One claim that is made in our Christian Church is that the Jewish people use the Old Testament and that Christians use both the Old Testament and the New Testament. How correct is this statement?

Do the Jewish people have a collection of books similar to the Old Testament in the same way that the Christian Bible does?

If so:

  • Are there any significant differences in the translations (is the Christian Old Testament a copy with some 'interpretations')?
  • Are there other books added or missing to the Christian Old Testament?
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    I would note that from a Jewish perspective, the names "New Testament" and "Old Testament" are misnomers (since we do not believe that anything new can come along and supersede what we have). Commented May 12, 2011 at 6:07
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    @Yaakov - I understand and appreciate that, but there's no other way for me to ask for your equivelant to something without using its name.
    – going
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 9:23
  • Near-duplicate: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/8248.
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:59
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    The short answer is: yes, it's called the Tenakh. The longer, nuanced answer is provided well by Jake below. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 2:04
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    @BA, I have never, ever heard of Torah she'ba'al peh being referred to as the "Jewish New Testament." That sounds fishy to me. The way you have worded your comment is odd and confusing. First you call the Talmud the Jewish New Testament, and then you say there is no "old" and "new." This does not make sense on a lot of levels.
    – Shemmy
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 3:48

3 Answers 3


The Jewish scriptures are called the "Tanach", which is traditionally divided into 24 separate books.

It is hard to say exactly how it measures up to the Christian Old Testament, since there are different versions as to what is included in the Old Testament depending on what sect of Christianity one belongs to. Here is an excellent chart which shows the differences in inclusion of books and their order in the Old Testament for Judaism and the main strains of Christianity.

As with anything, though, translation is a form of interpretation. There are many Jewish translations of the Hebrew Bible, and the differences are many.

  • 1
    The Tanakh contains exactly the same books as the Protestant Old Testament (but in a different order). Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 22:23
  • @dancek - What Christians call the "Old Testament" and the Jewish Tanach are not actually exactly the same books but in a different order. The Book of Isaiah, for example, is radically different. I mean that there are numerous differences above and beyond translations being different. Translations are, of course, linguistic interpretations that follow ideological perspectives.
    – Shemmy
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 3:56
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    @Shemmy Can you cite an example that isn't just a translation issue?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 11, 2012 at 0:29
  • I have heard that some Christian translations add God into the book of Esther because the idea of a book without an explicit mention of God was considered unacceptable. I don't know more details. Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 14:28
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    @MonicaCellio, Check out the Septuagint Esther 10. Also see the Roman Catholic Bible Esther 10-16 (yup...16!).
    – jake
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 19:34

Christians usually refer to the Tanach as the Old Testament. In Judaism there's no such analogy since we don't have Old/New Testament, we have only one testament. In any case, these are not the only books we have/use. As per the second part "that Christians use both the Old Testament and the New Testament". This is tot true. Christians don't use both, they simply ignore the tanach and its rulings, this is the basis for calling it old, like it is irrelevant today.

There are many discrepancies in the translations, each carrying its own interpretations. Usually, Jewish printings even in Hebrew come with commentaries/explanations to help understand the text. A simple translation is usually not enough to understand it.

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    Avraham, they do not "simply" ignore the Tanach. Some parts they interpret based on our commentaries, others they (mistakenly) interpret literally, others they interpret differently (from our tradition of its real meaning) based on their own agendas, and some parts they claim as irrelevant on a practicable level due to their "new covenant". It is never simple. Don't underestimate the Christian scholars and their intelligence level. That is the biggest mistake one can make if he ever wishes to truly know "mah shetashiv!"
    – Yahu
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 3:12
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    @Yahu - Thanks for your excellent summary.
    – going
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 3:42
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    Abarbanel is well known for including the interpretations of Christian Bible scholars in his works.
    – jake
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 7:15
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    I didn't mean to offend or underestimate anyone, what I mean is that all commandments are simply cancelled, it is not a matter of diferent understanding like the caraim for example. for example in Christianity there's no concept of cashrut at all
    – Avraham
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 22:22
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    Caraim (I assume you mean Karaites) are just a matter of a different understanding? How is a rejection of the entire system of Torah SheBe'al Peh just a matter of a different understanding?
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 12:48

Besides the Tanakh, the Jewish people have the ancient Midrash Sefar HaYoshor (Book of the Upright), likely compiled over generations, cited in the Tanakh itself, in Shamuel B' 1:18: "וַיֹּאמֶר, לְלַמֵּד בְּנֵי-יְהוּדָה קָשֶׁת, הִנֵּה כְתוּבָה, עַל-סֵפֶר הַיָּשָׁר" "And he (Dowidh) said to teach the sons of Judah qashath ("bow", Israel's fighting system), which is written in the Book of the Upright."

Besides the Torah being the central scroll of Israelite law, I do not believe there was any set canon in those days. As we know, the details of Torah law (Oral Torah) were circulated by mouth and ingrained in Israelite life. I think of all of the Tanakh and authentic and especially ancient books of Oral Torah as "Torah" in general. Canon or not, I do not (and I know many others who do not) distinguish between the qadusho of one to another, besides that the Humash is basis/core and most holy.

  • Similar to "Sefer Divrei HaYamim LeMalchei Yehudah" (Judah Chronicles, which is Divrei HaYamim — Chronicles — as we know it today) and "Sefer Divrei HaYamim LeMalchei Yisrael" (Israel Chronicles, which is no longer extant), both of which are constantly cross-referenced in Melachim. I think that there is also another one about Shlomoh, but I can't remember its name.
    – b a
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 13:23
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    Also cited in Joshua 10:13
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 13:52
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    @ba, "Sefer Divrei HaYamim LeMalchei Yehudah" is not Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles) as we know it today. It is simply the historical records which were kept by the Judean kingdom which were used as source and reference material for much of Neviim Rishonim (see my answer here). The "Divrei Hayamim" that we know is traditionally thought to have been written by Ezra (much later than Yirmiyahu, who wrote/compiled Melachim), who in turn used Shmuel/Melachim as sources.
    – jake
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 14:51
  • The Artscroll Tanach seems to suggest that they are the same. For example, when it mentions Sefer Divrei HaYamim LeMalchei Yehudah in Melachim 1 14:29, Artscroll refers you to Divrei HaYamim. When it mentions other ones, it says "no longer extant" (see, for example, 11:41). But your argument must be correct, since Ezra did write it. I don't know what Artscroll's reasoning is.
    – b a
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 21:06
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    The "Sefer HaYashar" you link to bears no relation to that which the Bible references. In reality it is a medieval work composed millennia (!) later.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 15:27

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