Torah - Structure

Structure

The five books of the Torah are known in Judaism by their incipits, the initial words of the first verse of each book. For example, the Hebrew name of the first book, Bereshit, is the first word of Genesis 1:1:

  1. Bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית, literally "In the beginning")
  2. Shemot (שִׁמוֹת, literally "Names")
  3. Vayikra (ויקרא, literally "And He called")
  4. Bəmidbar (במדבר, literally "In the desert ")
  5. Devarim (דברים, literally "Things" or "Words")

The Christian names for the books are derived from the Greek Septuagint and reflect the essential theme of each book:

  1. Genesis: "creation"
  2. Exodus: "departure"
  3. Leviticus: refers to the Levites and the regulations that apply to their presence and service in the Temple, which form the bulk of the third book.
  4. Numbers (Arithmoi): contains a record of the numbering of the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai and later on the plain of Moab.
  5. Deuteronomy: "second law", refers to the fifth book's recapitulation of the commandments reviewed by Moses before his death.

According to the Oral tradition, the prose in the Torah is not always in chronological order. Sometimes it is ordered by concept according to the rule: "There is not 'earlier' and 'later' in the Torah" (אין מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה, Ein mukdam u'meuchar baTorah). This position is accepted by Orthodox Judaism. Non-Orthodox Jews generally understand the same texts as signs that the current text of the Torah was redacted from earlier sources.

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