Difference Between Hebrew Bible and Torah

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 21, 2022


Difference Between Hebrew Bible and Torah Difference Between Hebrew Bible and Torah

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For many Jews, the Old Testament is often referred to as the Torah, and this has led to some confusion over which book we’re talking about. So, how do you tell the difference between the Hebrew Bible and the Torah? The answer lies in how these books are organized and used by different Jewish communities.

Several terms are used interchangeably to refer to Judaism's central religious text, but only one of them is accurate: The Hebrew Bible. Torah does not refer to a singular book; it refers to Jewish laws and traditions—the meaning behind it may differ depending on who you ask. Torah means teaching. In modern Hebrew, Talmud refers specifically to a set of teachings based on the study and analysis of ancient texts that provide commentary on current issues in Judaism.

The Talmud helps interpret laws and issues, although no single document contains everything there is to know about Torah or Talmud as they relate to Judaism. It’s important to note that these words don't appear anywhere in scripture itself. The Hebrew Bible is also referred to as Tanakh, which comes from an acronym for three sections of scripture: Torah (Teaching), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). These books were written over thousands of years by dozens of authors across several countries. Although many passages have been translated into English, some parts remain untranslated due to their sacred nature.

For example, when Jews read from scripture during services, they read from scrolls rather than books because books aren't considered holy enough for such use. When reading scripture aloud, Jews follow specific rules of pronunciation and intonation. They often chant rather than speak so that people can listen carefully to what is being said. If a word appears more than once in a passage, they typically say it differently each time so listeners can tell them apart. To give just one example, take how we pronounce God. When we see God's name in print or hear someone say it aloud, we typically pronounce it like GOD with all capital letters. But if we're reading from scriptures aloud at temple services, we would never say God's name like that because doing so would be disrespectful. Instead, we would pronounce God's name differently each time it appears to show reverence for its holiness.

Hebrew Bible vs Torah

What’s in a Name? Though both Hebrew Bible and Torah refer to Jewish religious texts, it’s important to understand that these two terms are not interchangeable. To find out which term refers to which text, you must first consider how each term is used when referring to scripture. The following table highlights how each word is typically used in different biblical texts. Hebraic Torah = Pentateuch = Books of Moses = First 5 books of Old Testament + Books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel & Kings (7 books) Tanakh = OLD TESTAMENT KJV: Old Testament (38 books) + Proverbs, Psalms & Job NEW TESTAMENT KJV: New Testament (27 books)

 In Judaism, you’ll also see Hebrew Bible used as a reference to all Jewish scripture (Torah and other texts), though it may be abbreviated as HB or Hb when doing so in written English (as per Chicago Style). But regardless of how you use these terms, understanding that Hebrew Bible and Torah are not interchangeable can save a lot of confusion. Just remember: if you don’t know which one to use, it's okay to ask!

Difference Between Hebrew Bible and Torah in Tabular Form

Table: Hebrew Bible vs Torah
Parameters of Comparison
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is an assortment of 24 books and is a significant blessed sacred writing of the Jews.
The Torah is one of the fundamental segments of the Hebrew Bible and is additionally separated into five books.
Main division
Hebrew Bible has three fundamental divisions the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim.
Torah includes five divisions inside it Numbers, Exodus, Leviticus, Genesis, and Deuteronomy.
Followed by
The Hebrew Bible is trailed by Jewish individuals.
It is likewise trailed by Jewish individuals.
Public reading started
2nd century CE.           
4th century CE.
Collection of  
It has a total set of twenty-four books.
Torah is divided into five books.

What is Hebrew Bible?

The Hebrew Bible or Jewish Bible, to give it its full name, is a collection of sacred texts that forms part of Judaism's scriptures. It has two parts - The Torah, which itself contains further sub-sections known as books; and then other ancient texts in the biblical language (rather than Hebrew). These include writings such as Ruth, Song of Songs, and Lamentations. Christianity also includes books from these Old Testament sections in its canon (see 'Old Testament books accepted by most Christians' below) - hence Jews describe their version as The Tanakh. In total there are 39 books in the Hebrew Bible. They are traditionally divided into three groups: The Law (Torah), The Prophets (Neviim), and Writings (Ketuvim).

Why does it have so many names? For a long time, different Christian churches had different canons. The Catholic Church used one set of books (called the Vulgate), while Protestants used another set until 1827 when they finally agreed on one list called The King James Version of 1611 (which Catholics later adopted too). Some Orthodox Churches still use an older list but they've never been able to agree on an official list with all branches of Christianity - which is why there are so many names! When you hear someone talking about The Holy Scriptures or The Good Book, they're probably referring to whichever version their religion uses. But if you want to know what each book specifically says and means, you'll need to check out your specific religion's interpretation!

How many versions are there of the Hebrew Bible?

The terms Hebrew Bible and Torah are often used interchangeably, though technically they're two different things—or are they? The Hebrew word Torah refers to all of Judaism's central holy texts, which includes both what we refer to as the Old Testament in Christianity and Judaism's sacred scripture called the Tanakh. On a basic level, the difference between Hebrew Bible and Torah comes down to an organizational methodology. The Tanakh consists of several distinct books of varying lengths, each organized into three major sections. The Jewish order lists these books in a specific order that was decided upon centuries ago for liturgical purposes; we'll get into that more later on in our guide. However, when most people think of the Bible, they're referring to a version known as the Christian canon or New Testament.

This list is identical to what Jews call their Tanakh (though Christians divide it up differently), but because it also contains four additional writings not found in any other version of Jewish scripture, Christians refer to it as the Bible. So why do some people use Bible and others use Torah? It comes down to how you want your audience to perceive your message. When speaking with non-Jews, many Jewish people will switch from using Tanakh to Torah so as not to confuse their audience. But even within Judaism, there can be differences in opinion about whether the Torah should only refer to those five books of Moses or if it should include everything contained within what Christians call the Old Testament. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that neither term is inherently right or wrong—they’re just words describing a particular viewpoint. To avoid confusion, however, you may want to make sure everyone involved knows exactly which interpretation you’re talking about before proceeding with further discussion.

What is Torah?

The word Torah, or Tora as it is sometimes spelled, refers to God’s laws as they are written in the 5 books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Torah means teaching or instruction. These five books contain 613 separate laws that outline how people should live their lives according to God's will. Many Jews believe that these laws were created by God himself and handed down through Moses. However, some think that many of these laws were simply developed by Jewish leaders later on after Moses died. This theory is called the documentary hypothesis. It argues that much of what makes up the Torah was written during a time when Israel was under Roman rule (around 200 BCE). Some parts may have been added even later than that. Because Judaism doesn't have a central religious authority, there isn't one official answer to which view is correct. Whatever your beliefs about where these rules came from, you'll need to know them if you want to become an observant Jew or convert to Judaism.

What are the 3 parts of the Torah?

3 sections of text fall under the Torah (or just The Torah). The entire religion and practice of Judaism revolve around these texts, so it’s very important to distinguish between them. Before we dig into what each section is, let’s first talk about how they were compiled and when each one was written or created by humans. The Five Books of Moses (also known as The Pentateuch) are responsible for some of our earliest records in human history and have been referenced across many texts, like The Old Testament and other religious holy books. Scholars believe that these 5 books were put together over some time, with Exodus being written first, followed by Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and then finally Genesis. Each book has its unique structure and flow but there are also some similarities between them all. For example, each book starts with a prologue explaining why it was written or who wrote it (for example These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness... Exodus 1:1-5). Then there is usually an introduction that talks about what you will learn inside (for example These be the generations of Adam... Genesis 5:1-2), before diving into a story from beginning to end.

The Main Difference Between Hebrew Bible and Torah in Points

  • The Hebrew Bible consists of 24 books written over thousand years; each book was written by a different author and compiled at a different time.
  • Many of these authors may not have known one another, or if they did, they disagreed with one another on certain points.
  • The Torah, on the other hand, consists of just five books that were originally written by Moses between 1450 BCE and 1400 BCE (the New Testament was probably written roughly 100 years later).
  • Moses had intimate knowledge of all five books as he is quoted many times within them (usually in the third person) and wrote some sections himself.
  • In Deuteronomy 34, we are told that Moses died and God buried him in an unmarked grave somewhere near Mt. Nebo. However, in Deuteronomy 32:51, we read that Moses saw his life's work from afar and then died peacefully without ever entering Canaan.
  • It's difficult to reconcile these two accounts unless you realize that it's describing two different people who share similar names—Moses from Exodus 32-34 and Moses from Deuteronomy 1-3.
  • This distinction isn't always made clear to modern readers but it was very important to ancient Jews because anyone claiming to be a prophet would be asked whether he was descended from Aaron or Moses, son of Amram.
  • If he wasn't, he was considered a false prophet. Since Moses' death happened long before Jesus' birth, there's no way for Jesus to claim descent from Moses even though He quotes him more than any other Old Testament figure.
  • The first three books of the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) are also called the Law while Genesis through Numbers is called the Prophets.
  • In addition to helping us understand what prophets did and how they differed from priests, these designations tell us something about how early Jews viewed their scriptures.
  • They believed that their laws came directly from God whereas their prophets received revelations about what God wanted them to do but didn't necessarily know everything He planned on doing in future generations.


The Hebrew Bible and Torah are both two names for what most Jews refer to as Tanakh, an acronym that means Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim (the three sections of Jewish scripture). However, a more accurate way to refer to these two terms might be Old Testament and Tanakh. The Old Testament is a term used by Christians—and sometimes even Jews themselves—to describe only those books in Tanakh that precede Christian scripture (the New Testament). For example, Christians don't recognize all of Tanakh as divinely inspired, so they do not consider some sections part of their sacred text. Thus, when Christians speak of The Old Testament, they mean only those scriptures recognized by Judaism before Christianity's split from Judaism. But because Old Testament refers to something specific within Christianity, it's best to use it with care around people who may take offense at its implications. Similarly, Tanakh is also a sensitive word among many Jews because it implies that some parts of scripture are less important than others. Therefore, if you want to avoid confusing or offending someone while discussing religious texts, simply ask which book they're referring to when using either term.


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"Difference Between Hebrew Bible and Torah." Diffzy.com, 2023. Thu. 23 Mar. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-hebrew-bible-and-torah-537>.

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