How Many Books Are In The Old Testament?
How Can One Know For Sure?
(Popes and Councils Proved To Be In Error)
Examine the Old Testament listing of books in a Catholic, and a Protestant Bible, and you will normally find a discrepancy. You will find several more books in the Catholic Old Testament than in the Protestant Bible, the Protestant counting 39 and the Catholic counting some 46 or 47 books. The extra books in the Catholic Bible are referred to as the Apocryphal, or Deuterocanonical books, by Protestants and Catholic respectively. Apocrypha means "hidden", and Deuterocanonical means "second canon". This raises the obvious question, who has the correct list of books in their Old Testaments, the Protestant or the Catholic? (The New Testament is identical in the Protestant and Catholic Bibles.) For the disputed Old Testament there need not be any doubt as to who's list of books is correct, Catholic or Protestant, because the New Testament actually tells us not once, not twice, but three times. But first, let's begin with the following passage:
Rom 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
Rom 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
Now in the Roman Catholic Douay Rheims translation that reads:
Rom 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?
Rom 3:2 Much in every way. First indeed, because the words of God were committed to them.
So the word of God was committed originally to the Jews. As the designated custodians of the inspired word of God, they knew which books were canonical, and which were not, and they knew this without the assistance of the yet to appear Catholic Church.
Now, on to our quotes defining the Old Testament canon.
Christ Declares The Hebrew Canon The Word of God.
Luke 24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Luke 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
Here in the above verse, Jesus divides the written word of God into three categories. The Hebrew Bible, known by the acronym TaNaKh, has these three divisions, first the Torah, the first five books of Moses, second the Nevi'im or Prophets, and third the Ketuvim or Writings. Christ was appearing to the disciples shortly after His resurrection and He was expounding to His disciples on the testimony of the scriptures about Himself, from one end of the Bible to the other. From the beginning at Moses; next to the prophets; and then on to the last division that began with Psalms; Christ explained from the Hebrew Bible, the TaNaKh, how it revealed Him to be the Messiah.
Next, note this passage in which Jesus is chastising the scribes and Pharisees:
Mat 23:29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
Mat 23:30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
Mat 23:31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
Mat 23:32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Mat 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Mat 23:34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
Mat 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
Mat 23:36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
Here the scribes and Pharisees are boldly proclaiming that had they lived in the times of their forefathers, they would not have stoned the prophets of God, that they would have known better. But Jesus says they have persecuted men of God just as their fathers had, and that they would continue to do so (v. 34). Then note what is said in the next verse "... from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias"... . What could Jesus be referring to? Well, Abel was murdered in the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. And Zacharias? What book is his murder related in? Well let's look at our third text, a parallel passage, first:
Luke 11:51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.
Luke 11:52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
Note that Jesus accuses the scribes and Pharisees of taking away the key of knowledge. What key is that? And what is God requiring of that generation? The answer is in the phrase "From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias ...". Well, again, Abel was slain in the first book of the Bible (Gen 4:8). Now those Protestants who anticipate the answer might begin looking for the murder of Zacharias in the book of Malachi. Why? Because Jesus is again referring to the full breadth of the scriptures (the key of knowledge, the oracles of God), from the first book of the Old Testament, to the last book of the Old Testament. A Protestant therefore, might well open their Bible to search in the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, for the martyrdom of Zacharias. However, Malachi is not the last book of the Hebrew TaNaKh! What? That is correct. The Hebrew Bible, though identical in content to the Protestant Old Testament, is not in the same order as Protestant or Catholic Bibles. In the Hebrew Bible the last book is the book of Chronicles. That is where we find the murder of Zechariah between the altar and the temple:
2 Chr 24:20 And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada* the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you.
2 Chr 24:21 And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD.
2 Chr 24:22 Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The LORD look upon it, and require it.
It is worth noting that while Abel was the first martyr, Zechariah is not the last in the Old Testament, chronologically speaking. That was the prophet Urijah, killed by king Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 26:20-23, more than a century after the martyrdom of Zechariah:
- King Joash, who had Zechariah stoned within the temple's court (2 Chr 24:20-22), was the 13th king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and he ruled from 798-782 B.C.
- King Jehoiakim, who slew Urijah with a sword (Jer 26:20-23), was the 18th ruler of the southern kingdom of Judah, and he reigned from 609-598 B.C.
Had Jesus been speaking chronologically, (from the first martyr to the last) He would have said - from the blood of Able unto the blood of Urijah, but that is not what He intended. He was clearly saying from the first book of scripture, to the last book of scripture. Therefore, in Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:51, and in Luke 24:44, Jesus was explicitly referring to the order and divisions of the books in the Hebrew Bible as the complete span of scripture.
The following table shows the collective logical result of the quotes of Jesus. Note particularly that the third division of scripture is defined as beginning at Psalms and ending with 2 Chronicles.
(Hebrew Bible As Delineated By Christ)
The Law The Prophets The Writings Genesis - Deuteronomy Joshua - Malachi Psalms - 2 Chronicles
Already in apostolic times, long before any Roman Catholic councils, this same Hebrew Bible, the TaNaKh, was being referred to by the Christians as the Old Testament.
2 Cor 3:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.
* Son of Barachias - Son of Jehoiada: Some Catholics may object that there is a discrepancy between 2 Chr 24:20 and Matt. 23:35, that they refer to two different people because of the seeming difference in fathers. So why the seeming discrepancy in lineage? The author of the book of Zechariah (about 520 B.C.) was "the son of Berechiah, the [grand]son of Iddo the prophet" (Zec 1:1,7), however, there is no record of his being martyred at the temple. It may be that "son of Barachias" in Matt. 23:35 is the result of a scribal insertion, in a mistaken effort to clarify the text. Because the parallel passages of Luke 11:51 and Matt. 23:35 both state that Zechariah perished between the altar and the temple, it is clearly the same Zechariah mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21, which is also well documented in other Jewish literature.
The Altered Grouping and Ordering of Books
in the Greek Septuagint
The Alexandrian canon
The Old Testament as it has come down in Greek translation from the Jews of Alexandria via the Christian Church differs in many respects from the Hebrew Scriptures. The books of the second and third divisions have been redistributed and arranged according to categories of literature -- history, poetry, wisdom, and prophecy.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
B. THE CANON AMONG THE ALEXANDRIAN JEWS (DEUTEROCANONICAL BOOKS)
It is a significant fact that in all these Alexandrian Bibles the traditional Hebrew order is broken up by the interspersion of the additional literature among the other books, outside the law, thus [in the opinion of the Catholic writer] asserting for the extra writings a substantial equality of rank and privilege.
Canon of the Old Testament entry, Catholic Encyclopedia Online.
It is this striking change in grouping and sequencing of books in the Greek Septuagint that so eloquently testifies to the fact that in the above quotes from Jesus Christ, He was referring not to the Septuagint, which included apocryphal books not found in the Hebrew canon, but to the original TaNaKh, the Hebrew Bible, which excludes the apocryphal books. Yet, Catholic Tradition largely accepted the books of the Greek Septuagint as the canon of the Old Testament. Note below the significant variations in content and ordering of books in the oldest existing copies of the Septuagint, and that no two are exactly alike.
|The Greek Septuagint Old Testament|
* Orthodox Catholics
While many have previously believed that Christ and the Apostles used the Greek Septuagint because it was the common tongue of the day, the recent discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran proves conclusively that the Old Testament was available in Hebrew in Israel at the time of Christ. Note the following verse:
Matt. 5:18 For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.
A Catholic Bible commentary says the following about the above verse:
jot or tittle: "Jot" refers to yôd, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet; "tittle" is a slight serif on a Hebrew letter that distinguishes it from another, similarly formed letter.
Source: The New Jerome Bible Commentary, copyright 1990, 1968, by Prentice Hall, Inc., ISBN 0-13-614934-0, page 641.
So it would seem, based on the above Catholic commentary, that Catholics do, in fact, accept that Christ was referring to scripture in the Hebrew language, and NOT a Greek translation!
|The oldest existing manuscripts of the
Greek Septuagint (Codex
Alexandrinus) are dated no earlier than the 4th century A.D., and
were clearly produced by Christians as they included the books of the
New Testament. These Christianized versions of the Greek Septuagint
were apparently commissioned by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century
in order to establish a common Christian canon.
No Jewish source versions of the Septuagint are known to exist
today, fueling speculation that the apocryphal books may never have
been a part of the original Jewish produced Greek manuscript, but were
only included in subsequent Christian copies. The caves of Qumran, in
which were found all of the canonical books of the Old Testament except
Esther, also contained fragments of chapter 6 of the apocryphal
Ecclesiasticus [Wisdom of Jesus the Son of (Ben) Sirach] in Hebrew,
found in Cave
2, a fragment of Tobit in Aramaic, found in Cave 4,
and a fragment of the Epistle of Jeremiah (Baruch Chapter 6) in cave 7.
Previous to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the two
oldest known complete Hebrew (Masoretic) texts of the Bible were the Aleppo Codex
dated to the 10th century A.D. and the
Leningrad Codex, dated to the early 11th century A.D. Both these
texts, attributed to Ben-Asher, placed Chronicles at the beginning
of the 3rd division, the Ketuvim (Writings). However, modern reprints
of the Leningrad Codex have moved the book of Chronicles back to its
tradition place at the end of the Ketuvim.
The King James Old Testament was translated from a Hebrew Bible printed in Venice in 1524-25 by Daniel Bomberg. Known as the Second Rabbinic Bible, it was edited by Ben Chayyim (or Ben Hayyim), and was compiled from many collected Hebrew texts. Considered the standard Masoretic text for the next 400 years (well into the 20th Century), it placed Chronicles at the end of the Ketuvim.
Below is a comparative table of the Old Testament canon of the Hebrew, Protestant and Catholic Bibles. Note that while the Hebrew Canon counts 24 books, and the Protestant Old Testament counts 39 books, they are identical in actual content, the difference for the count being the grouping of certain books into one scroll in the Hebrew canon. Also note the change in arrangement and sequence of books between the Hebrew and Christian Old Testaments.
Hebrew Canon (TaNaKh)
Protestant Old Testament
Catholic Old Testament
* The four books called Esdras:
|RSV, KJV (1611)||Septuagint||Latin Vulgate|
|Ezra||2 Esdras (Chap. 1-10)||1 Esdras|
|Nehemiah||2 Esdras (Chap. 11-25)||2 Esdras|
|1 Esdras||1 Esdras||3 Esdras|
|2 Esdras||4 Esdras|
So the New Testament, recognized unanimously by Catholics and Protestants alike as the inspired word of God, clearly indicates through the words of Jesus Christ that the Hebrew Bible, the TaNaKh, contains all the inspired canonical books of the Old Testament. This excludes as spurious, and non-canonical, the Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical books found in Catholic Bibles, which are colored red in the above tables, and proves that Catholic definitions of the canon by Popes and Councils, to include the "infallible" declaration of Trent, are in error.
Definitions of the Canon of Scripture Frequently Cited By Catholics
360 - Synod of Laodicea (Canon LX) [Omits most of the apocrypha]
382 - Synod of Rome (Pope Damasus / Decretal of Gelasius), Roman Code lists the canon
393 - Council of Hippo (Canon XXXVI)
397 to 419 - First / Second Council of Carthage (Canon XXIV - Greek xxvii.)
405 - Canon of Pope Innocent I (letter to Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse)
787 - Second Council of Niceae (ratifies Council of Carthage/African code)
1442 - Council of Florence (Session 11)
1545 - Council of Trent (first ecumenical council to define the canon)
The Protestant Bible of 66 books, while it contains the same 39 Old Testament canonical books as the Hebrew TaNaKh, does not retain the original grouping and order cited by Jesus Christ, rather, it follows the order of the Latin Vulgate used by the Council of Trent in 1546, when it allegedly declared the Roman Catholic Canon infallibly.
The Hebrew Bible (TaNaKh) Online
The TaNaKh (English Translation) is available at Amazon.com
Council of Trent Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures
The Hebrew Bible entry of the Catholic Encyclopedia Online.
Canon of the Old Testament entry of the Catholic Encyclopedia Online.
The Septuagint Version entry of the Catholic Encyclopedia Online.
A Rebuttal to Catholic Apologetics International
on the Old Testament Canon
CAI's Wibisono Hartono Responds
Revised 7 Sept 2002
A Challenge To The Scripture Expert At EWTN's Web Forum
On the Old Testament Canon
A Challenge To The History Expert At EWTN's Web Forum
On the Old Testament Canon (11-12 Nov 2001)
A screen capture from EWTN's site.