Old testament

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An old testament is an assortment of mostly Jewish books compiled by Christians and used as the first segment of their bible, accounting for about three quarters of the total compilation. The specific books in an old testament, what they should be titled, and how they should be presented differ among every major denomination of the religion, but each branch seems to agree that all of the content considered canon by most Jews in their Tanakh should be included.

Christians refer to the these books as the old testament because they believe that the covenant between Yahweh and humankind was ended through the torture and execution of Jesus, and that, before he was killed, Jesus gave humans a new covenant which is described in their New Testament. Jews, however, do not believe the original covenant between them and Yahweh has ended because, Yahweh says dozens of times in the Tanakh that the covenant will never end, Jews don't believe Jesus was the messiah, and, even if he was, they don't believe the messiah could discontinue the covenant.

Canon

The table below shows which books each denomination considers canon and how the group the books, however, the order of presentation is not preserved.

Hebrew (24) Protestant (39) Catholic (46) Eastern Orthodox (50) Church of the East (50) Oriental Orthodox (46)
Bereishit Genesis Genesis Genesis Genesis Genesis
Shemot Exodus Exodus Exodus Exodus Exodus
Vayikra Leviticus Leviticus Leviticus Leviticus Leviticus
Bamidbar Numbers Numbers Numbers Numbers Numbers
Devarim Deuteronomy Deuteronomy Deuteronomy Deuteronomy Deuteronomy
Yehoshua Joshua Josue Iesous Joshua Joshua
Shofetim Judges Judges Judges Judges Judges
Rut Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth Ruth
Shemuel 1 Samuel 1 Kings 1 Kingdoms 1 Samuel Samuel
2 Samuel 2 Kings 2 Kingdoms 2 Samuel
Melakhim 1 Kings 3 Kings 3 Kingdoms 1 Kings Kings
2 Kings 4 Kings 4 Kingdoms 2 Kings
Divrei Hayamim 1 Chronicles 1 Paralipomenon 1 Paralipomenon 1 Chronicles 1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles 2 Paraleipomenon 2 Paraleipomenon 2 Chronicles 2 Chronicles
(with Prayer of Manasseh)
Jubilees
Enoch
1 Esdras 2 Izra
Ezra-Nehemiah Ezra 1 Esdras 2 Esdras Ezra 1 Izra
Nehemiah 2 Esdras Nehemiah
Izra Sutuel
Tobias Tobit Tobit Tobit
Judith Judith Judith Judith
Esther Esther Esther Esther Esther Esther
Additions to Esther
1 Machabees 1 Maccabees 1 Maccabees
2 Machabees 2 Maccabees 2 Maccabees
3 Maccabees
Meqabyan
3 Esdras
4 Maccabees
Iyov Job Job Job Job Job
Tehillim Psalms Psalms Psalms Psalms Psalms
Prayer of Manasseh (included with 2 Chronicles)
Mishlei Proverbs Proverbs Proverbs Proverbs Messalë
Tägsas
Qoheleth Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes
Shir Hashirim Song of Solomon Canticle of Canticles Aisma Aismaton Song of Songs Song of Songs
Wisdom Wisdom Wisdom Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus Sirach Sirach Sirach
Yeshayahu Isaiah Isaias Isaiah Isaiah Isaiah
Yirmeyahu Jeremiah Jeremias Jeremiah Jeremiah Jeremiah
(with 4 Baruch)
Eikhah Lamentations Lamentations Lamentations Lamentations
Baruch Baruch Baruch
Letter of Jeremiah Letter of Jeremiah
2 Baruch
Yekhezqel Ezekiel Ezechiel Ezekiel Ezekiel Ezekiel
Daniel Daniel Daniel Daniel Daniel Daniel
Additions to Daniel
Trei Asar Hosea Osee Hosea Hosea Hosea
Amos Amos Amos Amos Amos
Joel Joel Joel Joel Joel
Obadiah Abdias Obadiah Obadiah Obadiah
Jonah Jonas Jonah Jonah Jonah
Micah Michaeas Micah Micah Micah
Nahum Nahum Nahum Nahum Nahium
Habakkuk Sophonias Habakkuk Habakkuk Habakkuk
Zephaniah Sophonias Zephaniah Zephaniah Zephaniah
Haggai Aggaeus Haggai Haggai Haggai
Zechariah Zacharias Zechariah Zechariah Zechariah
Malachi Malachias Malachi Malachi Malachi
Josippon

Additional Writings

The following books are considered apocryphal or pseudographical by all major denominations of Christianity and Judaism.

Capitalization

I do not capitalize "old testament" unless I'm referring to a specific version like the Codex Alexandrinus Old Testament. I do this, not out of disrespect, but in accordance with the conventions of English usage. Since every major Christian denomination has their own old testament, you're not reading the Old Testament, but rather an old testament. In much the same way, "encyclopedia" is not capitalized because it is a category of book, but "Encyclopedia Britannica" is capitalized because it is a specific book in the category of encyclopedias.

For the same reason, I do not capitalize "bible," however, I do capitalize "New Testament" since there is effectively only one across Christianity. I also capitalize the individual books included in the compilations; there is variation in all of them, but not enough to warrant calling them a category rather than a specific book.

Criticisms

Canon

Christians have been arguing for 2,000 years (and Jews for centuries earlier) over which writings should be considered canon, and they continue to disagree to this day. If Yahweh wanted a specific canon, why didn't he reveal it to everyone everywhere? Why allow for ambiguity or debate to decide which writings are endorsed by Yahweh? How can we know what the correct canon should be? Do any of them have it right? Are those who have it wrong guilty of blasphemy, and will Yahweh punish them?

Authorship

There is much conjecture and debate about the authors of the books in the old testament canon. In most of the books, the author doesn't identify himself, and expert historians believe that the majority of the books are not written by either the traditionally accepted authors or the the authors named in the books.

Content

We should expect books inspired by a god to be rife with deep philosophical wisdom, full of inexplicable insight on the very foundations of the universe, and written in the most interesting way possible, but the actual content of the books of the old testament is unimpressive. Large sections of the book are dedicated to pointless lineages, gruesome animal sacrifice rituals, and long lists of strange taboos. Many stories are written multiple times in contradicting ways. Rather than provide deep wisdom, science, or enlightened morality, the authors speak in the conventional wisdom of the time, describe science in basic and often flawed ways, promote slavery, encourage rape, and a host of other forms of barbarism. Rather than be written in an exciting manner, the book is so poorly written that most Christians who claim to believe it is the most important book ever written still quickly lose interest and stop reading it.

Redaction

Most of the books of the old testament show signs of redaction, some to a staggering degree. The Torah is so disjointed that historians have proposed various solutions like the Documentary Hypothesis to account for it. None of the earliest surviving manuscripts match each other perfectly, so there are a large number of sentences where we don't know what was written in the original.

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