The Tanakh (Hebrew: תַּנַ”ךְ ; also Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach) or Mikra is the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The traditional Hebrew text is known as the Masoretic Text.
Tanakh is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic Text’s three traditional subdivisions: Torah (“Teaching”, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”)—hence TaNaKh. The name “Mikra” (מקרא), meaning “that which is read”, is another Hebrew word for the Tanakh. The books of the Tanakh were passed on by each generation, and according to rabbinic tradition were accompanied by an oral tradition, called the Oral Torah.
Rabbinic Judaism (Hebrew: יהדות רבנית) recognizes the twenty-four Books of the Masoretic Text, commonly called the Tanakh (Hebrew: תַּנַ”ךְ) also know as the Hebrew Bible. Evidence suggests that the process of canonization occurred between 200 BC and 200 AD, and a popular position is that the Torah was canonized c. 400 BC, the Prophets c. 200 BC, and the Writings c. 100 AD perhaps at a hypothetical Council of Jamnia—however, this position is increasingly criticised by modern scholars. According to Marc Zvi Brettler, the Jewish Scriptures outside the Torah and the Prophets were rather liberal, different groups seeing authority in different Books.
The Book of Deuteronomy includes a prohibition against “adding or subtracting” (4, 2 ; 12, 32) which might apply to the book itself (i.e. a “closed Book”, a prohibition against future scribal editing) or to the instruction received by Moses from the CREATOR on Mt. Sinai. The Book of 2 Maccabees, itself not a part of the Jewish canon, describes Nehemiah (c. 400 BC) as having “founded a library and collected books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings” (2, 13–15).
The Book of Nehemiah suggests that the priest-scribe Ezra brought the Torah back from Babylon to Jerusalem and the Second Temple (8–9) around the same time period. Both I and II Maccabees suggest that Judas Maccabeus (c. 167 BC) likewise collected sacred books (3, 42–50 ; 2, 13–15 ; 15, 6–9), indeed some scholars argue that the Jewish canon was fixed by the Hasmonean dynasty. However, these primary sources do not suggest that the canon was at that time closed; moreover, it is not clear that these sacred books were identical to those that later became part of the canon.
Mishnah (Hebrew: מִשְׁנָה, “study by repetition”, from the verb shanah שנה, or “to study and review”, also “secondary”) is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the “Oral Torah”. It is a compilation of legal opinions and debates, statements in the Mishnah are typically terse, recording brief opinions of the rabbis debating a subject; or recording only an unattributed ruling, apparently representing a consensus view. The rabbis recorded in the Mishnah are known as the Tannaim.
Since it sequences its laws by subject matter instead of by biblical context, the Mishnah discusses individual subjects more thoroughly than the Midrash, and it includes a much broader selection of halakhic subjects than the Midrash. The Mishnah’s topical organization thus became the framework of the Talmud as a whole. But not every tractate in the Mishnah has a corresponding Gemara. Also, the order of the tractates in the Talmud differs in some cases from that in the Mishnah.
The Mishnah consists of six orders (sedarim, singular seder סדר), each containing 7–12 tractates (masechtot, singular masechet מסכת; lit. “web”), 63 in total, and further subdivided into chapters and paragraphs.
Because of the division into six orders, the Mishnah is sometimes called ‘Shas’ (an acronym for Shisha Sedarim – the “six orders”), though that term is more often used for the Talmud as a whole.