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

- Introduction

IN PRINTED EDITIONS OF THE TANAKH, the three initial large books of Kethuvim, Psalms, Proverbs, and Job (sometimes ordered Psalms, Job, Proverbs), are followed by five smaller books. In this translation, they appear in the order of the Songs of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. In the Middle Ages, these were called πamesh megillot, the five scrolls.

These books are counted as individual books and were not always perceived as a single unit. In the Septuagint, Ruth, which opens “In the days that the judges ruled,” appears after Judges, and Lamentations is placed after Jeremiah since an ancient tradition ascribes the authorship of Lamentations to Jeremiah. The Babylonian Talmud as well does not know of the πamesh megillot; it suggests (b. B. Bat. 14b) that the order of the beginning of the Kethuvim is: Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentations. A small number of medieval Hebrew manuscripts follow this tradition, as well as other orders that do not place these five books together.

The order in the NJPS Tanakh translation is a common one, found in numerous manuscripts. The books are arranged in the order in which they are read liturgically in the annual cycle, beginning with the spring new year (see Exod. 12.2 ): Song of Songs is read on Passover (April), Ruth on Shavuot (May–June), Lamentations on the ninth of Av (July–August), Ecclesiastes on Sukkot (September–October), and Esther on Purim (March). Another common order, found in the best early manuscripts (Aleppo Codex, the first complete Masoretic manuscript [10th century], and Leningrad Codex B19A, the earliest extant complete manuscript [11th century]; see essay “Masoretic Bible,” pp. 2077–84), have a different order. These manuscripts place the megillot in chronological order according to theories of traditional authorship: Ruth (Samuel), Song of Songs (Solomon in his youth), Ecclesiastes (Solomon in his old age), Lamentations (Jeremiah), and Esther (Mordecai, after the Babylonian exile). Many other orders exist. The grouping of the five books together reflects their common liturgical use, and perhaps a desire to have another pentad, to parallel the five books in the Torah and the five books within the book of Psalms.

[ADELE BERLIN AND MARC ZVI BRETTLER]

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