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As an atheist who is studying Christianity, the terms "Old Testament" and "New Testament" are neutral and academic terms to me. I know that they are unpopular with Jews. In the odd case in which I have to point out the flawed nature of the Christian scriptures, force of habit might lead me to slip up and say "NT" from time to time, but I will try my best to avoid it.

Are "Jewish Bible" and "Christian Bible" acceptable?


At the risk of being off topic, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for making me feel welcome here. I look forward to learning from all of you in the future. L'Chaim! (or as my Irish ancestors would say, Sláinte!)

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    Seems fine to me. – Double AA Aug 12 '15 at 22:27
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    Wad. May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind always be by your back. I kinda always wished that Jews would refer to the Torah as the Bible. "Bible" conveys the fact that Jews and Christians have something in common. I am always amazed at the number of Christians who have no idea that Torah/Tanakh are not some mystical writings, but simply, the Bible. – JJLL Aug 13 '15 at 14:21
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I think "Jewish Bible" (or "Hebrew Bible", as noted elsewhere), though not often used by practicing Jews among themselves, is readily understood and very unlikely to cause offense.

"Christian Bible" is also unlikely to cause offense, but I, for one, would take it to mean the whole thing (including the so-called Old Testament). I can't think of a better way to refer to the so-called New Testament than "the so-called New Testament". Perhaps someone else will post a better answer, though.

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    I have been puzzling over the question of how to best describe the "NT". My thoughts so far: 1) "NT" in quotation marks implies the "so called" element. 2) 'Christian texts/scriptures', which seems to imply that the texts/scriptures in question are exclusively Christian. 3) 'The gospels', with or without quotation marks, although this would not apply to the bulk of the "NT", because most of its books are not gospels, but epistles and letters, etc. – Wad Cheber Aug 13 '15 at 0:48
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    IMO, the proper noun New Testament is the best way to refer to that body of work. As a title, it comes with implied quotation marks. Similarly, referring to the anthology The World's Best Science Fiction by its title doesn't imply agreement with its self-description. – Isaac Moses Aug 13 '15 at 0:50
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    I sometimes use "Christian testament" to refer to their books. "Christian texts" sound good to me (and I may adopt that). Putting their name in quotes conveys the "so-called" part to me. – Monica Cellio Aug 13 '15 at 1:39
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    @IsaacMoses Would you feel similarly about the body of work named "Old Testament"? – Double AA Aug 13 '15 at 17:40
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    @DoubleAA, in this context, no, because we have perfectly understandable terms that are accurate, and because Tanach matters to Judaism, while the NT does not. Sure, the title of the NT embeds theological claims that are incorrect or even blasphemous, from our point of view. So does that of Revelations. Whatever. These are Christian books containing Christian beliefs, so they have Christian titles. Same thing, by the way, with the Pope: He's not my father in any way, but that's his title; I'm not ascribing to its semantic content by using it. – Isaac Moses Aug 13 '15 at 17:52
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    FWIW this is the term used in our Days of Awe publication's glossary. @WadCheber – Scimonster Aug 17 '15 at 8:39
  • @IsaacMoses. isbn.nu/0330484559. – TRiG Mar 30 '17 at 17:29
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FWIW, in academic discourse, "Bible" can be understood more restrictively as the "Hebrew Bible" when used by Jewish authors or in Jewish contexts, while it can be understood more expansively as (some form of) the Christian Bible ("Old Testament" + "New Testament") when used by Christian authors or in Christian contexts. Biblical scholars find this fluctuation in usage quite natural.

Also FWIW, the Jewish Study Bible refers to the New Testament without any impulse to put it in scare quotes. The Preface includes some comments that reflect tangentially on OP's question on page x.

Christian writers sometimes refer to their scriptures as the writings of the "prophets and apostles", picking up a usage implied in the New Testament itself (2 Peter 3:2) and in an early text, the Muratorian Fragment -- an important source for historians of the Christian canon. This suggests another possibility for refering to the New Testament = "apostolic writings". This unambiguously refers only to New Testament texts, and not those of later Christian writers.


P.s. I know this answer is a bit tangential to OP's direct concern, but the Answer thread has raised some corollaries which it seemed fair to address.

  • Thanks for this input. "Apostolic writings" had never occurred to me. – Monica Cellio Aug 13 '15 at 13:46
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You could always use JW terminology:

What is commonly called the “Old Testament” the Witnesses (and the NWT) call the “Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures”; what is commonly called the “New Testament” they call the “Christian Greek Scriptures” (the word Christian is intended to prevent any possible confusion with the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures).

This is, arguably, more neutral terminology than the usual. I like it.

Of course, the Witnesses like to be different, sometimes, apparently, just for the sake of being different.

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As for the Jewish bible, you can call it the Jewish/Hebrew bible; but most people here will just call it Tanach/Tanakh. I wouldn't suggest calling the Christian "nt" as Christian texts, because texts could imply even something written years later by some random Christian about the religion. But the other suggestions given in of msh210's answer and the comments are fine.

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    Note that besides Tanach, the term "Bible" is also used in Jewish circles, including Mi Yodeya, to refer to the Jewish Bible. – Isaac Moses Aug 13 '15 at 5:51

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