19. What religious literature is found within Judaism?
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES The Jewish people have a book that is called “the Holy Scriptures.” This would be very comparable to our Old Testament. The reason why they don’t call it the Old Testament is because they don’t have a New Testament. The Holy Scriptures are very similar to our King James Old Testament. In fact, I will often use a copy of the Holy Scriptures to witness to a Jewish person. The officially accepted list of books in the Hebrew Bible consists of 24 books according to Jewish reckoning and is divided into three parts: the Law, the Prophets, and the writings.
The Law (Torah – 5 Books) often called the Pentateuch, goes from Genesis through Deuteronomy.
The Prophets (Nevi’im – 8 books) are divided into two parts: the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings); and the later prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12 Minor Prophets. The Writings (Kethubim – 11 books) include three poetic books (Psalms, Proverbs, and Job); the five scrolls (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther); and three prophetical-historical books, (Daniel, and Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.) It’s sad to have to say it, but a very small percentage of Jewish people read the Holy Scriptures. Most are almost totally illiterate concerning what they teach. The ones who are familiar with the Holy Scriptures are mainly the Orthodox Jewish people. This is very important for you to know, because most Gentile believers that I run into have a fear about witnessing to Jewish people. They believe that the Jewish people are very familiar with the Scriptures and because of that, they back off from witnessing to them.
The Talmud is a body of Rabbinical thought on the Holy Scriptures. It is made up of two parts, the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is basically a commentary by Rabbis on the Holy Scriptures and the Gemara is a commentary on the Mishnah. The Mishnah and the Gemara make up the talmud. What’s true concerning the Holy Scriptures is also true concerning the Talmud. Only the religious Jewish people are familiar with the Talmud. Orthodox Jews look at the Holy Scriptures through the Talmud. They interpret Scripture based on the insight that the Talmud (or Rabbis) offer. A major error is made with the Talmud. They actually put it on the same level with the Holy Scriptures. In fact, in some circles having a knowledge of the Talmud is held in higher esteem than that of Scripture itself. To put it in simple terms, the Mishnah is comparable to a commentary that someone would write on one of the books of the bible that we might buy at a Christian bookstore. The Gemara would be like a person who would come along and write a commentary on the commentary. When you witness to a Jewish person, use the Scriptures. Don’t worry about what they believe about the Bible. Pray that the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to convict them of their sin.