doesn't sell.

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B'nei Yisroel (used in 32:8) means "sons of israel", but it can also mean "children of israel". In Hebrew, you use the masculine plural for both a group of males, as well as a group of males and females. You would only use "B'not Yisroel" ("daughters of Israel") if you were referring to a group of females. –  Menachem Oct 25 '11 at 5:17
Oh thank you. Yea I can't speak hebrew and hence count on translation more. Thanks for telling me. –  Jim Thio Oct 25 '11 at 6:36
you wrote nicely, but I fail to see how this answers the question. –  Avraham Oct 25 '11 at 9:02
This answer adds nothing from the Jewish perspective for which this site is intended. Downvote. –  Shalom Oct 25 '11 at 15:15
Done :). 1-3 becomes "explanation" for 5. Also I got my own website if I want to say more anyway. Remove the rest. –  Jim Thio Oct 28 '11 at 8:21

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