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:

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.

TaNaKh
(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
Codex Vaticanus
Forgery found in 1481
in Vatican Library
Codex Sinaiticus
1836 Forgery by
Constantine Simonides
Codex Alexandrinus
Unknown prior to 1624
Pentateuch
1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy
Historical Books
6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Ruth
9. 1 Kings - (1 Samuel)
10. 2 Kings - (2 Samuel)
11. 3 Kings - (1 Kings)
12. 4 Kings - (2 Kings)
13. 1 Paraliponenon - (1 Chronicles)
14. 2 Paraliponenon - (2 Chronicles)
15. 1 Esdras***
16. 2 Esdras - (Ezra-Nehemiah)
Poetical Books
17. Psalms (with Psalm 151)*
18. Proverbs
19. Ecclesiastes
20 Song of Songs
21. Job
22. Wisdom (of Solomon)
23. Ecclesiasticus
(Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach)
Historical Books
24. Esther - Chapter 10 beginning at verse 4, thru Chapter 16.
25. Tobit
26. Judith

Prophetical Books

27. Hosea
28. Amos
29. Micah
30. Joel
31. Obadiah
32. Jonah
33. Nahum
34. Habakkuk
35. Zephaniah
36. Haggai
37. Zechariah
38. Malachi
39. Isaiah
40. Jeremiah
41. Baruch
42. Lamentations
43. Epistle of Jeremiah
44. Ezekiel
45. Daniel - Chapter 3, verses 24-91, Chapters 13+14

Note: 1 and 2 Machabees are omitted

 

Pentateuch

1. Genesis (fragments)
2. Exodus (missing)
3. Leviticus (missing)
4. Numbers (fragments)
5. Deuteronomy (missing)

 Historical Books

6. Joshua (missing)
7. Judges (missing)
8. Ruth (missing)
9. 1 Kings - (1 Samuel) (missing)
10. 2 Kings - (2 Samuel) (missing)
11. 3 Kings - (1 Kings) (missing)
12. 4 Kings - (2 Kings) (missing)
13. 1 Paraliponenon -
        (1 Chronicles 9:27-19:17)
14. 2 Paraliponenon - 
        (2 Chronicles) (missing)
15. 1 Esdras*** (missing)
16. 2 Esdras - (Ezra-Nehemiah)
17. Esther - Chapter 10 beginning at verse 4, thru Chapter 16.
18. Tobias (Tobit)
19. Judith
20. 1 Machabees
21. 4 Machabees*

Prophetical Books

23. Isaiah
24. Jeremiah
25. Lamentations
26. Ezekiel (missing)
27. Daniel (missing)
28. Hosea (missing)
29. Amos (missing)
30. Micah (missing)
31. Joel
32. Obadiah
33. Jonah
34. Nahum
35. Habakkuk
36. Zephaniah
37. Haggai
38. Zechariah
39. Malachi

Poetical Books

40. Psalms (with Psalm 151)*
41. Proverbs
42. Ecclesiastes
43. Song of Songs
44. Wisdom (of Solomon)
45. Ecclesiasticus
(Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach)
46. Job

Note: Baruch omitted

 

Pentateuch

1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy

Historical Books

6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Ruth
9. 1 Kings - (1 Samuel)
10. 2 Kings - (2 Samuel)
11. 3 Kings - (1 Kings)
12. 4 Kings - (2 Kings)
13. 1 Paraliponenon - (1 Chronicles)
14. 2 Paraliponenon - (2 Chronicles)

Prophetical Books

15. Hosea
16. Amos
17. Micah
18. Joel
19. Obadiah
20. Jonah
21. Nahum
22. Habakkuk
23. Zephaniah
24. Haggai
25. Zechariah
26. Malachi
27. Isaiah
28. Jeremiah
29. Baruch
30. Lamentations
31. Epistle of Jeremiah
32. Ezekiel
33. Daniel - Chapter 3, verses 24-91, Chapters 13+14

Historical Books

34. Esther - Chapter 10 beginning at verse 4, thru Chapter 16.
35. Tobit
36. Judith
37. 1 Esdras***
38. 2 Esdras (Ezra-Nehemiah)
39. 1 Machabees
40. 2 Machabees
41. 3 Machabees*
42. 4 Machabees*

Poetical Books

43. Psalms (with Psalm 151)*
44. Job
45. Proverbs
46. Ecclesiastes
47. Song of Songs
48. Wisdom (of Solomon)
49. Ecclesiasticus
(Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach)

50. Psalms of Solomon**

* Orthodox Catholics only
** Pseudepigrapha
*** Not considered Canonical by Roman 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 yd, 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 Greek Septuagint (Codex Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus) were unkown prior to the printing of the 1611 King James Bible, and are all dubious in origin.

What is the LXX?

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.
See Inventory of the Qumran manuscripts.

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.
See Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia

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.

The Hebrew Canon (TaNaKh)
24 books
Protestant Old Testament
39 books
Latin Vulgate and
Catholic Old Testament
46 books
Torah (Law)
1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy
Nevi'im (Prophets)
6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Samuel (1st + 2nd)
9. Kings (1st + 2nd)
10. Isaiah
11. Jeremiah
12. Ezekiel
13. The 12 Minor Prophets
      Hosea
      Joel
      Amos
      Obadiah
      Jonah
      Micah
      Nahum
      Habakkuk
      Zephaniah
      Haggai
      Zechariah
      Malachi
Ketuvim -Writings
(Hagiographa)
14. Psalms
15. Proverbs
16. Job
17. Song of Songs

 The
Five Scrolls
 (Hamesh
 Megilloth)

18. Ruth
19. Lamentations
20. Ecclesiastes
21. Esther
22. Daniel
23. Ezra + Nehemiah
24. Chronicles (1st  + 2nd)

 

Pentateuch

1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy

 Historical Books

6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Ruth
9. 1 Samuel
10. 2 Samuel
11. 1 Kings
12. 2 Kings
13. 1 Chronicles
14. 2 Chronicles
15. Ezra
16. Nehemiah
17. Esther

Poetical Books

18. Job
19. Psalms
20. Proverbs
21. Ecclesiastes
22. Song of Solomon

Prophetical Books

23. Isaiah
24. Jeremiah
25. Lamentations
26. Ezekiel
27. Daniel
28. Hosea
29. Joel
30. Amos
31. Obadiah
32. Jonah
33. Micah
34. Nahum
35. Habakkuk
36. Zephaniah
37. Haggai
38. Zechariah
39. Malachi

 Pentateuch

1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy

Historical Books

6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Ruth
9. 1 Kings - (1 Samuel)
10. 2 Kings - (2 Samuel)
11. 3 Kings - (1 Kings)
12. 4 Kings - (2 Kings)
13. 1 Paraliponenon - (1 Chronicles)
14. 2 Paraliponenon - (2 Chronicles)
15. 1 Esdras* - (Ezra)
16. 2 Esdras* - (Nehemiah)
17. Tobias (Tobit)
18. Judith
19. Esther - Chapter 10 beginning at verse 4, thru Chapter 16.

Poetical Books

20. Job
21. Psalms
22. Proverbs
23. Ecclesiastes
24. Canticle of Canticles

 Wisdom Books

25. Wisdom (of Solomon)
26. Ecclesiasticus
(Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach)

Prophetical Books

27. Isaiah
28. Jeremiah
29. Lamentations
30. Baruch
(Letter of Jeremiah = Baruch ch. 6)
31. Ezechiel
32. Daniel - Chapter 3, verses 24-91, Chapters 13+14
33. Osee - (Hosea)
34. Joel
35. Amos
36. Abdias - (Obadiah)
37. Jonas
38. Micheas - (Micah)
39. Nahum
40. Habacue
41. Sophonias- (Zephaniah)
42. Aggeus - (Haggai)
43. Zecharias
44. Malachias
45. 1 Machabees
46. 2 Machabees

Orthodox Catholics also include
3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees,
and Psalm 151.

* 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.



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