Time to Study The Old Testament…Again – Part 2, The Books

Jeff Spector doctrine, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, Scriptural translation, scripture, symbols, theology 6 Comments

In this part 2 of the Studying the Old Testament series, we will discuss the books of the Old Testament, how they were organized, different books contained in different bibles, and extra-biblical books.

The Books

You would think that for scriptures as old as the Old Testament is that everyone would agree on what books are included in the canon.  But that is certainly not the case. In the table shown below and mentioned in the last post, the Old Testament can be anywhere from 39 to 47 books.

In the Hebrew Bible, the TaNaKh, this anagram stands for the three divisions:

  • Torah, the Law
  • Nevi’im, the Prophets
  • Ketuvim, The Writings

The Hebrew Bible contains 39 books and canonization occurred between 200 BCE and 200 CE. A popular position is that the Torah was canonized circa 400 BCE, the Prophets circa 200 BCE, and the Writings circa 100 CE.  (McDonald & Sanders, ed., The Canon Debate, page 4)

The order of the books are different than most Christian versions.  This table comes from Wikipedia, “Books of the Bible.”

Tanakh

Protestant Old Testament

Catholic Old Testament (Douay)

Greek Orthodox Old Testament

Slavonic Old Testament

Original Language

(Jewish Bible)

Torah or Pentateuch

Genesis

Genesis

Genesis

Genesis

Genesis

Hebrew

Exodus

Exodus

Exodus

Exodus

Exodus

Hebrew

Leviticus

Leviticus

Leviticus

Leviticus

Leviticus

Hebrew

Numbers

Numbers

Numbers

Numbers

Numbers

Hebrew

Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy

Hebrew

Nevi’im or Prophets

Historical books

Joshua

Joshua

Joshua

Joshua

Joshua

Hebrew

Judges

Judges

Judges

Judges

Judges

Hebrew

see below

Ruth

Ruth

Ruth

Ruth

Hebrew

Samuel

1 Samuel

1 Kings

1 Samuel (1 Kingdoms)[1]

1 Kingdoms

Hebrew

2 Samuel

2 Kings

2 Samuel (2 Kingdoms)[1]

2 Kingdoms

Hebrew

Kings

1 Kings

3 Kings

1 Kings (3 Kingdoms)[1]

3 Kingdoms

Hebrew

2 Kings

4 Kings

2 Kings (4 Kingdoms)[1]

4 Kingdoms

Hebrew

Chronicles

1 Chronicles

1 Paralipomenon

1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles

Hebrew

see below

2 Chronicles

2 Paralipomenon

2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles

Hebrew

1 Esdras

(2 Esdras)*

Greek (or Aramaic?)

Ezra (includes Nehemiah)

Ezra

1 Esdras

Ezra (2 Esdras)[1] [2]

Ezra

Hebrew(+Aramaic)

see below

Nehemiah

2 Esdras (Nehemias)

Nehemiah (2 Esdras)[1] [2]

Nehemiah

Hebrew

(1 Esdras)*

2 Esdras

Greek (or Aramaic)

Tobias

Tobit

Tobit

Aramaic

Judith

Judith

Judith

Hebrew

see below

Esther

Esther[3]

Esther[3]

Esther[3]

Hebrew

1 Machabees[4]

1 Maccabees

see below

Hebrew or Aramaic?

2 Machabees[4]

2 Maccabees

see below

Greek

3 Maccabees

Greek

4 Maccabees

Greek

Wisdom books

see below

Job

Job

Job

Job

Hebrew

see below

Psalms

Psalms

Psalms[5]

Psalms[5]

Hebrew

Odes[6]

Hebrew(+Greek)

see below

Proverbs

Proverbs

Proverbs

Proverbs

Hebrew

see below

Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes

Hebrew

see below

Song of Solomon

Canticle of Canticles

Song of Solomon

Song of Songs

Hebrew

Wisdom

Wisdom

Wisdom of Solomon

Greek

Ecclesiasticus

Sirach

Sirach

Hebrew, then translated into Greek

Major prophets

Isaiah

Isaiah

Isaias

Isaiah

Isaiah

Hebrew

Jeremiah

Jeremiah

Jeremias

Jeremiah

Jeremiah

Hebrew(+Aramaic)

see below

Lamentations

Lamentations

Lamentations

Lamentations of Jeremiah

Hebrew

*

*

Letter of Jeremiah

Greek (or Hebrew?)[7]

Baruch[8]

Baruch[8]

Baruch[8]

Hebrew [9]

Letter of Jeremiah[10]

*

Greek (or Hebrew?)[7]

Ezekiel

Ezekiel

Ezechiel

Ezekiel

Ezekiel

Hebrew

see below

Daniel

Daniel[11]

Daniel[11]

Daniel[11]

Hebrew+Aramaic

Minor prophets

The Twelve Prophets

Hosea

Osee

Hosea

Hosea

Hebrew

Joel

Joel

Joel

Joel

Hebrew

Amos

Amos

Amos

Amos

Hebrew

Obadiah

Abdias

Obadiah

Obadiah

Hebrew

Jonah

Jonah

Jonah

Jonah

Hebrew

Micah

Micaeus

Micah

Micah

Hebrew

Nahum

Nahum

Nahum

Nahum

Hebrew

Habakkuk

Habacuc

Habakkuk

Habakkuk

Hebrew

Zephaniah

Sophonias

Zephaniah

Zephaniah

Hebrew

Haggai

Aggaeus

Haggai

Haggai

Hebrew

Zechariah

Zacharias

Zechariah

Zechariah

Hebrew

Malachi

Malachias

Malachi

Malachi

Hebrew

Ketuvim or Writings[12]

Psalms

Hebrew

Proverbs

Hebrew

Job

Hebrew

Song of Songs

Hebrew

Ruth

Hebrew

Lamentations

Hebrew

Ecclesiastes

Hebrew

Esther

Hebrew

Daniel

Hebrew+Aramaic

Ezra (includes Nehemiah)

Hebrew(+Aramaic)

Chronicles

Hebrew

see above[4]

1 Maccabees

Hebrew or Aramaic?

see above[4]

2 Maccabees

Greek

  1. ^ a b c d e f Names in brackets are the Septuagint names and are often used by the Orthodox Christians.
  2. ^ a b Some Eastern Orthodox churches follow the Septuagint and the Hebrew bibles by considering the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as one book.
  3. ^ a b c The Catholic and Orthodox Book of Esther includes 103 verses not in the Protestant Book of Esther.
  4. ^ a b c d The Latin Vulgate, Douay-Rheims, and Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition place First and Second Maccabees after Malachi; other Catholic translations place them after Esther.
  5. ^ a b Eastern Orthodox churches include Psalm 151, not present in all canons.
  6. ^ The Book of Odes includes the Prayer of Manasseh. This book is not present in the Catholic or Protestant Old Testaments.
  7. ^ a b New English Translation of the Septuagint
  8. ^ a b c In Catholic Bibles, Baruch includes a sixth chapter called the Letter of Jeremiah. Baruch is not in the Protestant Bible or the Tanakh.
  9. ^ Britannica 1911
  10. ^ Eastern Orthodox Bibles have the books of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah separate.
  11. ^ a b c In Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, Daniel includes three sections not included in Protestant Bibles. The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children are included between Daniel 3:23-24. Susanna is included as Daniel 13. Bel and the Dragon is included as Daniel 14. These are not in the Protestant Old Testament.

The extra books found in the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Slavonic Bibles are known as the “Apocrypha,” a greek term meaning “having been hidden away.” These are books which did not necessarily make the cut when the Old Testament canon of scripture was determined and are considered by some as useful, but not necessarily divinely inspired. The books have gotten a bad reputation as the term, apocrypha became synonymous with false or unreliable rather than hidden away.

Some apocryphal books were included in the Septuagint with little distinction made between them and the rest of the Old Testament. Origen, Clement and others cited some apocryphal books as “scripture,” “divine scripture,” “inspired,” and the like. On the other hand, teachers connected with Palestine and familiar with the Hebrew canon excluded from the canon all of the Old Testament not found there. This view is reflected in the canon of Melito of Sardis, and in the prefaces and letters of Jerome.[4] A third view was that the books were not as valuable as the canonical scriptures of the Hebrew collection, but were of value for moral uses, as introductory texts for new converts from paganism, and to be read in congregations. They were referred to as “ecclesiastical” works by Rufinus. (1911 Encyclopædia Britannica)

These are not the only extra-biblical Old Testament books around. The list includes: the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Pseudepigrapha

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea scrolls consist of about 900 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves in and around the Qumran Wadi near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.  The scrolls are thought to have been in the possession of the Essenes, a Jewish religious group who inhabited the west side of the Dead Sea area.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are traditionally divided into three groups: “Biblical” manuscripts (copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible), which comprise roughly 40% of the identified scrolls; “Apocryphal” or “Pseudepigraphical” manuscripts (known documents from the Second Temple Period like Enoch, Jubilees, Tobit, Sirach, non-canonical psalms, etc., that were not ultimately canonized in the Hebrew Bible), which comprise roughly 30% of the identified scrolls; and “Sectarian” manuscripts (previously unknown documents that speak to the rules and beliefs of a particular group or groups within greater Judaism) like the Community Rule, War Scroll, Pesher (Hebrew pesher פשר = “Commentary”) on Habakkuk, and the Rule of the Blessing, which comprise roughly 30% of the identified scrolls. (Abegg, Jr., Martin, Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English, San Francisco: Harper, 2002)

The Pseudepigrapha

The term Pseudepigrapha refers to numerous works of Jewish religious literature written from about 200 BC to 200 AD  Not all of these works are actually pseudepigraphical but include the following:

LDS are not uncomfortable with the idea of extra-biblical texts as we have the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price as part of our canon of scriptures. And, the Book of Jasher, considered part of the pseudepigrapha, was popular amongst the LDS community for a long time.

Jewish Biblical scholars also have extra-biblical literature, The Talmud. While considered as commentary on the scriptures, it is studied by Jews as if it were scripture.  The Talmud, which reflects centuries of Rabbinic thought on the oral and written law, is extensive (hundreds of pages) and complex. There are even commentaries which help to explain the Rabbi’s thoughts reflected in the Talmud.  In other words, commentaries on the commentaries.  The fascinating thing about it is that is a running discussion and, in some cases, a running argument on  particular points of Jewish Law.  The Rabbi’s might agree with a comment by another Rabbi, or they might disagree. Or, they might agree, but expand on the answer given by another Rabbi.  This led to the famous joke that if there are two Jews having a discussion, you get three opinions.

Next time we’ll discuss the different translations, their relationship to the New Testament, and how they influenced the Old Testament quotes from the Savior in the Gospels.

Comments

comments

Comments 6

  1. “LDS are not uncomfortable with the idea of extra-biblical texts.” I think there needs to be a caveat to that statement that they aren’t uncomfortable with extra-biblical texts as far as they are translated correctly.

    The incorrect translation/interpretation exception is a fundamental concept in maintaining bureaucratic control over doctrine.

    I’m wondering if there is any room in Old Testament study within the Mormon religion to allow for considering the Old Testament as an immature, primitive tribal text. This flies in the face of doctrinal pronouncements regarding a cycle of revelation and apostacy and presents a particular problem in terms of polygamy discussions.

    My difficulty comes not in your excellent post that contains an abundance of valuable information, but rather in the obvious exclusion of Old Testament precursors. Rather than the tortured fundamentalist approach to the Old Testament where the vengeful God is glossed over and the focus is diverted to how it was all about Jesus, wouldn’t Old Testament study be more valuable if the focus was on how these ancient myths resonate with the human condition, ala Joseph Campbell.

    The Old Testament is the ancient Jew version of Star Wars and Fight Club. We humans haven’t changed that much.

  2. Uysseus,

    Are you saying we should study the Old Testament for what it says rather than we want it to say in relation to our doctrine?

    If so, yes, that would be nice. Not that there is not much to be gained by it as a standalone set of texts. The Jews have done very well for themselves in some respects doing just that. In other respects, they may have looked beyound the mark.

  3. Unfortunately, I think very little actual “study” of the Old Testament will actually occur next year. As Jeff alluded to, select verses will be taken from the Old Testament to essentially make “Old Testament” study largely integrated with current LDS teachings. Problematic sections (or books) will be combined with others into a single lesson and essentially ignored.

    In my ideal world, we would spend several years actually studying the details of the Old Testament, including context from non-LDS sources. The purpose of Sunday School (or any of our Church meetings), however, is not necessarily scholarship, but reemphasizing the same things over and over. It makes it very tedious, but I suppose it has to be dropped to the least common denominator to also be worth something for new members. Additionally, we aren’t supposed to teach something just because it’s true, but only if it’s faith promoting.

  4. I don’t mind using the text in relation to whatever doctrine someone might hold. I think contradictions and paradoxes create more insightful learning than regurgitation and reiteration.

    And who is to judge whether the Jews have looked beyond the mark? From Talmudic scholars to Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Issac Singer a cornucopia of Jewish mythology has sprung out of the Old Testament. I see no reason it can’t be as frutiful and multiplicative for the Mormon faith, but the same methodology would need to be applied (which is what I was saying should be done.)

  5. I like the idea of studying Jewish mythology or mysticism. As we know, there is usually some element of truth toward all mythology. I particularly like some elements of the Kabbalah. I am fascinated by the story of Lilith, Adam’s first wife, the first feminist.

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