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A verse in Tanach is referred to as a pasuk - פסוק. Where does this term come from and what is the earliest recorded usage of it to refer to a verse?

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There are several times it is mentioned in some of the earlier midrashim.

For example...

Sifri - Devarim 4:2

באר את התורה הזאת לאמר, אמר להם כבר אני סמוך למיתה מי ששמע פסוק אחד ושכחו יבוא וישננו פרשה אחת ושכחה יבוא וישננה פרק אחד ושכחו יבא וישננו הלכה אחת ושכחה יבא וישננה לכך נאמר באר את התורה הזאת לאמר סליק פיסקא

(Devarim, Ibid.) "to explain this Torah, saying": He said to them: I am about to die. Anyone who heard one verse and forgot it, let him come and review it. Anyone who heard one section and forgot it let him come and review it and understand it. This is the intent of "to explain this Torah."

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An early recorded usage is Pirkei Avot 6:3:

הַלּוֹמֵד מֵחֲבֵרוֹ פֶּרֶק אֶחָד אוֹ הֲלָכָה אַחַת אוֹ פָסוּק אֶחָד אוֹ דִבּוּר אֶחָד אוֹ אֲפִלּוּ אוֹת אַחַת, צָרִיךְ לִנְהוֹג בּוֹ כָבוֹד, שֶׁכֵּן מָצִינוּ בְדָוִד מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁלֹּא לָמַד מֵאֲחִיתֹפֶל אֶלָּא שְׁנֵי דְבָרִים בִּלְבָד, קְרָאוֹ רַבּוֹ אַלּוּפוֹ וּמְיֻדָּעוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים נה) וְאַתָּה אֱנוֹשׁ כְּעֶרְכִּי אַלּוּפִי וּמְיֻדָּעִי. וַהֲלֹא דְבָרִים קַל וָחֹמֶר, וּמַה דָּוִד מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁלֹּא לָמַד מֵאֲחִיתֹפֶל אֶלָּא שְׁנֵי דְבָרִים בִּלְבַד קְרָאוֹ רַבּוֹ אַלּוּפוֹ וּמְיֻדָּעוֹ, הַלּוֹמֵד מֵחֲבֵרוֹ פֶּרֶק אֶחָד אוֹ הֲלָכָה אַחַת אוֹ פָסוּק אֶחָד אוֹ דִבּוּר אֶחָד אוֹ אֲפִלּוּ אוֹת אַחַת, עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִנְהוֹג בּוֹ כָבוֹד. וְאֵין כָּבוֹד אֶלָּא תוֹרָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי ג) כָּבוֹד חֲכָמִים יִנְחָלוּ, (משלי כח) וּתְמִימִים יִנְחֲלוּ טוֹב, וְאֵין טוֹב אֶלָּא תוֹרָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי ד) כִּי לֶקַח טוֹב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם תּוֹרָתִי אַל תַּעֲזֹבוּ:

One who learns from his fellow one chapter, or one halakhah, or one verse, or one word, or even one letter, is obligated to treat him with honor; for so we find with David, king of Israel, who learned from Ahitophel no more than two things, yet called him his master, his guide and his beloved friend, as it is said, “But it was you, a man mine equal, my guide and my beloved friend” (Psalms 55:14). Is this not [an instance of the argument] “from the less to the greater” (kal vehomer)? If David, king of Israel who learned from Ahitophel no more than two things, nevertheless called him his master, his guide and his beloved friend; then in the case of one who learns from his fellow one chapter, or one halakhah, or one verse, or one word, or even one letter, all the more so he is under obligation to treat him with honor. And “honor’” means nothing but Torah, as it is said, “It is honor that sages inherit” (Proverbs 3:35). “And the perfect shall inherit good” (Proverbs 28:10), and “good” means nothing but Torah, as it is said, “For I give you good instruction; do not forsake my Torah” (Proverbs 4:2).

Although this isn't necessarily the earliest. It appears in the gemara in several places, including aggadic passages, as well as various midrashim, that may be older than the above Mishna. It seems to be a Rabbinic term.

According to the Klein Dictionary, it derives from

פסק

to divide, split.

and is related to the Biblical פשׂק

to part, open wide, to straddle.

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  • It comes up loads of time in various midrashim which maybe arguably be the same time as the Mishnah?
    – Dov
    Dec 18, 2023 at 12:41
  • @Dov yes, although I didn't find it in the really old midrashim, but I will combine your point with my point about aggada above
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 18, 2023 at 12:42
  • What qualifies as "the really old midrashim"?
    – Dov
    Dec 18, 2023 at 12:47
  • @Dov Mechilta, Sifrei Sifri etc but nevermind, I just found it in the latter.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 18, 2023 at 12:49
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    Chapter 6 of pirkei avot is a later addition to the work. It may indeed be tannaitic but it's hard to date it exactly so it's a poor exemplar of "earliest"
    – Double AA
    Dec 18, 2023 at 15:56

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