Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Old Testament Canon

"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).

Today we will get an overview of the canon of the Old Testament. Remember that a canon is a rule, so the canonical Old Testament Scriptures are those ancient Jewish writings that are part of the rule of the church. Also, a canon is a list, so that the canon of the Old Testament is the authoritative list of inspired Old Testament books.

We receive the Old Testament canon from the Jews, specifically from the Palestinian canon. The Jewish Old Testament has 22 or 24 books, depending on how you count, while our Christian Bible has 39 Old Testament books. Actually, these are the same. We divide the Jewish books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles into 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles. The Jewish Old Testament combines Ezra and Nehemiah, and all 12 minor prophets are in one book.

The Jewish Old Testament is divided into three parts. The first is the Law, which consists of the five books of Moses. The second is the Prophets, which is divided into two sections. We Christians usually speak of the major and minor prophets, but this is not the distinction the Jews made. They distinguished between the Former and Latter Prophets. The Former Prophets are what we call historical books: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. The Jews regarded these histories as prophetic, in the sense that they prophesy God’s Word to His people. The Latter Prophets are what we regard as the prophetic books today: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve (“minor prophets”).

The third division of the Jewish Old Testament is the Writings. This division includes the poetic books, the wisdom literature, and the books of Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.
The Old Testament is quoted hundreds of times in the New Testament. It was the Bible of Jesus and the early church, and it is part of our Bible as well.

The Old Testament is God’s Word and the foundation of the New Testament. Can you name all the Old Testament books in order? Check yourself and work to achieve this. Also, challenge yourself to read a neglected book of the Old Testament this week.