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Ketuvim

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Ketuvim (Hebrew: כְּתוּבִים‎, "writings") is the third and final section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), after Torah and Nevi'im. In English translations of the Hebrew Bible, this section is usually entitled "Writings" or "Hagiographa."

Books of Ketuvim

Three Poetic Books
1. Psalms
2. Book of Proverbs
3. Book of Job
Five Megillot
4. Song of Solomon
5. Book of Ruth
6. Book of Lamentations
7. Ecclesiastes
8. Book of Esther
Other Books
9. Book of Daniel
10. Book of Ezra - Book of Nehemiah
11. Books of Chronicles


In the Jewish textual tradition, Chronicles is counted as one book. Ezra and Nehemiah are also counted together as a single book called "Ezra." Thus, there is a total of eleven books in the section called Ketuvim (see the enumeration in the list of books below).

Special groups of books in KetuvimEdit

The poetic booksEdit

In masoretic manuscripts (and some printed editions), Psalms, Proverbs and Job are presented in a special two-column form emphasizing the parallel stichs in the verses, which are a function of their poetry. Collectively, these three books are known as Sifrei Emet (an acronym of the titles in Hebrew, איוב, משלי, תהלים yields Emet אמ"ת, which is also the Hebrew for "truth").

These three books are also the only ones in Tanakh with a special system of cantillation notes that are designed to emphasize parallel stichs within verses. However, the beginning and end of the book of Job are in the normal prose system.

The five scrolls (Hamesh Megillot)Edit

The five relatively short books of Song of Songs, Book of Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Book of Esther are collectively known as the Hamesh Megillot (The Five Scrolls). These scrolls are traditionally read over the course of the year in many Jewish communities. The list below presents them in the order they are read in the synagogue on holidays, beginning with the Song of Solomon on Passover.

Other booksEdit

Besides the three poetic books and the five scrolls, the remaining books in Ketuvim are Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles.

Although there is no formal grouping for these books in the Jewish tradition, they nevertheless share a number of distinguishing characteristics:

  • Their narratives all openly describe relatively late events (i.e. the Babylonian captivity and the subsequent restoration of Zion).
  • The Talmudic tradition ascribes late authorship to all of them.
  • Two of them (Daniel and Ezra) are the only books in Tanakh with significant portions in Aramaic.

Order of the books in KetuvimEdit

Part of a series on
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The following list presents the books of Ketuvim in the order they appear in most printed editions. It also divides them into three subgroups based on the distinctiveness of Sifrei Emet and Hamesh Megillot (see above).

Group I: The Three Poetic Books (Sifrei Emet)

Group II: The Five Scrolls (Hamesh Megillot)

Group III: Other Historical Books

Other ways to order the booksEdit

The order of the books in Ketuvim varies in manuscripts and printed editions. Some, for instance, place Chronicles first instead of last. The above list presents the books in the order found in most common printed versions of the Hebrew Bible today. Historically, this particular order of the books derives from manuscripts written by the Jews of Ashkenaz (medieval Germany).

The Jewish textual tradition never finalized the order of the books in Ketuvim. The Babylonian Talmud (Bava Batra 14b-15a) gives their order as follows: Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Daniel, Scroll of Esther, Ezra, Chronicles.

In Tiberian masoretic codices including the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex, and often in old Spanish manuscripts as well, the order or Ketuvim is as follows: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel, Ezra.

Liturgical useEdit

There is no formal system of synagogal reading of Ketuvim equivalent to the Torah portion and haftarah.

It is thought that there was once a cycle for reading the Psalms, parallel to the triennial cycle for Torah reading, as the number of psalms (150) is similar to the number of Torah portions in that cycle, and remnants of this tradition exist in Italy. All Jewish liturgies contain copious extracts from the Psalms, but these are normally sung to a regular recitative or rhythmic tune rather than read or chanted. Some communities also have a custom of reading Proverbs in the weeks following Pesach, and Job on the Ninth of Ab.

The five megillot are read on the festivals, as mentioned above, though Sephardim have no custom of public reading of Song of Songs on Passover or Ecclesiastes on Sukkot. There are traces of an early custom of reading a haftarah from Ketuvim on Shabbat afternoons, but this does not survive in any community. Some Reform communities that operate a triennial cycle choose haftarot on Shabbat morning from Ketuvim as well as Neviim.

CantillationEdit

Medieval sources speak of three cantillation melodies, for Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim respectively. Today the position is more complicated.

Oriental Sephardic communities preserve cantillation systems for the three poetic books, namely Psalms, Proverbs and the main part of Job (usually a different melody for each of the three books). No such systems exist in the Ashkenazi or Spanish and Portuguese traditions. However, the Ashkenazic yeshiva known as Aderet Eliyahu, or (more informally) Zilberman's, in the Old City of Jerusalem, uses an adaptation of the Syrian cantillation-melody for these books, and this is becoming more popular among other Ashkenazim as well.

In all communities there are special cantillation melodies for Lamentations and Esther, and in some communities for the Song of Songs. Otherwise, the melody for the book of Ruth is considered the "default" melody for books of the Ketuvim not otherwise provided for. The "prose" passages at the beginning and end of the book of Job, as read on Tisha B'Av, may be read either to the tune of Ruth or to one resembling that for the Song of Songs.

The Targum to KetuvimEdit

Western targumim exist on Sifrei Emet, on the Five Megillot and on Chronicles, i.e. on all the books of Ketuvim besides Daniel and Ezra (which contain large portions in Aramaic anyway). There are several complementary targumim to Esther.

There is, however, no "official" eastern (Babylonian) targum to Ketuvim, equivalent to Targum Onkelos on the Torah and Targum Jonathan on Nevi'im. In fact, the Babylonian Talmud explicitly notes the lack of a Targum to Ketuvim, explaining that Jonathan ben Uzziel was divinely prevented from completing his translation of the Bible. A more prosaic explanation may consist in the lack of formal readings of Ketuvim in the synagogue, making it unnecessary to have an official system for line-by-line translation.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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