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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

- Terminology and Content

THE VAGUE TERM KETHUVIM, “WRITINGS,” reflects the variety of material collected in this canonical division, ranging from historical works (e.g., Chronicles), prayers (Psalms), wisdom works (e.g., Job), and apocalyptic prophecy (the second half of Daniel). It is likely that the various books now in this section entered the canon for quite different reasons: Psalms was used for prayers, the Song of Songs was probably first canonized as an ancient erotic poem used in wedding ceremonies, while the books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes may have been placed together in the canon because all three belong to a category of writing known as wisdom literature. Most likely the books now in Kethuvim came together and were viewed as authoritative and ultimately canonized toward the end of the Second Temple period, after the canonical section Nevi' im was closed, and thus the books now comprising Kethuvim were assembled together, despite their differences, into a single group. The wide variety of the ordering of these books found in manuscripts and canonical lists also reflects the fact that Kethuvim was canonized later than Torah, which has a fixed order, and Nevi' im, where there is only slight variation in the order of the books.

An early order, where the books are largely arranged in what the Rabbis understood to be their chronological sequence (from Ruth to Chronicles), is found in the Babylonian Talmud (b. B. Bat.15a). No surviving manuscripts, however, have this order. Most sources divide Kethuvim into three parts; however, unlike “the former prophets” and “the latter prophets,” no names are extant for each part.

The first section is composed of the three large books Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, either in that order, or in the order Psalms, Job, and Proverbs. Psalms is always the first book, suggesting that in some early sources (e.g., Luke 24.44 and the Dead Sea Scrolls) Psalms may be the title for the entire collection of Kethuvim.

These three large books are typically followed by five smaller books called ḥamesh megillot, “the five scrolls.” These books were likely copied together (much like the prophetic collection the Twelve) so that individual short scrolls would not get lost. Many orders exist for these books. The NJPS translation follows one common order, which arranges these books in the order in which they are read in the liturgical year: Song of Songs (Passover in the early spring), Ruth (Shavuot in the late spring), Lamentations (thefast of the ninth of Av in the summer), Ecclesiastes (Sukkot in the fall), and Esther (Purim in the late winter). Another common manuscript order arranges these books according to their attributed dates of authorship: Ruth (period of judges), Song of Songs (by Solomon as a youth), Ecclesiastes (by Solomon when he was old and jaded), Lamentations (by Jeremiah after the destruction of the Temple), and Esther (by Mordecai, during the Persian period).

The last collection is of three historical texts: Daniel (which also contains apocalyptic prophecy), Ezra‐Nehemiah, which narrates the history of the early postexilic period, and Chronicles, which very selectively retells history from Adam through the Cyrus declaration of 538 BCE. This is the order found in the NJPS translation, which follows some manuscripts and most printed editions. It is a strange order, since Ezra‐Nehemiah is a logical continuation of Chronicles, quite literally beginning where Chronicles ends, with the Cyrus declaration. It is thus not surprising that most manuscripts have Ezra‐Nehemiah as the final book of the Bible.

Finally, it is noteworthy that Chronicles and Ezra‐Nehemiah are each viewed by Jewish tradition as a single book. Like Samuel and Kings (see “Nevi' im,” p. 451), only under the influence of the Septuagint did some manuscripts and early printed versions of the Bible divide these books into two.

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