How Many Books are in the Old Testament Anyway?

Exactly how many books are in the Old Testament? There is a lot of debate as to how many there are actually should be. A lot of denominations us the books of the Tanakh. However, even that has a few quirks to it. So, let us begin with that one.

If you look at a Tanakh you will notice that even it has fewer books than the standard Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox Bibles. On this list it comes in with the fewest books. Some of the books are combined into one longer book. “1 Chronicles” and “2 Chronicles” are a single book simply called “Chronicles”. Strangely, “Ezra” and “Nehemiah” are a single book called “Ezra-Nehemiah”. The other two combined books are “Shemuel”, “1 Samuel” and “2 Samuel”, and “Melakhim”, “1 Kings” and “2Kings”. Then there is the huge book known as “The Twelve”. This book is all twelve of the minor prophets in one book. Yep, it is twelve books combine into one. In total, the Tanakh has 24 total books.

Protestant Old Testaments have 39 books. It gets the number boost from splitting the books “Shemuel”, “Melakhim”, “Chronicles”, “Ezra-Nehemiah”, and “The Twelve”. This means that “The Twelve” becomes the books “Hosea”, “Joel”, “Amos”, “Obadiah”, “Jonah”, “Micah”, “Nahum”, “Habakkuk”, “Zephaniah”, “Haggai”, “Zechariah”, and “Malachi”. It makes it a bit easier to read when some of those books are split into smaller books.

The Catholic Bible are fun to read in my opinion. Why? They have 46 books that are fairly easy to get ahold of in the States. There is also a nifty little quirk that the Catholic Bible has; “1-4 Kings”. “1-2 Samuel” is, in some Bibles, listed as “1-4 Kings”. In some Bibles I have seen “1-2 Chronicles” referred to as “1-2 Paralipomenon”. “Ezra” and “Nehemiah” become “1-2 Esdras”. A small change, but enough to throw someone if they are not expecting it. My copy has “Canticle of Canticles” as an alternate name for “Song of Solomon” or “Song of Songs” as some Bibles call it. The Catholic Bible has what are called Biblical Apocrypha. Oddly enough, the KJV Bible originally had the Apocrypha in it and at times you can find KJV Bibles with the Apocrypha in them. Theses added books are “Tobit”, “Judith”, “1-2 Maccabees”, “Wisdom of Solomon”, “Sirach”, and “Baruch”. “Esther” and “Daniel” also have additions to them which expands stories in the Protestant Bible.

There are several different forms of the Orthodox religion. So, to make this a bit easier to understand, I will just use the most common Orthodox Bible for this list. The Eastern Orthodox Bible has a whopping 51 books to it and in that comes some renames. To make this a bit more easy, this list is adding to the Catholic Bible. “1-4 Kings” becomes “1-4 Kingdoms”. “1 Esdras” is an added book. This makes “Ezra” and “Nehemiah” become “2-3 Esdras”. “3-4 Maccabees” is added after the other two books. The “Prayer of Manasseh” that is added and is a fairly quick read. The final real difference is that “Baruch” has a small excerpt of it taken out and it is called “Letter of Jeremiah”. It is a bit harder to get a copy of it in English unless you want to order a bunch books individually.
So, there you have it. There are a lot of Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha out there. They are pretty interesting to read. I took some religion classes in college and university and I had to read some of them. It made me curious and I actually went out and got some books that had the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in them. They were a delight to read and I suggest that you read them if you have a chance.

Until next time!