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Evolution of Abrahamic religions Scripture

We know that Abrahamic religions basically mean Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Christianity has Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant major branches plus hybrids like Church of the East (that started as Nestorians), and Islam has Sunni and Shiite major branches. How do we find the moral foundation(s) of these religions? We start with the written scripture for their followers.
Abrahamic religions began with Judaism. Many Jews believe the first Jew was Abraham, a person born in the city of Ur in current day Iraq about 4,000 years ago, 1,000 years before the Hebrew language became a language. We donot know how the Jews created its calendar (the first day was the birthday of Adam or the first human created by God in the Abrahamic religions – this year (2014) is the year 5774 in the Jewish calendar). We also do not know when exactly Judaism started to teach its faith (be very careful reading the words and spellings in Judaism because they can be confusing with multiple meanings). Judaism, like other religions started as an oral (i.e. not a written) teaching, and the Hebrew word for teaching is torah. In other words, we donot know when oral torah began, other than it cannot be older than 4,000 years if Abraham was declared the first Jew, making all Abrahamic religions younger than India’s Hindu religion, for example. This assumes the first language of Judaism was not Hebrew.
2,400 years ago, there was apparently a “great synagogue” meeting to discuss what should be included in the scripture, presumably in Hebrew. The reference that this meeting took place appeared in the Mishnah component of Talmud which was first published 1,800 years ago. This could be the first written draft of the Jewish scripture.
Around the time the Second Temple was destroyed at 70ce, there was concern that Jewish culture may not survive. This fear facilitated a more rigorous effort to write down the Jewish tradition.
1,800 years ago, the first attempt to write the Jewish scripture was redacted by Rabbi Judah haNasi that became the Mishnah, written in Tannaitic Hebrew. This was the accepted core text component of the Talmud which should not change.
1,500 years ago, Talmud’s core text (i.e. Mishnah) added commentaries and notes that are called Gemara. There were two versions of the Gemara – one by Israeli scholars 350-400ce, and one by Babylonian scholars ~500ce. Unless specified otherwise, the Babylonian version of the Gemara is the accepted version of Gemara. These are the commentaries and notes in both Hebrew and Aramaic languages that form the second part of the Talmud. Some core text (i.e. Mishnah) is not supported by commentaries and notes (i.e. Gemara). In other words, Mishnah plus Gemara are the two components to the Talmud. However, the term Talmud could mean Gemara alone, or the Mishnah and Gemara as printed together. The oldest full (Israeli or Jerusalem) Talmud manuscript we know I’d dated 1289ce, known as the Leiden Talmud. The oldest full (Babylonian) Talmud manuscript we know is dated 1342ce, known as Munich Talmud (Cod.hebr. 95). The entire Talmud consists of 63 tractates in 6 orders. In standard print it is over 6,200 pages long.
1,000-1,200 years ago, a group of Jewish scholars led by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher (?-960ce) and Moshe ben Naphtali (890-940ce) created and published the 24 book Masoretic Text Hebrew Bible.
Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christians all reference primarily the Masoretic Text Hebrew Bible with the acronym Tanakh (5 books of Moses or Pentateuch or Chumash or Torah (Ta in the acronym), 8 books of Prophets or Neviim (na in the acronym), plus 11 books of Writing or Ketuvim (kh in the acronym)). The first seven books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges) are in the same order for Tanakh, Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christian Old Testaments. The other 17 books of Tanakh are all in the Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Old Testaments except in different order and sometimes split into two (e.g. Samual and Kings were split into 1Samual 2Samual, and 1Kings 2Kings, etc.). Catholics also used seven books (from Septuagint) which came from the Greek and not Hebrew origin. When Protestants reformed Christianity, they removed the 7 Books of Greek origin from Septuagint that the Catholics used in the Old Testament. Therefore there are 39 Old Testament books in the Protestant Bible.
800 years ago, Mosheh ben Maimon, aka Moses Maimonides (1135-1203 ce) created Halakha or Jewish Law when he lived in Egypt. This version is called Mishneh Torah (not to be confused with Mishnah, Torah, Talmud, Gemara, etc). Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christians do not use this Halakha, even though Maimonides was known to have influenced Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). For example, Aquinas specifically referred to Maimonides in the book “Commentary on the Sentences.” Aquinas had an important role to incorporate Aristotle’s philosophies and ethics into Christianity.
In summary:
1) Judaism has the Talmud (Mishnah and Gemara), Masoretic Text Tanakh, and the Mishneh Torah (aka Halakha) written between 2,400 – 800 years ago.
2) Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians rely mostly on the 1,000 year old Masoretic Text Hebrew Bible for the Old Testament. The New Testament is a separate story of Greek and Latin versions. For example, the King James English Bible was based on a 12th century incomplete Greek version of the New Testament that includes at least one page of Latin translated back into Greek before the Greek was translated into English.
3) Muslims use a completely separate source for their scripture Koran (or Quran) which traces back to 610ce when Archangel Gabriel facilitated a dialogue between Allah (God) and Mohammad (570-632ce) in a dark cave. The first caliph Abu Bakr (573-634ce) directed Zayd ibn Thabit (610-660ce) who was Mohammad’s personal scribe to collect the verses and produced the first hand-written manuscript of the Quran. Under the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan (577-656ce), Abu Bakr prepared a standard copy of the Quran, both in scripta defective Arabic in simple lines and strokes, completely different than today’s Arabic script. The Arabic script as we know it today, the scripta plena, was not perfected until the middle of the 9th century. Another original version of the Quran was written based on chronological order by Ali ibn Abi Talib (~601-661ce) who was the cousin and son-in-law of Mohammad. The order of the Ali Quran differed from the Abu Quran, but Uthman’s standardized version written by Abu Bakr was accepted without objections. It is believed that Jesus is an accepted prophet in the Quran, but not a God.
It would be interesting to explore the original source of the Quran, especially in the context of how Jesus was recognized as a prophet, not son of God. It seems the two ways Mohammad would know Jesus as a prophet would have to be 1) told by Allah or 2) told directly or indirectly by Jesus followers.


One thought on “Evolution of Abrahamic religions Scripture

  1. Note: there are 39 books in the Protestant Old Testament, 46 books in the Catholic Old Testament, and 51 books in the Eastern Orthodox Old Testament (keeping in mind there are other Old Testament versions elsewhere like Ethiopia which means the Bible is not universally accepted):
    Starting from the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament, Catholics would add the following seven books: Tobit, Judith, 1Macabee, 2Macabee, Wisdom, Sirach and Baruch.
    Starting from the 46 books of the Catholic Old Testament, Eastern Orthodox would add the following five books: 1Esdras, 3Macabee, 4Macabee, Prayer of Manasseh, and Letter of Jeremiah.

    Most of these different books relate to the Greek Septuagint books, but not all.

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