Old testament

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Old testament
Author Various
Type Ancient writing, Anthology
Genre Creation Myth, Origin Myth, Prophetic, Wisdom
Themes Religion
Age Group Adult

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 or more 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. All of the books in all of the different canons are in the public domain.

Christians refer to the these books as the old testament because they believe that the covenant between Yahweh and humankind was ended through the execution of Jesus, a character described in most of the books of their New Testament. They also believe, before he was executed, Jesus gave people 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 also don't believe Jesus was the messiah since he doesn't fulfill any of the criteria for the messiah as laid out in the Tanakh, and, even if he were, Jews don't believe even the messiah could discontinue Yahweh's covenant. Because of this, Jews tend to find the term "old" testament rather offensive.


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

Jews (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)
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
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
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

Additional Writings

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


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 all of 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.



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?


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. Without accurate authorship, how can we tell the difference between a books written by a notable historical figure and just some random crazy person?


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 primitive 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.


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.


Most Christians believe their god uses the bible to convey his message to all people in a timeless manner, but much of the language is so old that nobody alive understands what it means. There is nobody left alive to translate the words.



UsefulCharts - Biblical family trees.
UsefulCharts - Who wrote the apocrypha?
UsefulCharts - Who wrote Daniel?
UsefulCharts - Oldest bible manuscripts.
UsefulCharts - Books in order of writing.


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