The Old Testament (Tanakh (תנ״ך) in Hebrew) is a collection of different biblical books comprising the Jewish religious scriptures. It can be divided into three general categories: Historical, Poetic, and Prophetic. The Old Testament was inspired by God, giving His teachings to human beings in document form: using direct communication with Moses, communicating through the Prophets, and through works inspired by the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh), in the Sacred Writings. The human authors of some books are known, while for others the authorship remains a matter of controversy. The Hebrew names of these three sections give rise to the acronym "Tanakh": Torah (Instruction), Nevi'im (Prophets), and K'tuvim (Sacred Writings).
Christians embrace the Old Testament as part of their holy scriptures, which, together with the New Testament make up the Bible. In contrast to Jews, they see the Old Testament giving prophetic references to the coming of Jesus Christ. Versions from ancient times exist in both Hebrew and Greek including the Dead Sea Scrolls giving a very ancient snapshot dating back to the time of Jesus.
The Old Testament documents the creation of the world by God, and the tribulations and errors of human beings, in particular His chosen people the Israelites. Following the history of the Jews from their earliest patriarchs to their enslavement, freedom, becoming a nation, period of the judges, ruled by kings, splitting into two nations, and eventual conquest. It continues until about 400 B.C. when God's chosen people have once again been allowed to return to the Holy Land and have come back to the worship of the Lord God. From the writing of the earliest five books, which is traditionally ascribed to Moses, to the last, is believed to be a period of about 1,000 years. The New Testament doesn't pick up until 400 years later with the story of Jesus.
The Canon of the Old Testament was fixed by the Jewish Anshei K'nesset HaGedolah (Men of the Great Assembly), also known as the Council of Jamina, in the 1st century A.D. Though some books have been given different names, this is the same Old Testament found in Protestant Bibles (except for ordering and naming conventions.) Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments contain different sets of additional groups referred to as the Apocrypha. Most Old Testaments go back to the earliest Hebrew translations, but the Greek Orthodox church uses the earliest Greek versions.
The twenty-four books, in the Hebrew listing, are:
- 1-5: Torat Moshe/תּוֹרַת־מֹשֶׁה (The Pentateuch):
- 6-9: Nevi'im Rishonim/נביאים ראשונים (Early Prophets):
- 10-13: Nevi'im Acharonim/נביאים אחרונים (Later Prophets):
- Yesha'yahu/ישעיה (Isaiah)
- Yirmiyahu/ירמיה (Jeremiah)
- Yechezk'el/יחזקאל (Ezekiel)
- Shneim-'Asar/תרי עשר:
- 17-21: The Five Megilot (Five Scrolls):
- 22-24: Other Writings: