WHAT’S THE SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE WORDS “TORAH,” “CHUMASH,” AND “PENTATEUCH”? For anyone who is interested in Old Testament Studies, these are three words that they will surely come across in their research. These three words in some way relate to one another, but in other ways they differ from each other as well. To assist people interested in studying the Bible, I wanted to assist in this process by explaining these three terms.
As I explained in the article “TORAH – What Does This Hebrew Word Mean?” The Hebrew word TORAH (pron. “toh-rah“) means “Instructions, Teaching, Guidance and Directives.” It does NOT mean “law.” And for the majority of the Old Testament, the word TORAH is used to refer to the instructions, teachings, and commandments that God gave to Moses throughout the Exodus, which comprise the first five books of the Bible:
- Genesis (Heb. Bereshith, pron. “Bear-ah-sheet“)
- Exodus (Heb. Shemot, pron. “Shem-moht“)
- Leviticus (Heb. Vayikra, pron. “Vah-yee-krah“)
- Numbers (Heb. Bamidbar, pron. “bah-mid-bar“)
- Deuteronomy (Heb. Devarim, pron. “Deh-var-eem“)
However, by the time of the New Testament, the meaning of the word TORAH has taken on a much wider scope of meaning and teachings than what is represented by the first five books of the Bible, as we will discuss later on in this series.
The Hebrew word CHUMASH (pron. “koo-mahsh“) is derived from the word chamesh, which means “five” or, more accurately, “a fifth,” and it literally refers to ONE of the five books of the TORAH, it is also used to all five books of the TORAH as well.
In my copy of THE CHUMASH: The Stone Edition (1994) contains five books of Moses broken down into its weekly readings, including some rabbinical commentary, the associated readings from the Prophets, called Haftorah, as well as the following five books – Esther, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes – known in Hebrew as “The Five Megillos.”
Finally, the Greek word PENTATEUCH (pron. “pen-tah-took“) is a compound word comprised of two Greek words: Pente (“five”) and teuchos (“book”). Therefore, it literally refers to a “five-volume book.” It refers to the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.