Bible Review 7:6, December 1991

What’s a Massa?

The collection of prophetic books ends with three massas—but what’s a massa?

By Richard Simon Hanson

The prophetic collection of books in the Hebrew Bible ends with three massa’ot (singular, massa’). So what’s a massa (pronounced mah-SAH)?

The prophetic collection of books in the Hebrew Bible also ends with the little Book of Malachi. Who’s Malachi? Answer: He’s nobody. He’s simply the last massa.

So, once again, what’s a massa?

Let’s focus in from the broadest perspective:

The Hebrew Bible is a trilogy; it consists of three collections: (1) The Torah, also known as the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses; (2) the Nevi’im, which means Prophets; and (3) the Kethuvim, or Writings.

From this comes the Jewish title for the entire corpus: TeNaK, variously spelled tanach or tanakh. Tanakh, as Jews call the Hebrew Bible, is an acronym consisting of T for Torah, N for Nevi’im and K for Kethuvim.

The first two of these collections, the Torah and the Prophets, were apparently known in some form as completed collections by the time of Jesus, for the New Testament Gospels frequently refer to the Law (that is, the Torah) and the Prophets.

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