Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Differences in the Hebrew and Septuagint Old Testament Canons of Scripture


Many Christians are unaware that the Old Testament Jewish canon of Scripture is very different than that of our Bibles.  In our Bibles, the Old Testament is broken down into the three major divisions: the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets – and even these can be broken down further.  But the order as found in the Jewish canon of Scripture is the Law, the Prophets, and then the Psalms (see chart).  Consider the following.

Lk. 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.    

Jesus began with the Law and the Prophets and then assuredly progressed to the Psalms; and indeed, all of Scripture is about him (Jn. 5:39 e.g.).      

Lk. 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.

Notice the order: the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi’im), and then the Psalms (Writings: Ketivum).  But there’s more.  In reproving the Pharisees and other religious leaders of his day, Jesus says:

Mt. 23:35 That upon you [Pharisees] 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.

This represents the Jewish canon of Scripture because Abel was slain in Genesis 4:8 and Zacharias was slain in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22: the first and last books found in the Hebrew canon of Scripture.  In addition, the Jews have a shortened term for these three main divisions called the Tanakh, which means, “that which is read.”  It’s derived by taking the first letter of each word used in naming their three main divisions: “T” from Torah (Law), “n” from Nevi’im (Prophets), and “k” from Ketivum (Psalms), which yet again reveals the threefold division as found in the Hebrew canon of Scripture. 

But what’s the significance of this, if any?

First, because of the arrangement of the New Testament canon as found in our Bibles today, people seem to have the tendency to believe that the prophets of Israel prophesied and wrote their books after the period of Kings and Chronicles when in fact they did during these times.  This in and of itself isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s something we need to be aware of.   

And second, and more importantly, the canon found in our “Protestant” Bibles today was highly influenced by the Septuagint, which begins in Genesis and ends in Malachi and includes the books of the Apocrypha as part of its Old Testament canon.  But yet, we’re often told that Jesus (and his disciples) quoted from the Septuagint although we’ve learned today that he didn’t because he constantly referred to the three main divisions as found in the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament and not that of the Greek Septuagint.  Selah.

Hebrew Canon (Tanakh)
Protestant Canon
The Law
(Torah)
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
The Law
Pentateuch
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
The Prophets (Nevi’im)
Joshua
Judges
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Ezekiel
Hosea
Joel
Amos

Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
Historical Books
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Ezra
Nehemiah
Ester
The Psalms
Poetical Books
Job
Psalms
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon
The Prophets
Major
Prophets
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Ezekiel
Daniel
The Psalms
(Writings or
Ketivum)
Psalms
Proverbs
Job
Song of Solomon
Ruth
Lamentations
Ecclesiastes
Ester
Daniel
Ezra
Nehemiah
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Minor
Prophets
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi

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