zion’s fire magazine preview
Our Old Testament Books
Written by Dr. Gary Cohen

"In my March-April 2016 article, “The Biblical Order of Our New Testament Books,” we discussed the background of those books. In this article, we will look at their Old Testament counterparts. The Old Testament reveals God in His attributes of holiness, mercy, and love, but also those of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. The Old Testament shows us that God is the Almighty Creator, and communicates to us the sacred history from the Creation through God’s dealing with the nation of Israel; it teaches us countless lessons, and points us to Christ.

There are 39 books in the Old Testament of our Protestant English Bible, and these have been divided into 929 chapters. This process of marking divisions was essentially begun by the Masoretes, a group of ninth and tenth century A.D. scribes chiefly from the ben Asher family in Tiberias. They invented a system of small markings, using a “:” to mark the end of a sentence, and a “^” to indicate the first portion of the sentence, much like our comma. They also used many other small marks to show the correct pronunciation of words.

Archbishop Langton in the early A.D. 1200s used the Masoretic markings to show chapter divisions. Around A.D. 1450, Rabbi Isaac Nathan ben Kalonymus divided the Hebrew Bible into verses, likewise using the earlier markings of the Masoretes. In A.D. 1551, Robert Estienne, a prolific French printer, also known as Stephanus (anglicized), divided the New Testament into verses for printing. He soon after used Rabbi Nathan’s verse divisions for the Old Testament. The Geneva Bible of A.D. 1560 was an English translation by Protestant exiles in Switzerland, and was the first Bible to use chapter and verse divisions throughout; the same system has been used in Bibles ever since. It was a mass-printed Bible with its chapter and verse markings added to its excellent English style, and soon became the Bible of that day. It was the Bible of Shakespeare and of the Pilgrims in 1620.

All of the Old Testament books are written in Hebrew, except Ezra and Daniel 2:4 to 7:28, which are written in Aramaic, the ancient regional language of the Middle East, and very similar to Hebrew. Daniel was taken captive to Babylon in about 606 B.C., and was no doubt commanded to learn the Babylonian language. He most likely was forbidden to write in Hebrew during the period when he wrote Daniel 2:4 to 7:28. When the Persians conquered Babylon, he could return to using Hebrew. Ezra was a famed scribe and interpreter of biblical law, but during his era (about 440 B.C.) at the close of the Old Testament era, Aramaic reigned as the dominant language of Israel. It was extremely similar to Hebrew in the sounds of its words, and was penned in Hebrew letters in the book that bears its name...