It has been several days since I last wrote a post. My work on the Self-Study is consuming most of my available time. This week the Board of Trustees will vote on the Self-Study Report. This week is also the end of the Spring Quarter, finals weeks, and graduation. As Faculty Marshall, I have so many things going on at the same time that I have been unable to post to the blog.
Spare time will be at a premium as I come to the end of the academic year. I hope to have papers read, exams graded, and the last draft of the Self-Study Report finished by the end of June. At that time, I hope to return to posting to the blog every day.
On May 25, I wrote a post “Old Testament or Hebrew Bible.” Richie, at An Ecclesiastical Mutt, responded with a post titled “The Power of Words: Old Testament vs. Hebrew Bible vs. Tanakh.” In his post Richie recognizes that the context dictates what term to use. As a pastor, he uses Old Testament to communicate to his audience.
Christopher Heard at Higgaion responded with a post, “Neither ‘Old Testament’ nor ‘Hebrew Bible.’” Chris said that the only way to clarify the use of the term “Old Testament” is by the use of an adjective to identify which Old Testament is meant, such as Protestant Old Testament, Catholic Old Testament, etc.
Chris prefer the use of “Tanakh.” The word “Tanakh” is an acronym for Torah, Nevi’im, and Kethuvim, the three divisions of the Jewish Bible. Although many people are not familiar with the word “Tanakh,” Chris believes people need to be taught the meaning of the term and he is “a tireless advocate for the term.”
I have no problem with Chris’ use of the word “Tanakh.” To be honest, I believe that “Tanakh” is much better than “Hebrew Bible,” since the Jewish Bible also contains texts in Aramaic. In addition, the use of “Tanakh” clearly indicates that we are talking about the traditional books used in Judaism. I have nothing against the use of the word “Tanakh” to describe the Scriptures of Judaism.
One thing that Chris discussed but never resolved in his post is this: if the Scriptures of Judaism are to be called “Tanakh,” what should we call the Scriptures of the church? If we continue to use New Testament, then we have to presuppose the existence of an Old Testament.
The term “Second Testament” for the Scriptures of the church is not acceptable. The term “Greek Scriptures” is even worse. Maybe we could call them “Christian Scriptures,” but the “Hebrew Bible” or “Tanakh” is also Christian Scriptures.
When Christians avoid the use of the term “Old Testament,” they abandon two thousand years of Christian tradition and practice. To use the term “Hebrew Bible” or “Tanakh” for the first part of the Christian Bible, is to leave the second part nameless.
Any other name for the second section of the Christian Bible robs the church of its tradition and removes the theological implications of the words of Christ and the prophecy of Jeremiah.
Until a better name is found for the New Testament, I will be content in using Old Testament and New Testament for the two sections of the Christian Bible.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Bible, New Testament, Old Testament, Tanakh