Why are the Jews called the people of the Book?

Jews have always had a special reverence and appreciation for books.

A 1,000-year-old Hebrew Bible,was unveiled at the Museum of the Bible on November 8, 2019. (photo credit: JAMES STELLUTO/MUSEUM OF THE BIBLE)
A 1,000-year-old Hebrew Bible,was unveiled at the Museum of the Bible on November 8, 2019.
(photo credit: JAMES STELLUTO/MUSEUM OF THE BIBLE)
Since time immemorial, the Jewish people have been known as the people of the Book. While historically the term originates from Islam, which categorized the Jews as ‘people of the book’ – meaning those who possessed an earlier revelation from God that was written down –  the term most often refers to the intimate connection between the Jews and the Torah – the Hebrew Bible (Tanach), and the many books associated with it, such as the Talmud, commentaries, and codes of Jewish law. Judaism reveres the written word from the Torah scroll that is painstakingly written on parchment to the printed Talmud that contains the rabbinic explanations of the Bible. Jews were among the first to take advantage of the printing press when it was invented in the mid-1500s, and the Bible, Talmud, and prayer book (siddur) quickly became standard Hebrew printed works.
Jews have always had a special reverence and appreciation for books. Harry Wolfson, the early 20th century Harvard scholar and historian  and the first chairman of a Judaic Studies Center in the United States, was once confronted by a colleague who said, “Why do you Jews think you are so special?” Wolfson is reputed to have responded: “As far as I know, we are the only people who, when we drop a book on the floor, we pick it up and kiss it."
The Bible is the best-selling book of all time, and 93% of Israelis, according to a 2013 survey, have a copy of the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) in their homes. The Bible is presented to Jewish IDF soldiers upon their taking the army oath of allegiance, symbolizing the connection between the Jewish people, its land, and the Book of Books. It is no wonder that the Jews are justly called the ‘People of the Book.’