Torah says many times that we're obligated to write Torah scrolls, read them in public and study them.

Writing a Kosher Torah scroll while following all the requirements (parchment, ink, intentions, etc) is a tedious and expensive task and eventually, Chumashim were invented - writing the Torah in a "non-Kosher" way: either in stone or on paper, in print, vowelled, with interpretations, just as we currently know it.

What is the origin of this form of writing of sacred texts? Who mentions it first? Was it common in Rabbinic times or only later?

  • Originally, a chumash meant a scroll containing only one of the five books
    – Joel K
    May 21, 2019 at 12:51
  • @JoelK I didn't mean it. I refer to our chumashim as we use it.
    – Al Berko
    May 21, 2019 at 12:57
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    @Double What's unclear? When did Chumashim appear?
    – Al Berko
    May 21, 2019 at 13:41
  • If you want to ask when they appeared you can do so. Asking what the origin is is Unclear.
    – Double AA
    May 21, 2019 at 13:42
  • 1
    @DoubleAA When they appeared and by whom and why equals "origin" in my understanding.
    – Al Berko
    May 21, 2019 at 13:45

3 Answers 3


It is mentioned in the Talmud.

Gitin 60a:

רבה ורב יוסף דאמרי תרוייהו אין קוראין בחומשין בבית הכנסת משום כבוד צבור

Rabba and Rav Yosef both say: One does not read from ḥumashim in the synagogue out of respect for the community. (Sefaria Translation)

Likewise in Rambam Hilchos Sefer Torah 10:

נִמְצֵאתָ לָמֵד שֶׁעֶשְׂרים דְּבָרִים הֵן שֶׁבְּכָל אֶחָד מֵהֶן פּוֹסֵל סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה. וְאִם נַעֲשָׂה בּוֹ אֶחָד מֵהֶן הֲרֵי הוּא כְּחֻמָּשׁ מִן הַחֻמָּשִׁין שֶׁמְּלַמְּדִין בָּהֶן הַתִּינוֹקוֹת וְאֵין בּוֹ קְדֻשַּׁת סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה וְאֵין קוֹרִין בּוֹ בָּרַבִּים.

You thus find that there are twenty factors, any one of which disqualifies a scroll of the law. If any of these occurs, the scroll is like one of the books of the Pentateuch out of which children are taught. It does not possess the sanctity of a scroll of the Law, and is not used for reading in public worship. (Sefaria Tranlation)

  • 1
    Note that ‘Chumash’ in these sources refers to a scroll containing only one of the five books (which the OP said in a comment that he was not asking about).
    – Joel K
    May 21, 2019 at 15:03
  • I don't think that is accurate comepletly @joelk
    – Dr. Shmuel
    May 21, 2019 at 15:19
  • +1 for effort! Seems @joel is right, the discussion in Gittin is about what Rashi says: "מחסר במילתיה - שקורין לו ס"ת וחסר הוא:" - about a S"T that misses certain parts.
    – Al Berko
    May 21, 2019 at 15:21

The earliest source I'm aware of is Mishpatim 24:7.

וַיִּקַּח֙ סֵ֣פֶר הַבְּרִ֔ית וַיִּקְרָ֖א בְּאָזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע׃

And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the ears of the nation, and they said "Everything Hashem said, we will do and accept".

Rashi says:

ספר הברית. מִבְּרֵאשִׁית וְעַד מַתַּן תּוֹרָה וּמִצְווֹת שֶׁנִּצְטַוּוּ בְמָרָה:

The Book of the Covenant: from Bereishis until Matan Torah, and the mitzvos they were commanded in Marah.

If you specifically want an example where the physical medium of writing is different, you have to go 40 days later:

וַיִּתֵּ֣ן אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה כְּכַלֹּתוֹ֙ לְדַבֵּ֤ר אִתּוֹ֙ בְּהַ֣ר סִינַ֔י שְׁנֵ֖י לֻחֹ֣ת הָעֵדֻ֑ת לֻחֹ֣ת אֶ֔בֶן כְּתֻבִ֖ים בְּאֶצְבַּ֥ע אֱלֹהִֽים׃

And He gave to Moshe, when He finished speaking with him on Har Sinai, two Tablets of Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of Hashem.

And if you want something that is both a complete book and written on a different medium, the first source is slightly less than 40 years later:

וְהָיָ֗ה בַּיּוֹם֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תַּעַבְר֣וּ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן֒ אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֣ן לָ֑ךְ וַהֲקֵמֹתָ֤ לְךָ֙ אֲבָנִ֣ים גְּדֹל֔וֹת וְשַׂדְתָּ֥ אֹתָ֖ם בַּשִּֽׂיד׃

וְכָתַבְתָּ֣ עֲלֵיהֶ֗ן אֶֽת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֛י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את בְּעָבְרֶ֑ךָ לְמַ֡עַן אֲשֶׁר֩ תָּבֹ֨א אֶל־הָאָ֜רֶץ אֲ‍ֽשֶׁר־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֣יךָ ׀ נֹתֵ֣ן לְךָ֗ אֶ֣רֶץ זָבַ֤ת חָלָב֙ וּדְבַ֔שׁ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֶּ֛ר יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽי־אֲבֹתֶ֖יךָ לָֽךְ׃

And it will be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the Land that Hashem your God is giving you, stand up big stones and plaster them with plaster.

And write on them the words of this Torah when you cross, so that you'll go into the land that Hashem your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, like Hashem the God of your ancestors spoke to you.

  • Hmmm, how do you infer that that wasn't a Kosher scroll?
    – Al Berko
    May 21, 2019 at 12:55
  • 1
    Because it didn't have the whole Torah in it.
    – Heshy
    May 21, 2019 at 12:56
  • I meant the regular 5 books of Moses.
    – Al Berko
    May 21, 2019 at 12:56
  • 1
    @AlBerko when did I say that? Why would this be any less holy than one of our Chumashim?
    – Heshy
    May 21, 2019 at 12:58
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    @AlBerko the more exceptions and special cases you add, the less interesting your question becomes.
    – Heshy
    May 21, 2019 at 13:59

I'd always assumed it came about around the time that the Torah began to be translated. So the time of the Targum Onkelos. The Hebrew and translated text would be either side by side or interlinear.

The Gemara says in Berakhot 8b:

אמר רב הונא בר יהודה אמר רבי אמי לעולם ישלים אדם פרשיותיו עם הצבור שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום

Rav Huna bar Yehuda said that Rabbi Ami said: A person should always complete his Torah portions with the congregation. The congregation reads a particular Torah portion every Shabbat, and during the week prior to each Shabbat, one is required to read the Bible text of the weekly portion twice and the translation once.

The reference to the "translation" here is referring to the targum.

Before that all the references that I am aware of to Torah written down in a manner in which it is not a kosher Torah scroll would be the scrolls of each of the five books individually.

  • 1
    I don't assume that
    – Dr. Shmuel
    May 21, 2019 at 19:29
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    I have not seen an example of the Torah printed in the way Chumashim are that pre-dates the first translations of the Torah. Thus my assumption is that prior to translations they were just written on scrolls (each one of the five books). If someone presents me with examples of non-scroll Torah books prior to the time it began being translated then I'd of course change my mind. May 21, 2019 at 19:31

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