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Development of the Old Testament canon


Dec 16, 2021

The Old Testament is the first section of the two-part Christianbiblical canon; the second section is the New Testament. The Old Testament includes the books of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) or protocanon, and in various Christian denominations also includes deuterocanonical books. Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants use different canons, which differ with respect to the texts that are included in the Old Testament.

Development of the Old Testament canon
For the Jewish canon, see Development of the Hebrew Bible canon. For the New Testament canon, see Development of the New Testament canon.
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Martin Luther, holding to concurrent Jewish and some ancient precedent,[1] excluded the deuterocanonical books from the Old Testament of his translation of the Bible, placing them in a section he labeled “Apocrypha” (“hidden”). The Westminster Confession of Faith, published in 1647, was one of the first Reformed confessions in the English language to exclude the Apocrypha from the Bible, leading to the removal of these books in later Nonconformist Protestant Bible publications in the English-speaking world, though Lutherans and Anglicans retained these books as an intertestamental section that are regarded as non-canonical but useful for instruction.[2][3][4] To counter the growing influence of the Reformers, the fourth session of the Catholic Council of Trent in 1546 confirmed that the deuterocanonical books were equally authoritative as the protocanonical in the Canon of Trent,[5] in the year Luther died.[6] The decision concurred with the inclusion of the deuterocanonical books made almost a century earlier at the Council of Florence.[7] It based its refutation of Martin Luther’s depiction of the apocryphal texts on the first published Christian canon which drew from the Septuagint texts used by the authors of the 27 books of the New Testament.[8] In compiling his index of the Old Testament, Luther drew from the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, which was still an open canon as late as 200 and probably even after the Catholic canon was set in 382.[9] Following Jerome‘s Veritas Hebraica (truth of the Hebrew) principle, the Protestant Old Testament consists of the same books as the Hebrew Bible, but the order and division of the books are different. Protestants number the Old Testament books at 39, while the Hebrew Bible numbers the same books as 24. The Hebrew Bible counts Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as one book each, and the 12 minor prophets are one book, and also Ezra and Nehemiah form a single book.

The differences between the modern Hebrew Bible and other versions of the Old Testament such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, the Greek Septuagint, the Ethiopian Bible and other canons, are more substantial. Many of these canons include books and sections of books that the others do not. For a more comprehensive discussion of these differences, see Books of the Bible.

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Books of the Christian Old Testament
See also Torah, Samaritan Torah

See also Hebrew Bible#Books of the Tanakh

Included by Catholics, Orthodox, but excluded by most Protestants

Included by Orthodox (Synod of Jerusalem):

Included by Russian and Ethiopian Orthodox:

Included by Ethiopian Orthodox:

Included by SyriacPeshitta Bible:

Included by Beta Israel:

Included in the Greek Septuagint and Syriac Peshitta, but not in circulation in modern canonical traditions:

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