Names and External Form of the Old Testament
CHAPTER XIII. NAMES AND EXTERNAL FORM OF THE OLD TESTAMENT 1. The word Bible comes to us from the Greek (ta biblia, the books; that is, emphatically, the sacred canonical books) through the Latin and Norman French. In the ancient Greek and Latin churches, its use, as a plural noun applied to the whole collection of sacred books of the Old and New Testaments, can be traced as far back as the fifth century. In the English, as in all the modern languages of Europe, it has become a singular noun, and thus signifies THE BOOK -- the one book containing in itself all the particular books of the sacred canon. In very ancient usage, the word Law (Heb. Torah) was applied to the five books of Moses; but there was no general term to denote the whole collection of inspired writings till after the completion of the canon of the Old Testament, when they were known in Jewish usage as: The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (see below, No.5). In accordance with the same usage, the writers of the New Testament speak of the "law and the prophets," and more fully, "the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms," Luke 24:44. And they apply to the collected writings of the Old Testament, as well as to particular passages, the term the Scripture, that is, the writings, thus: "The Scripture saith," John 7:38, etc. Or they employ the plural number: "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures," Matt.22:29, etc. Once the epithet holy is added, 2 Tim.3:15. In 2 Pet.3:16, the term Scriptures is applied to at least the epistles of Paul; apparently also to the other canonical writings of the New Testament then extant. In the usage of Christian writers, the application of this term to the books of the New Testament soon became well established; but the above is the only example of such an application that occurs in the New Testament itself.2. The terms Old and New Testament arose in the following way: God's dealings with the Israelitish people, under both the patriarchs and Moses, took the form of a covenant; that is, not a mutual agreement as between two equal parties, but an arrangement or dispensation, in which God himself, as the sovereign Lord, propounded to the chosen people certain terms, and bound himself, upon condition of the fulfilment of these terms, to bestow upon them blessings temporal and spiritual. Now the Greek word diatheke, by which the Septuagint renders the Hebrew word for covenant, signifies both covenant, in the general sense above given, and testament, as being the final disposition which a man makes of his worldly estate. The new covenant introduced by Christ is, in a sense, a testament, as being ratified by his bloody death. Matt.26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20. So it is expressly called in the epistle to the Hebrews, 9:15-17, where the new covenant, considered in the light of a testament, is contrasted with the old. It was probably in connection with this view that the Old Latin version of the Bible (made in the Old Testament not from the original Hebrew, but from the Greek Septuagint) everywhere rendered the Greek word diatheke by the Latin testamentum. When Jerome undertook the work of correcting this version, he did not everywhere pursue the same plan. The books of the Old Testament he rendered in general from the Hebrew; and here he employed for the Hebrew word denoting covenant the appropriate Latin words foedus and pactum. But in the Psalms, and the whole New Testament, from deference to established usage, he gave simply a revision of the Old Latin, leaving the word testamentum, by which that version had rendered the word diatheke, covenant, untouched. Hence in Latin usage we have in the New Testament the two covenants, the old and the new, expressed by the terms old testament (vetus testamentum, prius or primum testamentum) and new testament (novum testamentum), and sometimes in immediate contrast with each other, as in 2 Cor.3:6, 14; Heb.9:15-18. The transfer of these terms from the covenants themselves to the writings which give an account of them was easy, and soon became established in general usage. Hence the terms Old and New Testament for the two great divisions of the Bible. Another Latin term for the two great divisions of the Bible was instrumentum, instrument, document; a term applied to the documents or body of records relating to the Roman empire, and very appropriate, therefore, to the records of God's dealings with men. But as early as the time of Tertullian, about the close of the second century, the word testamentum, testament, was more in use. See Tertullian against Marcion, 4.1. A striking example of the superior accuracy of Jerome's independent version above his simple revision of the old Latin is the passage Jer.31:31-33 as compared with the quotation of the same, Heb.8:8-10. In the former, where the translation is made immediately from the Hebrew, we read: "Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, that I will make for the house of Israel and the house of Judah a new covenant (foedus): not according to the covenant (pactum) which I made with their fathers," etc. In the same passage, as quoted in the epistle to the Hebrews, where we have only a revision of the old Latin, we read: "Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, that I will accomplish for the house of Israel and for the house of Judah a new testament (testamentum): not according to the testament (testamentum) which I made for their fathers," etc.

3. The unity of the Bible has its ground only in divine inspiration. So far as human composition is concerned, both parts of it have a great variety of authors. The writers of the Old Testament, especially, lived in different, and some of them in very distant ages. They were widely separated from each other in native character and endowments, in education, and in their outward circumstances and position in life. It is of the highest importance that the student of Scripture not only know these facts, but ponder them long and carefully, till he fully understands their deep significance. He has been accustomed from childhood to see all the books of the Bible comprised within the covers of a single volume. He can hardly divest himself of the idea that their authors, if not exactly contemporary, must yet somehow have understood each other's views and plans, and acted in mutual concert. It is only by long contemplation that he is able to apprehend the true position which these writers held to each other, separated from each other, as they often were, by centuries of time, during which great changes took place in the social and political condition of the Hebrew people. Then, for the first time, he begins to discern, in the wonderful harmony that pervades the writings of the Old Testament, taken as a whole, the clear proofs of a superintending divine Spirit; and learns to refer this harmony to its true ground, that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:21.

According to the received chronology, Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy about 1451 B.C, and Malachi, the last of the prophets, wrote about 397 B.C. The difference, then, between the time of these two authors is 1054 years; or say, in round numbers, about 1000 years. From Moses to the anointing of David is, according to the shorter chronology, 388 years; and from Moses to the composition of the books of Kings, nearly nine centuries. From Joel to Malachi we must assume a period of about 400 years, within which space our present prophetical books were composed. The earlier of the psalms written by David differ in time from those composed at the close of the captivity by about 530 years. Let the reader who has been in the habit of passing from one book of the Bible to another, as if both belonged to the same age, ponder well the meaning of these figures. They confirm the arguments already adduced (ch.12, No.4) that the unity of Scripture has its ground not in human concert, but in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

4. The books of the Old Testament have been differently classified and arranged. But in no system of distribution has the chronological order been strictly observed.

(A.) The Jewish classification and arrangement is as follows. They first distribute the books of the Old Testament into three great classes, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings; that is, the canonical writings not included in the other two divisions -- the Hagiographa (holy writings), as they are commonly designated at the present day.

The Law is then subdivided into five books, as we now have them; for the names of which see the introduction to the Pentateuch. Chap.19, No.1.

With reference to this five-fold division of the Law, the Rabbins call it the five-fifths of the Law, each book being reckoned as one-fifth. This term answers to the word Pentateuch, that is, the five-fold book. Chap.9, beginning.

The second great class consists of the so-called Prophets. These are first divided into the former and the latter Prophets. The former Prophets consist of the historical books: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, in the order named. The latter comprise the prophetical books in the stricter sense of the word, with the exception of Daniel; and these are subdivided into the greater and the less. The greater Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The less are the twelve Minor Prophets from Hosea to Malachi, in the same order as that followed in our English version.

The remaining books of the Old Testament constitute the third great class, under the name of Writings, Hagiographa; and they are commonly arranged in the following order: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles. These books naturally fall into three groups. First, devotional and didactic -- the three so-called poetical books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, which have in Hebrew a stricter rhythm; secondly, the five rolls -- Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther; so called because written on five separate rolls for use in the synagogue service on the occasion of special festivals; thirdly, books that are chiefly of an historical character -- Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

The Talmud arranges the Greater Prophets thus: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah. Of the Hagiographa, various other arrangements, Masoretic and Talmudic, are given, which it is not necessary here to specify.

That the writing of sacred history belonged to the prophetical office is clear from various scriptural notices. Compare 1 Chron.29:29; 2 Chron, 9:29; 12:15; 20:34; 26:22; 32:32, 33:19. The narrative concerning Sennacherib inserted in the second book of Kings (18:13-19:37) is manifestly from the pen of Isaiah. The Rabbins rightly ascribed the composition of the historical as well as the other books which compose, according to their division, the Prophets, to prophetical men. But the grounds upon which they separated from these certain books, as, for example, Daniel, and placed them among the Hagiographa, are not clear. Some of the rabbins made the distinction to lie in the degree of inspiration, Moses enjoying it in the fullest measure (Numb.12:6-8), the authors of the books which are classed among the prophets having the Spirit of prophecy, and those of the books belonging to the Hagiographa simply the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit, but not in the degree necessary for prophetic revelation). But this distinction is untenable. Who had the spirit of prophecy if not Daniel? In the opinion of some modern scholars, they reckoned to the Prophets only books written by men who were prophets in the stricter sense of the term; that is, men trained to the prophetical office, and exercising it as their profession; while the writings of men like David, Solomon, and Daniel, who though they had the Spirit of prophecy, were yet in their office not prophets, but rulers and statesmen, were assigned to the Hagiographa. But this is inconsistent with the fact that the book of Ruth (which in respect to authorship must go with that of Judges) and also the book of Lamentations are in the Hagiographa. Others, with more probability, find the main ground of classification in the character of the writings themselves -- the Law, as the foundation of the Theocracy; the Prophets, that record the history of the Theocracy and make prophetic revelations concerning it; the sacred Writings, occupied with the personal appropriation of the truths of revelation, and as such exhibiting the religious life of the covenant people in its inward and outward form. But even here we do not find perfect consistency.

(B.) Classification of the Greek Version of the Seventy. The ancient Greek version of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint (Latin Septuaginta, seventy), because, according to Jewish tradition, it was the work of seventy men, interweaves the apocryphal with the canonical books. Its arrangement is as follows, the apocryphal books and parts of books being indicated by italic letters. We follow the edition of Van Ess from the Vatican manuscript, which omits the apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh:

1. Genesis.2. Exodus.3. Leviticus.4. Numbers.5. Deuteronomy.6. Joshua.7. Judges.8. Ruth.9. 1 Kings (our 1 Samuel).10.2 Kings (our 2 Samuel).11.3 Kings (our 1 Kings).12.4 Kings (our 2 Kings).13.1 Chronicles.14.2 Chronicles.15.1 Esdras.16.2 Esdras (our Ezra).17. Nehemiah.18. Tobit.19. Judith.20. Esther, with apocryphal additions.21. Job.22. Psalms.23. Proverbs.24. Ecclesiastes.25. Canticles.26. Wisdom of Solomon.27. Ecclesiasticus.28. Hosea.29. Amos.30. Micah.31. Joel.32. Obadiah.33. Jonah.34. Nahum.35. Habakkuk.36. Zephaniah.37. Haggai.38. Zechariah.39. Malachi.40. Isaiah.41. Jeremiah.42. Baruch.43. Lamentations.44. Epistle of Jeremiah.45. Ezekiel.46. Daniel, with apocryphal additions -- Song of the Three Children in the Furnace, History of Susannah, Story of Bel and the Dragon.47.1 Maccabees.48.2 Maccabees.49.3 Maccabees.

The arrangement of books in the Latin Vulgate agrees with that of the Septuagint with the following exceptions: the two canonical books of Ezra and Nehemiah appear together, as in the Septuagint, but under the titles of 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras. Next follow the two apocryphal books of Esdras (the latter wanting in the Septuagint), under the titles of 3 Esdras and 4 Esdras. The Greater Prophets, with Lamentations after Jeremiah and Daniel after Ezekiel, are inserted before the twelve Minor Prophets, which last stand in the order followed in our version. Throwing out of account, therefore, the apocryphal books, the order of the Vulgate is that followed by our English Bible.

From the above it is manifest that in neither the Hebrew, the Greek, nor the Latin arrangement is the order of time strictly followed. The Hebrew, for example, to say nothing of the Psalms, which were written in different ages, throws into the Hagiographa Ruth, Job, Proverbs, etc., which are older than any of the so-called latter prophets. The Hebrew places the books of Kings, and the Greek and Latin not only these, but also the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, before all the proper prophetical books, though it is well known that several of these were much earlier. In the Hebrew arrangement, the three Greater Prophets precede all the Minor Prophets, though several of the latter were earlier than Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and even Isaiah. In the Greek, on the contrary, Isaiah and Jeremiah, as well as Ezekiel, are placed after even the prophets of the Restoration. The biblical student should carefully remember these facts. He must not hastily assume that the books of the Old Testament stand in the order in which they were written, but must determine the age of each for itself, according to the best light that he can obtain. See further in the introductions to the several books.

5. In high antiquity, the continuous mode of writing, (scriptio continua,) without divisions between the words, was common. We cannot indeed infer, from the continuous writing of the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament, that the same method prevailed in the ancient Hebrew writing; for in very ancient inscriptions and manuscripts, belonging to different languages, the words are distinguished from each other more or less completely by points. Yet the neglect of these is common. In most Greek and Phoenician inscriptions there is no division of words. The translators of the Septuagint may be reasonably supposed to have employed the best manuscripts at their command. Yet their version shows that in these the words were either not separated at all, or only partially. The complete separation of words by intervening spaces did not take place till after the introduction of the Assyrian, or square character. Ch.14, No.2. With the separation is connected the use of the so-called final letters, that is, forms of certain letters employed exclusively at the ends of words.

6. A very ancient Jewish division of the sacred text is into open and closed sections. The former, which are the larger of the two, are so named because in the Hebrew manuscripts, and in some printed editions, the remainder of the line at their close is left open, the next section beginning with a new line. The closed sections, on the contrary, are separated from each other only by a space in the middle of a line -- shut in on either hand. The origin of these sections is obscure. They answer in a general way to our sections and paragraphs, and are older than the Talmud, which contains several references to them, belonging at least to the earliest time when the sacred books were read in public. Davidson, Biblical Criticism, vol.1, ch.5.

Different from these, and later in their origin, are the larger sections of the Law, called Parshiyoth (from the singular Parashah, section), which have exclusive reference to the reading of the Law in the synagogue service. These are fifty-four in number, one for each Sabbath of the Jewish intercalary year, while on common years two of the smaller sections are united. Corresponding to these sections of the Law are sections from the Prophets, (the former and latter, according to the Jewish classification,) called Haphtaroth, embracing, however, only selections from the prophets, and not the whole, as do the sections of the Law. The Jewish tradition is that this custom was first introduced during the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, (about 167 B.C.,) because the reading of the Law had been prohibited by him. But this account of the matter is doubted by many.

In the Pentateuch, the smaller sections called open and closed are indicated, the former by the Hebrew letter [Hebrew: P], that is, P, the initial letter of the word pethuhah, open; the latter by the Hebrew letter [Hebrew: S]=S, the first letter of the word sethumah, closed. The larger sections, arranged for the reading of the Law in the synagogues, are indicated by three [Hebrew: P]'s or three [Hebrew: S]'s, according as they coincide at their beginning with an open or closed section. In the other portions of the sacred text these divisions are simply indicated by the appropriate spaces. But some printed editions do not observe the distinction between the two in respect to space, so that the open and closed sections are confounded with each other.

7. Chapters and Verses. The division of the poetical books and passages of the Old Testament into separate lines, Hebrew, pesukim, (answering in general to our half-verses, sometimes to the third of a verse,) is very ancient, if not primitive. It is found in the poetical passages of the Law and the historical books, (Exod., ch.15; Deut., ch.32; Judges, ch.5; 2 Sam. ch.22,) and belonged originally to the three books of Job, Psalms, and Proverbs, which alone the Hebrews reckon as poetical. See below, Ch.21, No.1. The division of the whole Old Testament into verses, (likewise called by the Hebrews pesukim,) is also the work of Jewish scholars. It existed in its completeness in the ninth century, and must have had its origin much earlier in the necessity that grew out of the public reading and interpretation of the sacred books in the synagogue service.

In the Hebrew text the verses are distinguished by two points called soph-pasuk (:), except in the synagogue rolls, where, according to ancient usage, this mark of distinction is omitted.

The present division into chapters is much later, and is the work of Christian scholars. By some it is ascribed to Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1227; by others to Cardinal Hugo de St. Cher of the same century. The Jews transferred it from the Latin Vulgate to the Hebrew text. There are, however, some discrepancies between the chapters of the Hebrew text and those of the Vulgate and our English version.

The division of the sacred text into chapters and verses is indispensable for convenience of reference. But the student should remember that these distinctions are wholly of human origin, and sometimes separate passages closely connected in meaning. The first verse, for example, of Isaiah, ch.4, is immediately connected in sense with the threatenings against "the daughters of Zion" contained in the close of the preceding chapter In the beginning of ch.11 of the same book, the words: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots," contrast the Branch of the Messiah with the Assyrian bough, the lopping off of which has just been foretold; chap.10:33, 34. The last three verses, again, of Isaiah, ch.52, evidently belong to the following chapter. The connections of the sacred text, therefore, must be determined independently of these human distinctions.

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