Are there religious laws against it, or can Jewish people also keep a copy of the Bible (scriptures) in their home?

What word is the most common term used to refer to the Hebrew Bible?

  • 4
    @msh210 - As per your edit - why does this need to be based from a Christian perspective? The main reason is I am non-Jewish and was trying to show that my question is based on my understanding. Many years ago Christians could only go to a church to hear the scriptures and before translation into English there were arguments against allowing non-priests access to the scriptures. That's why I wanted to see if Jewish people were allowed to keep a copy at home.
    – going
    May 14, 2011 at 22:02
  • There's 2 questions, the second I think may have been asked before
    – user613
    Jun 4, 2016 at 9:19
  • @going thanks for asking this excellent question
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jul 28, 2023 at 17:08

8 Answers 8


There is a commandment in the Torah for each person to write for themselves a sefer torah, though most people nowadays rely on their contribution to the writing of a communal Torah at their synagogues.

Besides for this, there is a Rabbinically enacted obligation for the community to have a weekly Torah reading, and each person is individually obligated to study the weekly portion during the week itself. For this reason, most every observant Jew owns at least a chumash, which includes the five books of Moses, and most likely a Tanach, which is the entire Hebrew Bible. This is besides for the fact that many own their own religious books just for the sake of personal study and reference.

  • If I'm not mistaken, the commandment is for a King to write his own sefer torah, I don't think it applies to everyone?
    – AviD
    May 12, 2011 at 5:18
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    @AviD - you are a little bit mistaken. The Mitzvah (last one in the Torah) is to write a Sefer Torah (see Deut 31:19, Rambam Hilchot Sefer Torah 7:1, as well as this good summary in Hebrew). Many authorities (the Rosh being foremost) explain that today this is primarily fulfilled by writing and acquiring sefarim/religious books for study. May 12, 2011 at 5:25
  • @Yaakov, thank you, I stand corrected - I do remember learning that now, its what happens when I write too early in the morning :)
    – AviD
    May 12, 2011 at 5:28
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    @AviD - I believe that you are thinking of the commandment of a King to keep his own Torah with him at all times. I believe (though I don't recall from where) that the king would write a second one, although I am not sure if I just made that part up.
    – shmuelp
    May 22, 2011 at 3:04
  • @AviD Actually, there are two separate commandments: one for each individual to write a Torah, and one for the King to write an additional one. See Positive Commandments 17 and 18 in the Rambam's Book of Mitzvot here.
    – Double AA
    Mar 19, 2012 at 19:26

The Hebrew Bible is most commonly referred to as "Tanach", which is a transliteration of a 3-letter Hebrew acronym for the 3 parts it contains: (ת) T orah, (נ) N'vi'im, (כ) K'suvim.


There are no restrictions on having your own copy of the bible and it is common in almost all Jewish homes.

The term "bible" in English, in a Jewish context, refers either to

  1. The Torah, a.k.a. the Pentateuch, also known as the Five Books of Moses.
  2. The Tanakh, which adds the books of the prophets and additional "Writings", known to Christians collectively as the "Old Testament".

For more details see this article.

  • I guess from a practical perspective it wasn't a positive commandment to own a copy, since pre-printing presses it would have been prohibitively expensive to own a Tanakh.
    – בלדנר
    Dec 14, 2013 at 18:06

Studying the Hebrew Bible is an integral part of Judaism. Without their own copies, how would Jews be able to do so?

All Orthodox Jewish homes have at least one copy of the Hebrew Bible, also called the Chumash (meaning the Five Books of Moses), though this is not an absolute requirement. Many homes also have copies of the other parts of the Hebrew Bible (such as the books of the Prophets), in addition to the Mishna and Talmud. I know of many homes with more than a hundred exclusively religious books.

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    I think xiaohouzi79 was referring to the Christian Bible. Otherwise why would there be reason to think there is a problem for a Jew to keep one around?
    – WAF
    May 12, 2011 at 1:24
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    @WAF, I can't speak for him, but not necessarily. He might have thought that it's supposed to be kept only in a synagogue (akin to the way the Tablets were kept in the Ark), or that the general public shouldn't read it so that they don't come to misinterpret it (a la Catholic doctrine before the Reformation), etc.
    – Alex
    May 12, 2011 at 4:39

We typically have several copies, in fact; different editions contain different commentaries helping to explain the text, and it can be helpful to be able to compare them.


depends on what you mean by bible. every family usually has a library at home, some bigger than other, but there are the most common books like shulhan aruch, talmud bavli and the tanach. tanach stands for humash (the first 5 books of moses), neviim (profets) and ketuvim (writtings (don't know how they call it in english actually)) usually those are printings, like regular books are printed.

there's also the sefer torah, the humash hand written in parchment, those are usually found in synagogues and is not common to find in peoples homes, but some people do have them at home.

there are no laws against it, just some about it, in short people should be more careful because of the holiness.


As my rabbi rather ruefully pointed out, within Judaism we just say "the Bible." It's only when a Jew is interacting with a predominantly Christian culture that we differentiate between the Christian bible and the Hebrew bible.

One important concept to understand is that in Judaism there's no real notion of heresy. Judaism isn't really based on a particular faith or belief; there's not really a concept of literal interpretation of scripture. Even the most Orthodox Jew is still following a centuries-old tradition of interpretation of the original texts. Having other religious texts around doesn't intrinsically "contaminate" you.

It is also one of the greatest commandments to study Torah and to learn -- so Jews are, and have always been, encouraged to make a lifetime study of Torah and affiliated texts (e.g. the Talmud). Personally I extend this to learning about all aspects of Judaism, its history through the centuries, different currents of thought in modern Judaism, etc.

So there's no reason for a Jew to not have a copy of the Christian bible -- which contains the Hebrew bible (the Tanakh) plus what Christians refer to as the New Testament, i.e. the gospel of Jesus. (Matthew, Mark, Luke... etc. through Revelations.)

I personally have 2 copies of the modern English JPS Tanakh (scripture only and an annotated study version); the Everett Fox translation of the Torah (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy); and a copy of Penguin Books' edition of the King James [Christian] bible. I like to compare the translations, which is fascinating. I also occasionally peruse the Christian New Testament: practically it helps me understand many references in literature and film and other bits of the Christian culture that I live in. Also, it's cool to see how the philosophies in the New Testament were often direct rebuttals of / protests against contemporary Jewish practices.

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    Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for this answer!
    – Isaac Moses
    May 15, 2011 at 2:21
  • "there's no real notion of heresy" - I don't think this is true. אפיקורסות is a halachic category.
    – user3318
    Dec 30, 2013 at 5:54

I have a Plaut commentary, a Hertz commentary, a Fox commentary, a Catholic Bible, a Protestant bible, and a Book of Mormon (don't ask). When I go to Torah study, I use the Plaut commentary, because that's what the rest of the class uses.

However, when I am at home, I usually use the internet for study.

Malper made a comment that I don't understand: " . אפיקורסות is a halachic category." My understanding is that there is no requirement for Jews to believe in G-d. Love G-d, yes, fear G-d, yes, but believe in G-d? I don't see it. And yes, I understand that it's hard to fear an entity that you don't believe in. However, my recollection is that in most places in Torah where it says that you will fear the Lord or you will love the Lord is a rationale for behaving ethically. It was explained to me that the important thing is live a just and ethical life - if you live a just and ethical life, then G-d will give you a little mercy for non-belief. At the end of the book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh do not convert to Judaism, they merely stop sinning.

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