Digest of terms

Torah

a term central to Jewish ethics but with a range of meanings. It is often translated as 'law', but is better taken to mean 'teaching' or 'instruction'. In the strictest sense it refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), known as the books of Moses because they are believed by Jews to be the written record of the revelation communicated to Moses on Mount Sinai at the time of the Exodus (though what 'communicated' means is a matter of much debate within today's varieties of Judaism). More loosely it may refer to the whole Hebrew Bible. A third aspect emerged around the time of Jesus and subsequently with the view that the written Torah had been supplemented by an oral Torah, also revealed to Moses but never written down. These teachings did now begin to be recorded in writing, resulting eventually in two versions, the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. The authority of the Talmuds came to complement or indeed rival that of Torah in the other two senses.

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