Research Query: Tanakh/תנ״ך

Michael Carasik's picture

I have seen Tanakh described as "the traditional name" for the Hebrew Bible — which it seems to me cannot be right.  (That, I think, would have been Mikra.)

Can anyone point me to the history of this word?  The dictionaries assign it to "the modern period" (which seems obvious), but … who coined it and when?  How long did it take to catch on?



Michael Carasik

Tal Ilan, "The term and concept of TaNaKh." in What is Bible? (2012) 219-234

Hope that is helpful!

Gail Labovitz
American Jewish University

on the use of the term תנ"ך:

the term תנ"ך was not first introduced in the modern period.
rather, we already find תנ"ך in the masorah magna of the medieval period.
the MM takes note of the threefold division of the BIble: תורה, נביאים, כתובים, and so too in Aramaic.
sometimes these terms occur separately, and sometimes in various combinations.
in certain notes which contain three cases, one from each division of the BIble, the MM note will add:
אנ"ך - for the divisions (in Aramaic: אורייתא etc); and sometimes the note will add תנ"ך for the divisions
in Hebrew.
as pointed out by S. Frensdorff, Die Massora Magna, 1876, reprint: New York 1968 (with title page: The Massorah Magna),
p. 14, top left (s.v. אנ"ך), in the 1525 Rabbinic Bible, you can find examples of this use in the MM at Num. 23:!2 and Deut. 21:23 (2x).

see also the use by Rashba (1235-1310), in his Responsa, V, no. 119: ואע"פ שעכשיו כותבין סדורי ברכות והתפלות, שיש בהם כמה פסוקים של תנ"ך

Jordan Penkower
(Prof., Dept. of Bible, Bar-Ilan University) :

Thanks to all who have replied, including privately.
What I was really curious about is not merely when the term was invented, but also when and how it became used so commonly.

Marc Brettler and I had an exchange about this question a few years ago.  Basically the term ANaKH or TaNaKH was invented and diffused by the Masoretes who flourished between the 6th and 10th centuries.  During prior centuries Rabbinic literature did not have a term equivalent  to the later Protestant concept of the Bible or the Christian formulation of the Old Testament.  Now Jews treat TaNakH as the equivalent of the Jewish Bible, but historically it is a false equivalency.  Jewish terms such as Torah, Mikra, Kra, Torah Neviim, have had variable meanings and don't correspond to Bible.  Kitvei ha-Qodesh is the closest, equivalent, but it is a plural, like the etymology of Bible, Ta Biblia, the Greek words meaning The Scolls. 


My "Interdependence of Scripture" In Moshe Ma'oz, ed. The Meeting of Civilizations: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, Eastbourne, Sussex Academic Press, 2009, Portland, Oregon, Sussex Academic Press, 2009, pp. 34-53, argues that the spread of the concept TaNaKH, as a single book, rather than an acronym representing Kitvei Ha-Qodesh,  was a response to the Islamic concept of the Quran and the Muslim notion of ahl al-Kitab.  Kitab being a necessary condition for obtaining dhimmi status.