Survey of the Old Testament - Lesson 5

Order of the Books of the Old Testament

The form that our Bibles come to us in is meaningful for interpretation. The Hebrew Bible has a different order of the books than the English Bible.  

Miles Van Pelt
Survey of the Old Testament
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Order of the Books of the Old Testament

I. Introduction

II. Macro Canonical Hermeneutics

III. Structure of the Christian Canon

A. The Bible has divine design

B. The Structure of Biblical Authority

C. The design of the Psalter

D. Biblical Symmetry

IV. Covenantal Structure of the Christian Canon

V. English Bible Order vs. Hebrew Bible Order

VI. Order Confirmed in Other Sources

A. Wisdom of Sirach

B. Babylonian Talmud

  • Dr. Miles Van Pelt is offering an opportunity to study the Old Testament and understand its overall message in more detail. The Old Testament consists of 2/3 of the Bible, and serves as a foundation for many teachings found in the New Testament. Its main purpose is to point towards Jesus who makes possible a new covenant with God's people. The structure of both Testaments follows a covenantal pattern that compels humans to make choices regarding their relationship with God, while demonstrating His patience and perseverance in doing so.
  • Knowing the purpose, structure and theological center of the Old Testament, will help you understand more accurately the character of God, and his purpose in the world and in your life. The Old Testament teaches you about Christ and describes his ministry. Colossians 3:15-16 reads, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly."

  • What you decide is the theological center of the Bible will determine how you understand the Bible and apply it to your life. You can see unity in biblical authorship by the number of times the phrase, “thus says Yahweh” is used in the Old Testament.  The person and work of Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament. The living force of the canonical word must be the incarnate word. The proper nouns used in the Bible indicate the important characters and themes.

  • Jesus claims that the Old Testament finds its ultimate meaning in him. After his resurrection, Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus and gives them a lesson in biblical interpretation. The Father and the Scriptures testify about who Jesus is. In Romans 1:3, Paul refers to the Gospel being revealed through his prophets, in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son. Every book in the Bible teaches about Christ so every sermon should teach about Christ. Hebrews 11 refers to the great cloud of witnesses.

  • The Kingdom of God is the over-arching theme of the whole Bible. God governs his kingdom by his covenants. The covenant of grace is in effect throughout the Bible and has different administrations.

  • The form that our Bibles come to us in is meaningful for interpretation. The Hebrew Bible has a different order of the books than the English Bible.  

  • The order of books in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible is different because the criteria for determining the order is different. The order of the books in the Hebrew Bible reflect an emphasis on covenant, and also teaching important concepts then giving a practical example to illustrate how to put it into practice.

  • The three divisions in the Old Testament are the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Genesis and Revelation are the introduction and conclusion to the Bible and have parallel themes. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are the four covenant books that record the birth and death of the covenant mediator and contain his life and teachings. The former prophets record the history of Israel. The latter prophets call people to repent and return to God.

  • Your presuppositions about whether or not the authors who wrote the books of the Bible were inspired by God will influence your position the authorship of the Pentateuch. The traditional view is that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament at about 1200 to 1400 B.C. The documentary hypothesis claims that there were four or more separate authors that wrote beginning in about 900 B.C.

  • Genesis is the covenant prologue and is both protological and eschatological. It is the most covenantal book in the Bible. One way to outline the book is into twelve parts, each beginning with the phrase, “these are the generations.” Creation is described using a theological order.

  • Chapter 2 is a detailed description of the sixth day of creation, culminating in the creation of woman. Chapter 3 describes the Fall and the consequences. Hebrew homonyms link the passages and intensify the descriptions.

  • Noah functions as a prophetic covenant mediator. God promises a remnant in his covenant with Noah and also renews the covenant of common grace. God continues his redemptive covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The book of Genesis ends with the narrative of Joseph.

  • This is the beginning of the formal documents of the covenant of God with the people of Israel. It begins with the birth of Moses and ends with the people of Israel coming out of Egypt.

  • Leviticus is primarily instructions to promote the holiness of God’s people. It provides a system that allows for a holy God to live among an unholy people. In the sacrificial system, there are 5 kinds of offerings. Jesus is the fulfillment of the observance of the Day of Atonement.

  • The book of Numbers is a record of the events of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The purpose is to contrast the faithfulness of God with the faithlessness of the Israelites. The time in the wilderness was a period of testing for the people of Israel.

  • This is a renewal of the Mosaic covenant in preparation for entering the Promised Land. It’s an encouragement to keep the Law and a reminder of blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience. Deuteronomy points us to Jesus who ultimately fulfills the Law.

  • Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings describe the nature and purpose of the Sinai Covenant and the historical events of the occupation of the land. God know that the people of Israel would fail to obey the Mosaic Covenant, so he had planned from the beginning to establish the New Covenant when the time was right.

  • Joshua was the successor to Moses. The book of Joshua focuses on the Promised Land. The people of Israel enter the land, conquer the land, divide the land between the tribes and then renew their covenant with God. Holy war and covenant obedience are important themes.

  • Judges has two introductions, two conclusions, six major judges, six minor judges and one anti-judge. It can be described as the, “uncreation” of Israel. Their purpose was to judge the nations and to deliver the people of Israel from their oppressors.

  • The book of Samuel provides the answer to the crisis of kingship. Samuel, as the last judge and first prophet, anoints Saul as king. The people of Israel reject Yahweh as king. Saul is anointed by Samuel and serves as king but is later rejected because of disobedience. David is anointed king because God acts according to his own will. Solomon begins well and ends badly.

  • The book of Kings is the story of the monarchy in the nation of Israel. It begins with the united monarchy under Solomon, then after his death, is divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. We can learn about God’s character and the importance of living in a covenant relationship with God.  

  • The Latter Prophets are covenant lawyers. They are executing the lawsuit of God against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant. Prophets use both oracular prophecies and sign acts to communicate their message.

  • Isaiah is sometimes described as the, “fifth gospel” because it is quoted so much in the New Testament. The themes in Isaiah are both timely for his generation and also point to their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus and the end of time.

  • Jeremiah’s call was to tell the people of Judah why they were going into exile and also to give them hope for future restoration. The book contains oracles, accounts of visions and symbolic actions, prophetic laments and historical narratives.

  • One key to understanding Ezekiel is the glory of God in the temple. The book begins with God appearing to Ezekiel, then God leaves the temple and, in the end, God returns. Ezekiel’s oracles and signs illustrate each of these.

  • In the Hebrew Bible, these 12 minor prophets are treated as one book. Each one is a covenant lawyer that is prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the unfaithful nation of Israel and also preaching a message of hope for restoration. The Day of the Lord is the day of the king’s victory over his enemy, either to crush an enemy or to save a people.

  • These books are about how you think and live in light of the covenant. The genres include narrative, poetry and prophecy. The Hebrew Bible order emphasizes teaching then example.

  • Covenant life is a life of worship. The book divisions in the manuscripts were purposefully arranged so the book as a whole has a meaningful narrative. It emphasized the kingship of Yahweh, the Davidic line and the temple. You can use specific patterns of construction for understanding lament, thanksgiving and hymns of praise psalms. You can also use the same patterns to help you respond to God and worship him.

  • Job deals with the issue of human tragedy and suffering. Job never knows what happened in heaven that resulted in his suffering. His three friends made correct theological arguments but they were misapplied. Job speaks about suffering and hope. God challenges Job at the end of the book, and also restores his possessions and children.

  • Solomon created a collection of practical wisdom sayings. Some were for instructing children, some for instructing kings, but they all are applicable to help everyone live in the light of the covenant of grace in the context of common grace.

  • Ruth follows Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible. Even though she is from Moab, she lives in Israel with her widowed Israelite mother-in-law to take care of her. She marries Boaz and is included in the genealogy of David and Jesus.

  • Marriage should be both rock solid in terms of covenant commitment and white hot in terms of sexual intimacy. If it is both, you can better resist temptation, endure hardship and promote wholeness.   

  • The message of Ecclesiastes is that true knowledge, wisdom and meaning in life begins with the fear of the Lord. The author of Ecclesiastes, likely Solomon, tests this conclusion and is unsuccessful in finding ultimate meaning in activities, “under the sun,” like wealth, relationships, power, projects, etc.

  • Lamentations is a collection of funeral dirges lamenting the fall and exile of Jerusalem. The elegant structure of the book is a contrast to the chaos and destruction of the events that are taking place. Each poem gives you a different perspective on God’s character and his covenant faithfulness.

  • Esther is a story of living a life of faith in exile. It Bringing “shalom” into a hostile environment sometimes even requires risking your life. The festival of Purim commemorates God saving his people and is still celebrated today.

  • Daniel and Esther are examples of living a life of faith while in exile. Daniel was different than the writing prophets because he is not primarily a covenant lawyer prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the people of Israel. The first six chapters are biographical stories highlighting God’s power to save and his sovereignty over the nations. The second six chapters are visions of the future.

  • The book of Ezra-Nehemiah records the last events, chronologically, in the Old Testament. Ezra returned from exile with authorization to teach the Law of the Jews and institute the sacrificial system. Nehemiah returned to rebuild Jerusalem. They fail in their human attempt to rebuild heaven on earth, which encourages you to look forward to the city built by God.

  • The return from exile is not the greater one prophesied by the prophets. We still look forward to the return from exile with them in the resurrection. Chronicles traces the seed that was promised and gives an account of the return from exile.

Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give you an overall view of the Old Testament then discuss specifics about each of the books. 

For instance, you might ask, "What kind of book is the Old Testament?" The OT is a single story told three times over: once in Genesis, once in Exodus through Nehemiah, and once again in Chronicles (just like day 6 in Genesis 1–2). The OT loves to repeat itself, repeat itself, repeat itself. This is how it teaches us. The Old Testament is about 2/3 of the Bible and is the basis for everything you read in the New Testament. The better you understand the Old Testament, the clearer you will understand the message of the Bible. 

What is the Message of the Old Testament? The Old Testament points to the New Covenant. The teachings, prophecies and examples of covenant life point to Jesus who makes the New Covenant possible and inaugurates it. There are also examples in the Old Testament of how human efforts to create heaven on earth fall short, so that we will anticipate and yearn for our ultimate deliverance from exile.

What is the Structure of the Old Testament? The structure of the Old Testament, and the Bible as a whole, is covenantal. God offers to live in the covenant of grace with him and compels them to make that choice. The administrations of the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus demonstrate God's patience and perseverance to include as many as are willing.


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Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give...

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Dr. Miles Van Pelt 
Survey of the Old Testament 
Order of the Books of the Old Testament 
Lesson Transcript


I. Introduction (00:13):

I have a threefold entry point. This three prospective entry point into the Old Testament and the whole Bible comes to us from the last chapter of the Book of Acts. Luke is summarizing the fact that Paul is teaching day and night about the kingdom of God, trying to convince them about Jesus from the law of Moses and the prophets. We've got a theological center, a thematic framework, which is the kingdom of God, and it is expressed covenantally. Then we have a canonical or covenantal structure expressed by the words, the law of Moses, and the prophets. In the last lecture, we talked about the thematic framework, about the kingdom of God, and Jesus is the king of the kingdom. The way He administers that kingdom is covenantally through a series of covenants.

We talked about the fact that we have the eternal covenant of redemption, which happened before the creation of the heavens and the earth and pro katabolay cosmou before the foundations of the world. There are two administrations of that eternal covenant redemption, therefore two covenants that come out of that.

There's the covenant of works with the first Adam. There's a covenant of grace with the second Adam and also a covenant of works. We receive its benefits by grace, through faith in Christ. That covenant begins, or is promised in Genesis 3:14-19. There are a number of administrations of that one covenant. Historically, as we progress through covenant or redemptive history, those include the Noahic covenant or covenants. The Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and the new covenant happening both in the first coming and the second coming. That's a summary of how all that works. That's the covenantal backbone of the administration of the kingdom of God covenantally.

II. Macro Canonical Hermeneutics (02:04):

Now I want to turn to the third section, which is the structure of the Bible, and which is in some sense, a weird topic. Another term for this is macro canonical hermeneutics. Macro big, canonical, Bible, hermeneutics interpretation. Big Bible interpretation. Based on its form. I want you to think about this with me in terms of why this is such an important thing. We often don't give enough attention to the form that our Bibles come to us in. But form is meaningful.

In terms of the character of God, I want you to understand that God is always working from chaos to cosmos. He's always shaping and forming things, and as His image bearers, that's what we do, too. We bring structure to chaos in our lives, in our work, and in our homes. So if you think about creation, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void.  Darkness was hovering over the face of the deep, chaos. By the end of day seven, you have complete order where God is in throne. A Sabbath king over the creation kingdoms and the creation Kings, from chaos to cosmos. When we get to the account of Noah God throws the world back into chaos with the delusion, the great waters, and the flood waters. But then after that, the waters subside and a new creation emerges and there's form to it.

God's very particular about design. You think about when He commanded Noah to build the Ark. He gave them the exact specifications. How many floors, how wide, how tall, how high, how to build the boxes in the middle of the window, the door, it was very specific. You think about the Lord with his people in the wilderness and the tabernacle. He gave them very specific instructions, how to build that tabernacle and how to camp around it. Three tribes here, three tribes here, three tribes here, three tribes here. All of it coming together to look like a new Eden paradise with the tabernacle right in the middle of it all. God's holy dwelling place. So from chaos to cosmos in that camp.

The temple is the same way, the new heavens and the new earth. In the new heavens and the new earth, what's the first thing that that angel says when he appears? He goes to John, let's go measure it. Of all the things they want to see the form and the structure and the beauty. Well, you think about our bodies. Our bodies have very specific form to them. Our arms do what our arms do because of where they're located. Our legs do what our legs do because of where they're located. So form and function go together.  If you pay attention to those things, it can help you know what's going on. I'm trying to convince you, this is important. One of the ways I do that in my classes at RTS over the years, not so much recently, is I used to begin with an experiment before this lecture, or I'd bring in 10 bags of Legos.

All of those bags had the identical sets of Legos in them.  I would get the students in a group for three or four depending on how many we had in the class. I would say, you've got 30 minutes to build anything you want out of these Legos, but you've got to use all the Legos. Then you've got to explain to us what it is and what it does. All right? There was not one year where any group built the same thing and had the same function. Some would build a boat, some would build a house, some would build a computer center, some would build a castle, some would build a car, all these different things. The way in which you put those units together, determined what it did. The Bible is not unlike that, the way we put it together, determines what it does and in some sense and how we use it.

A good example is this. There was one propeller in that bag of Legos. You could make three different things with that. A propeller, according to the box, you had three different options. You can make an airplane, a helicopter, or a boat. So on the airplane, the propeller went on the front and pulled it. On the helicopter, the propeller went on the back and steered it. And on the boat the propeller went on the back and it pushed it. The same piece depending on where you put it has a different function. Position equals function in many, many ways. We're going to try to pay attention to that. I'll give you an example from the book of Ruth in a little bit about how that works. For me, the designation law prophets is a hint at a threefold division of the Old Testament that is still in existence today.

III. Structure of the Christian Canon (06:40):

It's the original order and that’s why it's still in existence today. The law, the prophets and the writings, or the Psalms. We're going to talk about the threefold division of the Hebrew Bible, what those divisions do, and how those divisions are reflected in the New Testament. We have the same three divisions in the New Testament. So here's my statement, my thesis. The structure of the Christian Canon, that is the arrangement of the books in the Old and New Testament, is deliberate and meaningful for interpretation. It is often said in our circles that when it comes to interpreting the Bible, context is king. That is certainly true. And since this is true, then the macro canonical context of the whole Bible must be the king of Kings. When it comes to interpretation, you can't take a verse out of context, apply to any way you want, and then say that God's being faithful or unfaithful to you and if it comes true or not, or if it works or not. There's a bigger, bigger context.

And so the context of the whole is just as important as the context in a chapter. It's important to know, that we know what Samson is doing in Judges 13-16, because of what God says he's doing in Judges chapter two. We know how to interpret these things. We look at the context through that. So we're going to do that. In this lecture, we will consider the structure of the Old Testament and also the New Testament, and how that structure informs our understanding of how the Bible works. So we can better understand what it says in the context of its intended function. So I'm going to  set this out programmatically by way of preliminary summary. It is the covenantal nature of the cannon that controls the larger groupings of the Old and New testaments in a way that links the two testaments as mirror images of each other.

 A. The Bible has Divine Design (08:23):

I'm going to draw a picture too. Type and antitype, shadow and substance, or fullness. In this way, we will come to see an intentional divine design at work for the whole Bible. That the New Testament is a mirror image of the Old Testament in both design and function. This important connection will help us with our interpretation of the whole Bible, but especially the Old Testament. The fact that the order of the biblical books is not random or chaotic makes sense from what we know about God's character. He's always working from chaos to cosmos. I don't know if you've watched HGTV in your life and apparently I'm dating myself for what we do with our free time, my wife and I. But there used to be the show called Divine Design. I liked that title, not for HGTV purposes, but for biblical purposes, that is the Bible has a divine design.

Over the course of the last 250 years of Old Testament scholarship, since about mid 1700s, the whole goal has been to take the Bible apart into as many possible pieces and study them in minute detail. So we're taking it apart, taking it apart, taking it apart, taking it apart. Then when we're done, we don't know what the whole used to be. I felt like when I left seminary, I had a great big bag of Legos, and I knew all kinds of great stuff about each little piece, but I didn't know what to put them into. What was I building? I had to really step back and take a look at this issue for myself to say, how does it all fit together?

B. The Structure of Biblical Authority (09:51):

It all started to make sense for me once I read this book called, The Structure of Biblical Authority by Meredith Klein. In that book, she has an article called, The Old Testament Origins of the Gospel Genre, where she connects what's going on in the gospels with the book of Exodus and showed how these things link up. That started in my mind, the flowering of ideas that maybe there are more connections to see that maybe more from the New Testament is reflected in the Old Testament and maybe more from the Old Testament helps us make sense of the New Testament. So I was like someone put two puzzle pieces together for me. And I was wondering if I could put the rest of the puzzle together. I was so thankful for that. So I recommend that I've read that book many, many times in my life, and I always benefit from it.

C. The Design of the Psalter (10:34):

It's hard to read, but it's worth the investment. I'm reading this book called, The Design of the Psalter, it's a new book out. The Design of the Psalter by Peter Ho. We'll be talking about the design of the book of Psalms. It's got five books, it's got a Davidic design to it, the rise of the Davidic monarchy, its fall, and the kingship of Yahweh , that kind of visits. Very interesting. It's called a macro structural analysis of the book of Psalms, saying that scholars are now recognizing the 150 Psalms that we have in this book are not randomly placed there. They're actually meaningful in terms of where they are and where they live. It helps you to understand what they're doing.

In his conclusion, he quotes a guy named, David Knoll Friedman, who was a professor of Old Testament at the University of Michigan in the latter half of the 20th century. A very prominent well-known Old Testament scholar at University of Michigan. He wrote this book called The Unity of the Hebrew Bible. I don't know his background. I'm not sure he's an Evangelical, but he's making some amazing statements about the Hebrew Bible here. I'm quoting him right here on page six. He says "for me", and he's talking about how his Hebrew Bible, there's this many words here in this section, how they all work back and forth, and how they have unity keywords that link up with each other.

 D. Biblical Symmetry (12:10):

For me, a primary indicator for larger groupings within the Hebrew Bible is symmetry. Symmetry defined by structures and numbers usually of a simple binary or bilateral kind. You know the rule of two? We're going to see that today. When symmetry is established or confirmed by examination, it must be the result of conscience planning of deliberate decisions. Therefore, I contend that the selection arrangement and organization of the books of the Hebrew Bible follow from the deliberate and purposeful decisions and actions of an individual or small group of people at a particular time and in a particular place that's producing a unified whole. Now that is a radical statement in light of the nature of Old Testament scholarship over the last 250 years. He would have held to those critical views. But when he steps back and he looks at the finished product, we're not talking about how it got there. He'd step back and look at the finished product. He's overwhelmed by its unity and symmetry.

That's no small thing. Today at the end of our lecture, which is going to consist of several lectures strung together, I want you to be overwhelmed by the beauty and the symmetry of the whole Bible, but especially the Old Testament because this is Old Testament survey.

IV. Covenantal Structure of the Christian Canon (13:35):

We're back in Acts 28, and it says from morning till evening, he explained and declared to them, the kingdom of God, tried to convince them about Jesus from the law of Moses and the prophets. The law of Moses and the prophets represent for me, the covenantal structure of the Christian Canon. The design, the law of Moses, and the prophets constitute a shorthand reference to the Hebrew Old Testament. It is a reference by section. This two-fold shorthand reference is filled out by Jesus in Luke who records the words of Jesus. Again, the master summary statement maker.

Luke has this way of summarizing all that Jesus and Paul are doing. Jesus says in Luke 24, again, this is the road to Ameas, He's talking to the disciples, these two disciples. Then Jesus said to them, "these are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled". This threefold reference by Jesus to the Old Testament canon is a reference to the standard threefold division of the Hebrew Bible today, which is law, prophets, and writings. This is the order and arrangement of my modern Hebrew Bible. It is the order and arrangement of the Jewish Bible in modern English, often referred to as the Tanakh.

So I have my English Bible here. It's got four divisions in my Old Testament. It's got my Moses books, the books of Moses, and it's got historical books. Then it's got poetic books and it's got prophetical books. So it's structured by genre. Here is my Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew and Greek is the whole Bible, but there's Hebrew in there. It's got three sections, not four. Torah, Nevi-im, Kethuvim, or law, prophets, and writings. So frequently, you'll hear our Jewish friends refer to their Bible as a Tanakh. In fact, my grandfather was Jewish and that's how he would refer to his Bible, the Tanakh. You never say, go get my Bible. He'd say my Tanakh. You can still go to the bookstore, dial it up on Amazon, look up Tanakh, Jewish publication society. They're going to have a Bible where the order of the books are slightly different than ours.

So the T stands for Torah. We know what that is. The law of God, the N stands for Nevi'im. That's the masculine plural noun for prophets in Hebrew. And then the K stands for Kethuvim. That's the masculine plural form of the word for writings. So law, prophets, and writings, Tanakh in Hebrew. I don't refer to it as the Tanakh. I refer to my Old Testament as the Hebrew Old Testament. So I've got a Greek New Testament, a Hebrew Old Testament. I remember when this became an issue for me, because I just had in 1990-91, that academic year, a year of Hebrew at Azusa Pacific University, where I had Bill for Greek the next year. I was so excited, just fell in love with Hebrew. It was really hard and I really struggled to be good at it.

But I said "this summer, I'm going to read something in Hebrew and get better at Hebrew". I thought what's short. So I didn't want to start with Isaiah or Job. So I said, Ruth, all right. So it's narrative, it's easier than poetry. It's just four sweet chapters. A little love story. I go to my Bible in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, no Ruth. It was Joshua, Judges, Kings. I thought, oh, I got to take this Bible back to the bookstore. They left part of the books out. I was completely befuddled. I had no idea. I had to go back to the table of contents, Ruth is way on the end of the Bible after Proverbs 31. What in the world is going on?

Then I noticed, I was looking at the table of contents, Chronicles is at the very end. Ezra and  Nehemiah's at the very end. It's Psalms that's the beginning of this section, not Job. I was calling all my friends saying, I didn't know what was going on? I was so alarmed. That's when I realized that it was really my second to last year of college there, that there were two distinct orders that I was working with. I didn't have any idea about them. So I started doing some research and this is the fruit of that research. Now Jesus calls it the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms.

Historically speaking, the Torah would have been canonized or become authoritative first. The prophets, which include former latter privates second. I'll show you what those all are. The writings would have been the latest. Maybe the name wasn't established for it yet , this is very controversial, but I'm arguing for a closed Canon around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah at 400 BC. I really think in the back of my mind, we don't know for sure, Ezra is the one who's responsible for the final editing and putting together of the Old Testament this way. We know he was a skilled scribe. He collected the scriptures. He helped make sense of them to the people. He and Nehemiah did the library thing together. So that's what we're going to work on. The reason it's called Psalms in Jesus's day is because Psalms is the first book in the writings.

It's a convention in ancient literature, at least in Jewish ancient literature. Biblical ancient literature that you just name something after the first thing or word in it. In Genesis, for example, we don't call it Genesis. It's just called bereshit, which is the first word in Genesis. Exodus, we know why we call it Exodus because of the great Exodus, but really the first word is we'elleh shemot. These are the names. That's the Hebrew name. Leviticus is vayikra, and he called, or proclaimed. So they're not sexy titles but you know it's the first part that characterizes the whole. o Jesus was just following the convention, what do we call this thing? We'll just call it the Psalms and the other books.

V. English Bible Order vs. Hebrew Bible Order (19:34):

I can show you this chart right here then. In section one, the English Bible arrangement is on the left, and the Hebrew Bible arrangement is on the right. We call this the Pentateuch or the law. You can see there are five books there. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Five books on this side. Now you can see here in this section, the English Bible contains all the historical books in roughly chronological order. So from Joshua entering into the land, to Samuel and Kings, where they get exiled, then first, second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, which would have been the latest books, chronologically speaking. So that's a group by genre and chronology. Over here, you have two groups, you have Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. They're called the former prophets from the moment you get into the land, to getting exiled out of the land.

Then Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the book of the 12. In Hebrew manuscripts, the minor prophets are considered just one book. So Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12. I wish I would've known that as a kid, because when I was in Sunday school, those are the hardest books to memorize. If I could have just said the 12, it would have saved me countless hours. So the former prophets, the prophets quote unquote, have two sections to them, the former and the latter. Then we get to English Bible and now we're into the poetic genre again, we've got this poetry thing going on and a little bit by authorship here, we've got Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and song of Psalms, all kinds of Solomonic in origin.

We've got David with Psalms and then Job's just starts out because it's the oldest perhaps. You've got those poetical books, right? Those are the ones that are hard to read in Hebrew. Once you get there, you have to step your game up. Then you get the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, because tradition has it that Jeremiah wrote it. But it's one of those anonymous books. Ezekiel, Daniel, and then notice that Daniel's going to be down here with the prophets because he has these apocalyptic visions, like Ezekiel. Then the 12 minor prophets. So basically from Genesis to Malachi. In the Hebrew Bible order, there's only the third section and it's the writings. And so it's an eclectic group of poetry and prose or narrative and poetry. So you have it starting with Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Psalms, and Ecclesiastes.

There's one group. Then Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles, that's the next group. One of the things we're going to see, when it comes to the writings, is that Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings are about the history of life in the land. In Joshua, they enter into the land and take possession of it. In Judges, they mess it all up. Then the kings tried to come in Samuel and try to fix it and they mess it all up. Then they're booted out in second Kings 17 and 25. So this is the history of life in the land. These prophets down here, right? They interpret that history and prepare God's people for exile or talk about exile. So this is about life in the land. This is about life in exile.

Isaiah is right before the exile. Jeremiah experiences the exile and we get to Ezekiel, he's already in Babylon. So it progressed through that. Then some prophets are pre-exilic. Some are post-exilic. We'll talk about that in more detail. So you've got those two divisions there. Then in the writings, you'll notice that the same two divisions apply that these are books about life in the land or life in covenant with Yahweh. Life in the land. So worship, suffering, wisdom, marriage, anti-wisdom. These books are about life and exile. The same organizing rubric from the prophets apply to the writings. So Lamentations is the fall of Jerusalem. Esther and Daniel are two examples of lives in exile.  Then you've got Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles that talk about exile and the return from exile.

VI. Order Confirmed in Other Sources (23:36):

You can see at the very beginning right now there's hints of organization and structure that we're going to capitalize on. But first we've got to know, where does this threefold division come from? Then where does the fourfold English Bible division come from? Just so we can handle the timing on that,which one is first, which one's adapted, and what are the reasons for that? Here's some biblical evidence for a threefold division of the Hebrew Bible in Luke 11:49-51 and the synoptic account, Matthew 23:33-35. We hear this, the wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute so that the blood of all the prophets shed from the foundation of the world may be charged against this generation. From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes. I tell you, it will be required of this generation”.

Jesus is talking about the accountability of this generation to what He's doing. He's saying the blood of all the prophets are going to bear witness against you from Abel to Zechariah. In our mind we're thinking “yeah, From a to z, right”? But that's English. It's not Greek or Hebrew. In Hebrew, Abel begins with an H and Zechariah begins with a Zion and Zion is not the last one. You can hear the Zit’s the Hebrew letter zayin.. So from five to seven. From, the fifth to the seventh. No, it's not how it works. Canon scholars, people do this, like Francis Beckwith have recognized that what Jesus is doing here is He's talking about the canonical listing of martyrs, not the chronological listing of them.

A. Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) (25:27):

So canonically Abel is the first martyr in Genesis chapter four. Zachariah is the last martyr in second Chronicles, 24. Canon scholars say, this is Jesus's way of saying from the prophet first mentioned in the Bible martyr to the last one. From beginning to end, not from a to Z, but a to Z works in English. You can think of it that way. Jesus has a threefold. According to Luke 24, Jesus has a three-fold Bible, Old Testament that runs from Genesis to Chronicle. We now have the divisions and we have the bookends. We're building some structure there. There is this book in the Apocrypha called, The Wisdom of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus written by Ben Sira. We don't know exactly when he wrote it, but his grandson translates it into Greek in 132 BC.

Then he writes a prologue to it in 132 BC, saying, this is my grandfather's work. He knows it's not the Bible, but he says, once you've mastered the Bible and you want more work inwisdom literature, read this, you might benefit from it. So just like we know John Piper or Tim Keller, people like that are not inspired authors, but they make true and helpful comments to help us understand things. In 132 BC in the prologue to the Greek translation, the grandson refers to the threefold division of the Hebrew scriptures three times over. He calls it an ancient tradition in 132 BC. Now, when you think about ancient tradition in that day and age, when I think about ancient tradition or my kids think about ancient tradition, that's like talking about the iPhone six.

Or the iPhone 12. We're talking just a few years, but my parents' generation think about ancient traditions, they're thinking about in the 1800s we did this. So it's a little bit of a different timestamp on it, but you can think about in the ancient world, an ancient tradition would have been hundreds of years old, which would put it back at the time of Ezra or something like that. Here's some of it right here, it’s not in Greek, it's translating. Many great teachings have been given to us through the law and the prophets and the other books that followed them. So again, there's not that designation there yet. So it's still an early canon form.

“And for these, we should praise Israel for instruction and wisdom. Now, those who read the scriptures must not only themselves, understand them, but must also as lovers of learning, be able through the spoken and written word to help outsiders. So my grandfather, Jesus, Joshua,  Ben Sirach and Joseph Ben Sirach had devoted himself to the reading of the law, the prophets, and the other books of our ancestors. There it is, and had acquired considerable proficiency in them was himself led to write something pertaining to instruction and wisdom”. Then it says it again at the end, not only this book, but even the law itself and the prophecies and the rest of the books, differ a little when read in the original. This is what I like. He talks about you’ve got to learn Hebrew to love these books.

B. Babylonian Talmud (28:33):

I encourage all of you to learn Hebrew, to love these books. We've got Jesus right in the middle saying, he's got a threefold Bible with Abel to Zechariah, Genesis to Chronicles. When I show you how Genesis and Chronicles go together, I think you'll be encouraged by the correspondences in terms of connecting them. Then the Babylonian Talmud was written after the time of Jesus, several centuries after Jesus. Jewish interpretations of the Old Testament, traditions, all that kind of good stuff. This is the thing from the third to the sixth centuries, AD. This is an attract take called everyone's favorite Bava Bathra, 14 B, you can look it up and you can find all kinds of sites of the Babylonian Talmud on them for free.

You can read all this stuff that talks about it in 14 and 15. They talk a lot about who wrote the Old Testament, even the anonymous books like Samuel wrote this one, Nathan and GAD finished it up after he died. Again, we don't know that for sure, but they're recounting the tradition to us.

So you've got to be careful.

They even talk about why books are in particular spots in places. So, Isaiah is here for this reason. Jeremiah is here for that reason. Ruth is here for this reason. It's very interesting stuff. So they're talking about the significance of location for interpretation. By way of summary, the Hebrew canonical order, we can call it the Tanakh or the Hebrew Old Testament represents the original presentation of the Old Testament scriptures. One Testament with three sections. It begins with Genesis and ends with Chronicles.

Genesis and Chronicles are the two books that begin with Adam. Adam is a key figure, even at the end of the Old Testament. I already told you how Genesis and Chronicles correspond. Genesis begins with creation, sin, exile, then exits to Chronicles creation, sin, exile. So it's got those same patterns too. So that's just corresponding things.

IV. Conclusion (30:37):

This is a good place for a break from this particular part of the lecture. We've simply established the fact that there is at least another possibility in terms of the ordering of the books and structure that we need to consider before we think about the structure of the Old Testament. In the next lecture, I'm going to show you why it's important to understand the arrangement of the Old Testament in the covenantal categories of the Hebrew Old Testament, rather than the genre categories of, we can call it the English or the Greek Septuagint.