Divisions Of The Bible

This is the general division of the sacred books among the Jews. But they divide the Pentateuch, in particular, into certain paragraphs or sections, which they call Parashiuth, and which they subdivide into the Great and Little. A Great section contains as much as is to be read in the synagogue in a week. There are in all fifty-four of these, inasmuch as there may be so many weeks in a year; for the Jews are obliged to read all the Pentateuch over once every year, finishing it on the feast of tabernacles, and beginning it again on the next Sabbath day. In the time of the persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes, they also selected fifty-four sections to be read out of the Prophets, which have ever since constituted the second lessons in the Jewish synagogue-service. The Little sections, which are subdivisions of the Greater, are made according to the subjects they treat of; and these Great and Little sections are again of two sorts, one of which is called Petuchoth, that is, open sections; and the other Sethumoth, that is, close sections. The former commences in the Hebrew Bibles always at the beginning of lines, and are marked with three P's if it be a great section, and with only one if it be a little section; because P is the first letter of the word Petuchoth. Every open section takes its name from its first word; and thus the first section in the whole Bible is called Bereshith, which is the first word of the Book of Genesis in Hebrew. The close sections begin the middle of a line, and are marked with the letter Samech, which is the first letter of the word Sethumoth; if it be a great section it has three Samechs; if a little section, only one. Every great section is also divided again into seven parts, which are read in the synagogue by so many different persons. If any priest be present, he begins, and a Levite reads after him; and in the choice of the rest, regard is had to their dignity and condition. The divisions of the prophetical books already mentioned are read jointly with those of Moses, in the same manner. These latter divisions they call Haphteroth, a term which signifies, in Hebrew, dismissions; because after this reading is over they dismiss the people.