What is the culturally sensitive way to refer to the Old Testament?

I am aware of the need to refer to the 'old testament' as the Hebrew Bible.  Is it appropriate in writing to refer to the Hebrew Bible as the Hebrew Testament?  I see no references written in that manner but my pastor wants me to use Hebrew Testament in my writing.  thanks.

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"Hebrew Testament" shouldn't be a problem . . .

Using “Hebrew Testament” should have no problems.  The problem that many have with”Old Testament” is that the term can sound like the first part of the Bible is dated, belongs in the past.  “Hebrew” isn’t completely accurate since a good part of Daniel is in Aramaic.  Another problem that I have with “Hebrew Bible” is that this use of “Bible” makes it sound like the Old Testament is a separate Bible from the New Testament.  

I like the terms “First Testament” and “New Testament."

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Author: Stephen Charles Mott
Respect both Jewish and Christian traditions

This is an issue scholars are still debating. No consensus has been reached. Therefore my opinion will be just that, another opinion. I hope it is helpful.

I would say that the positive thing about using the expression Hebrew Testament is that it avoids falling into supersession, this idea that Christianity is superior and has replaced Judaism. In my opinion, using the expressions “Hebrew Testament” and “Christian Testament,” recognizes the fact the God has dealt equally but differently with two groups of people and that both traditions are valid.

If you are to use it in writing, and I don’t se why you shouldn’t, then you have to explain the reasons for doing so. Some may disagree with this nomenclature but as long as you respect the particularities of both the Jewish and the Christian traditions, then your choice is a valid one.



Author: Osvaldo D. Vena, Th.D.
"Hebrew Testament" doesn't really work . . .
The term Hebrew Bible or Hebrew Scriptures is a way to refer to what Christians call the Old Testament in a way that is not offensive to Jews, since they do not recognize their Scriptures as old or obsolete, or the New Testament as the fulfillment of the Old.

However, "Hebrew Testament" seems to me an odd way to refer to the Hebrew Bible.  "Testament," in this context, means "covenant."  While Christians emphasize the contrast between the old covenant given to Israel and the new covenant given through Jesus to the church (Jeremiah 31), Jews do not make this distinction. And they do not refer to their Hebrew Scriptures as a single "covenant."  So to refer to the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures as the "Hebrew Testament" is not really the way either Jews or Christians commonly refer to these books.
Different Terms for Different Audiences: Old Testament vs. Hebrew Bible
The term "Old Testament" is a Christian label for the scriptures that stem from the Jewish matrix of what became Christianity.  The term functions to distinguish these writings in Christian bibles from the "New Testament."  Obviously, for Judaism, there is no "Old Testament."  In Jewish discourse, the scriptures are formally, "the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings" (Hebrew:  Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim) and the term "TaNaK" is used as a short-hand label for these writings.
Among biblical scholars today (comprised of individuals of various faith-stances), the term "Hebrew Bible" is often used in place of "Old Testament" as the latter is a Christian confessional term.  So, e.g., a given scholar may describe him/herself as a "Hebrew Bible scholar." 
But, although the "Old Testament" of Protestants = the writings that form the "Hebrew Bible" (but in a different ordering), the Old Testament of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communions includes additional writings that are not part of the Jewish canon.  So, "Hebrew Bible" doesn't adequately reflect the "Old Testament" of these Christian traditions. 
In Christian discourse, "Old Testament" is an acceptable term, and is the term most widely known in the general culture too.  It reflects the traditional Christian view that these writings are scriptures for Christians too, and prefigure the coming of Jesus and are to be read by Christians as such.  Also, traditionally, Christians have treated the "Old Testament" as instructive in various other ways, such as formation of piety (especially the Psalms), and moral teaching (e.g., the Ten Commandments). 
Of course, "Old Testament" writings are also scriptures for Judaism, and are read very differently.  In inter-faith discourse, therefore, one might prefer "Hebrew Bible" or "Hebrew scriptures."
Author: Larry W. Hurtado
Hebrew Scriptures, or Tanakh

You can call it what you want, though I wonder how your minister would feel about a non-Christian using a term that no Christian would use for the New Testament. Hebrew scriptures works. If you want the Jewish version, try Tanach, which is a made up word combining parts of the Hebrew words for Torah, Prophets, and Writings. Any knowledgeable Jew would recognize and endorse that usage.

Author: Roger S. Gottlieb




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