What is the Hebrew Bible? And why does it have 24 books while the Old Testament has 39 books?


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The Hebrew Bible includes 24 books, one for each of the scrolls on which these works were scripted in old times. It is divided into three basic sections: the Torah, or “Teaching,” also named the Pentateuch or the “Five Books of Moses”; the Neviʾim, or Prophets; and the Ketuvim, or Writings.

These Scriptures are referred to as the Tanakh which is a word created by adding the first letter from the names of each of the three main divisions. Each of the three main groupings of texts is again subdivided.

The Torah includes narratives combined with rules and commands in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The books of the Neviʾim are considered among either the Former Prophets—which contain stories about major Hebrew individuals and include Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings—or the Latter Prophets—which pleaded with Israel to come back to God and are named (because they are either attributed to or contain stories about them) for Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and (together in one book known as “The Book of the Twelve”) the 12 Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

The last of the three divisions is the Ketuvim, includes poetry, theology in Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs (by King Solomon), Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

The Hebrew Bible as adopted by Christianity has more than 24 books because Christians divided some of the original Hebrew texts into two or more parts: Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles into two parts each; Ezra-Nehemiah into two separate books; and the Minor Prophets into 12 separate books.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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