The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Books of Ketuvim
Song of Solomon

Ketuvim is the third and final section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The Hebrew word כתובים (ketuvim) means "writings." In English translations of the Hebrew Bible, this section is usually entitled "The Writings" or "Hagiographa."

In the Jewish textual tradition, Chronicles is counted as one book. Ezra and Nehemiah are also counted together as a single book called "Ezra." Thus, there are total of eleven books in the section called Ketuvim (see the enumeration in the list of books below).


Special Groups of Books in Ketuvim

The Three Poetic Books (Sifrei Emet)

Psalms, Proverbs, and Job employ a special system of cantillation notes appropriate to their poetic nature. In old masoretic manuscripts they are presented in a special form emphasizing the parallel stitches in the verses, also a function of their poetry. Collectively, these three books are known as Sifrei Emet (an abbreviation of the first letter from each title in Hebrew yields Emet). Their special cantillation notes are called Ta`amei Emet.

The Five Scrolls (Hamesh Megillot)

The five relatively short books of Song of Songs, Book of Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Book of Esther are collectively known as the Hamesh Megillot (The Five Scrolls). These scrolls are traditionally read over the course of the year in many Jewish communities. The list below presents them in the order they are read in the synagogue on holidays, beginning with the Song of Songs on Passover.

The following list divides the books of Ketuvim into three subgroups based on the distinctiveness of Sifrei Emet and Hamesh Megillot.

Order of the Books in Ketuvim

(as found in common printed editions)

Group I: The Three Poetic Books (Sifrei Emet)

Group II: The Five Scrolls (Hamesh Megillot)

Group III: Other Historical Books

Other Ways to Order the Books

The order of the books in Ketuvim varies in manuscripts and printed editions. Some, for instance, place Chronicles first instead of last. The above list presents the books in the order found in most common printed versions of the Hebrew Bible today. Historically, this particular order of the books derives from manuscripts written by the Jews of Ashkenaz (medieval Germany).

The Jewish textual tradition never finalized the order of the books in Ketuvim. The Babylonian Talmud (Bava Batra 14b-15a) gives their order as follows: Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Daniel, Scroll of Esther, Ezra, Chronicles.

In Tiberian masoretic codices including the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex, and often in old Spanish manuscripts as well, the order or Ketuvim is as follows: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra.

Targum on books in Ketuvim

Briefly: Western targumim exist on Sifrei Emet and on the Five Megillot. Details to follow.

Last updated: 02-05-2005 21:45:07
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55