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Having lived in Israel during several periods of my life, I know that the words "Old" in the "Old Testament" and "New" in the "New Testament" are offensive to many Jews. From what I understand, it's because "old" tends to have negative connotations (ex: outdated, irrelevant, decrepit, obsolete) and "new" has positive connotations (ex: new and improved, better, more relevant, contemporary, updated). I understand their logic and sentiment about all of that! In fact, I agree with them full-heartily. Let's be honest, if you were to say: "do you want this 'old' toy [any item, really] or this 'new' toy [any item, really]?" the majority of people will prefer the "new" item because we tend to associate "new" with "better quality," especially in comparison to anything "old" (unless you're an antique collector, historian, etc).

Thus, like Jews, I prefer to call the "Old Testament," the "Hebrew Bible" -- so it's free of all those negative connotations. This is not just because I want to be PC or demonstrate my respect/sensitives towards their perspectives (though both are true), but also, I think... even as a Christian, though we value both bodies of scriptures, the "old" in "Old Testament" carries that same negative baggage with it... "It's too old and obscure to understand... and irrelevant since Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses...." And I think this is a dangerous approach to this sacred literary corpus insomuch we develop preconceived notions that it will be too challenging to comprehend/apply and worse, insignificant (I don't think we do it consciously, it's just embedded in the word "old"). Consequently, we have an innate proclivity to value it less... And this is sad since there is much to be gleaned from the Hebrew Bible! From the Hebrew Bible, the divine covenants concerning salvation were taught as well as the Abrahamic covenant, etc. etc. Many of these principles and prophecies are timeless, and should not be burdened down by the word "old," which denigrates its worth and authority a bit.

Now, I am not naive, and I know the Christian communities will never adopt such a name change because it's just not practical nor a priority, mostly because most people don't care and a change in the name will just cause confusion, and cause more problems. To be clear, I'm not advocating/promoting that the Churches do so.... But, I must say, that I am pleased to see that "Hebrew Bible" is being used more and more in biblical scholarship and the academic spheres. Personally, I'm going to use it in lieu of "Old Testament," (even within a Christian context) and I will be happy to explain/elucidate my reasoning to whoever I'm speaking to.

However, after this long-winded spiel, I realize (and I'm sure you have by now, too) that I don't know what neutrally-charged, more appropriate, title to use when referencing the "New" Testament. I know within the walls of synagogues, the "New Testament" is not a likely topic that arises, but how do I reference it in an inter-faith academic dialogue if I don't want to pin on the "New" connotations? In acadamia/biblical scholarships, what name/title do they ascribe to the "New Testament." I'm assuming, they probably call it "New Testament" just so that everyone is on the same page and knows what they are talking about... but if we were to have a "Hebrew Bible" equivalent for the "New Testament," what would it likely be? "Greek Bible" doesn't work because the Septuagint (LXX) is the Hebrew Bible translated in Greek by Jews (hundreds of years before the existence of the "New Testament")... "Christian Bible" doesn't work because that seems to confine Christians to only the "New Testament," which only perpetuates the dilemma. Or is there already one, and I am just uninformed?

Basically, how do Jews refer to the "New" Testament? What is PC?

Todah!

  • There is some relevant commentary on this question in a Meta Q&A which addresses primarily something like the inverse of this question. – Dɑvïd Jul 15 '17 at 10:15
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I can see how Christian books could be useful; however, there are so many Christian books out there; Christian books may just be too broad. You might still find yourself having to explain and search for more specific adjectives.

Here are some additional suggestions:

  • The 27 Books
  • Primary Apostolic Writings
  • Primary Christian Writings

Reading through the conversation in the comments to this answer, about Holy/divine writings, I am reminded of an old term, "Holy Writ," and wonder if the word writ might be employed:

  • Apostolic Writ
  • Christian Writ

Christian Writ strikes me as an exceptional over-all option, in that it:

  • defines the collection specifically as what the Christians/Apostles wrote,
  • is concise and natural enough to bear up under repetition in lengthy discourse,
    (is even one syllable shorter than "New Testament.")
  • respectfully conveys that the Christians consider the collection divine/holy,
    without implying whether one agrees or disagrees with their conviction.
  • writ does not seem to be used for other Greek/Christian writings
    (such as the church Fathers, or contemporary books/documents).

Christian Scripture also puts ownership of the conviction on the Christian; however, it may not be distinct enough to represent only the books written by Christians, since the whole of their bible, both parts together, is held by Christians as Scripture.

A bit more eccentric:

  • The Christian Rule of Faith
  • The Christian Anthology

It might be helpful to refer to the collection by its components:

  • Gospels, Acts, Letters and Revelation,
    either list them, or refer to the particular part that is pertinent to conversation.

In reference specifically to the original Greek manuscripts, some of the above suggestions might be adapted by replacing writings with documents, manuscripts, parchments, or corpus.

A bit too obscure:
Early Christian writings
Greek Christian writings
Apostolic writings
Greek Canon
Christian Canon

Greek Canon-used to refer to collection of Greek art. One might think using earliest instead of just early would remedy this; however, earliest has connotations concerning (carbon) dating of the manuscripts and if you merely intend to imply foundational, then, primary would be the word of choice, as foundational would be a mouthful.

I don't intend to solve the matter with "an answer" but rather to present a compendium of vocabulary, terms, and adjectives adjectives; to consider the various implications, connotations, and limitations; to thus help equip/prepare those who endeavor to communicate respectfully and effectively about such matters in inner faith dialogue.

  • 4
    Your answer makes me think of "Christian canon", which seems like it could work. The challenge with phrases like "early Christian writings" or "primary apostolic writings" is that they're long, so if you're going to use them multiple times in a conversation that gets a little unwieldy. – Monica Cellio Jul 21 '16 at 0:18
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    @Sarah The word "canon" is used in literary circles as shorthand for "the Western canon". – Kyle Strand Jul 21 '16 at 20:05
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Thank you for your sensitivity.

The issue with "old" and "new" isn't just what you said about "old and outdated, new and shiny". It's also that, to us, the latter isn't a "testament" at all. God made a covenant with Israel at Sinai and God does not break His word, so to say that He set aside that covenant to make a new, contradictory one is problematic.

When I have participated in discussions with Christians and needed a general term, I've generally used the phrase "Christian books", a habit I learned from one of my rabbis. This, unlike "Christian Bible", doesn't imply that it's the whole Christian corpus. The phrase "Christian books" seems, in my experience, to be clear and non-controversial, assuming you've already established that you're talking about bibles and not, say, papal edicts.

After reading this answer I thought of another possibility: "Christian canon". I'm not sure whether Christians would understand that to mean the Hebrew Bible too, but you could explore that if you don't like "Christian books".

This might seem like a nit, but I try to avoid calling those books "scriptures", as "scripture" can have the connotation, in a religious context, of being from God. We don't believe that about your books. You could probably get away with "Christian scriptures", but try "Christian books" instead -- I think it will serve you well and not lead to the occasional raised eyebrows that "scriptures" might.

1

I generally refer to it as "the Christian Bible"; while this may not be 100% accurate it's generally good enough for conversational purposes. (Many people would assume that the Christian Bible includes the Tanach, so the phrase is most useful when the conversation has already made it clear that the Hebrew Bible is not part of that.)

  • Jew: "The Bible" == Hebrew Bible
  • Christian: "The Bible" == Hebrew Bible + Christian Bible
  • Rest of the world: I would assume the Christian view dominates, though I've also heard people (Hindu, Muslim, and Zoroastrian) referring to "The Christian Bible" as including the Hebrew parts.

While "The New Testament" does have some negative connotations, it is also pretty universally understood to be the Christian books that got canonized by their religious authorities; in some cases it's easiest to use the generally understood term.

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In The Torah: A Modern Commentary (2005), Rabbi Gunther Plaut uses the term 'Christians' New Testament' (pages 145, 421, 422) and 'Christian Scriptures' (p. 141) to refer to the twenty-seven pieces of literature written in the first century by Christians and considered authoritative and inspired by them. He also uses the term 'Christian tradition' (p. 145).

  • Clifford, I'm leaving a comment here because it's your most recent answer. I know a lot of your recent answers haven't been received well, and I hope your future experiences on this site turn out better. I think that a lot of the users of this site (including myself) don't consider Rabbi Plaut, or anybody else, to be the authoritative voice on what Jews do and don't consider offensive. To be honest, I'm not sure what a good answer to this question would be. I guess people stating their personal feelings and giving a general picture in the aggregate is the best we can hope for. – Heshy Jun 25 '18 at 20:26
  • For some of the other questions you've answered, again, the Jewish encyclopedia is a useful reference work, but definitely not the authoritative voice on anything. Similarly, most of us wouldn't consider Rabbi Plaut the authoritative voice on most subjects, except for subjects that he's explicitly written about (and even then, as per site policy it should either be a question about Reform Judaism or something neutral that he's a particular expert in, like the Magen David symbol, as I gather from his wikipedia article.) – Heshy Jun 25 '18 at 20:32
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    I can tell you're a very knowledgeable person, and I think your contributions can make this a better site. People will probably react better if you can get a better sense of what sources people consider valuable. This isn't a case of "I don't agree with what your sources say so I'll downvote you". (That might happen if you cited Rabbi Plaut to a question about Reform Judaism where Orthodox Judaism differs, and in my opinion would not be justified as it's against the policy.) It's more a case of "who is this random person/encyclopedia and why should I consider his/her/its opinion valuable?" – Heshy Jun 25 '18 at 20:38
  • Anyway, I hope you stick around! Feel free to ask what sources people consider authoritative on meta. Probably someone else can articulate it better than I did. – Heshy Jun 25 '18 at 20:39
  • @Heshy. Your patient and kind comments are much appreciated. – Clifford Durousseau Jun 26 '18 at 4:49
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I prefer using the term "the Greek Testament".

First, it avoids using the word "Bible", for a work which Jews do not recognize as being part of the Bible.

It is also true to the original language of these books, Greek, which stands in contrast to the Jewish Bible, which was given in Hebrew.

Just in case anybody might not be sure what we're talking about, we use the word "Testament", which is a world commonly used in the Xtian world, and rarely used in the Jewish world.

For those who shun even using the word "Testament", I suggest that use the following euphemism, "the Greek addition to the Bible". This signals that we do not view this as a valid part of the Bible, rather as a foreign (Greek) addition.

  • "the Greek addition to the Bible" sounds dangerously like the Septuagint – Double AA Jul 23 '18 at 17:24
  • I disagree. Anybody with the "Septuagint", or "LXX", knows that it is a TRANSLATION into Greek from the original Hebrew. My suggestion refers to "the Greek ADDITION to the Bible". In any event, for those who prefer, I offered the euphemism "the Greek Testament". – IsraelReader Jul 23 '18 at 17:58
  • is the Septuagint not a Greek edition of the Bible? Sounds dangerously similar to what you wrote. – Double AA Jul 23 '18 at 18:01
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First of all, the Old Testament is not the Torah. Someone came along, took a Sefer Torah, translated it to some other language using on purpose words and expressions with idolatrous intent, put things to it, took things from it. Anyone is free to do this, but in the end you don't have a Torah. So I don't see any reason why a jew should feel uncomfortable with someone saying 'Old Testament'. I know of jews who are upset in such circumstances, but then I tell them that's not the Torah, not even resembles it, why the worry? Second of all, is 'New Testament' offensive to jews? Why? Because christians call that that way? They're free to do it. Let them call it whatever they like. You can even have a conversation with a christian about it. Everytime the christian says 'New Testament', you know what he is talking about. Everytime you say 'the christian writs', he knows what you're talking about. If he doesn't know in the begining, then tell him that's the thing he's calling 'New Testament'. If he asks you why you're not calling it 'New Testament' just say because you don't like that expression, but he can use it, you will understand. Two people talking of the same thing using different wording. This is a civilised conversation.

  • Well, they claim it's the torah, so they're attributing their false translations to us. It doesn't surprise me that many Jews don't want to endorse that by using their misleading name. – Monica Cellio Jul 23 '18 at 14:57

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