[b-hebrew] Tanach book order - different in Christian Bibles

Harold Holmyard hholmyard at ont.com
Fri Sep 1 07:22:58 EDT 2006

Dear Steven,

>  Here is a cross-disciplinary question :-)
>  The Reformation Bibles we know have a different book order and  
>combination of books than the Hebrew Bible, and its tri-partite division. 
>   Where did this Christian book-order arise ?  It is said sometimes that 
>it arose from the Greek Tanach (socalled LXX) translations, but those 
>manuscripts are quite inconsistent, so I am skeptical of that claim, at 
>least it needs more detail about who, where, when. 
>  Is there a study of the process that gave us the current Christian Bible
>book order in Tanach ?  Is this discussed in early days, like with Jerome ?
>How did he order his Latin Vulgate, translated from the Hebrew-Aramaic ?
>Do we know ? 
HH: Here is a helpful part of an ISBE article:

 In the arrangement of books there is a radical departure from 
Palestinian practice. There were three main unalterable divisions in the 
Hebrew Bible, representing three stages in the formation of the Canon: 
Law, Prophets ("Former" i.e. Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and 
"Latter") and "Writings." This arrangement was known at Alexandria at 
the end of the 2nd century BC (Sirach, prologue) but was not followed. 
The "Writings" were a miscellaneous collection of history and poetry 
with one prophetical book (Daniel). Alexandrian scholars introduced a 
more literary and symmetrical system, bringing together the books of 
each class and arranging them with some regard to the supposed 
chronological order of their authors. The Law, long before the Greek 
translation, had secured a position of supreme sanctity; this group was 
left undisturbed, it kept its precedence and the individual books their 
order (Leviticus and Numbers, however, exchange places in a few lists). 
The other two groups are broken up. Ruth is removed from the "Writings" 
and attached to Judges. Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah are similarly 
transferred to the end of the historical group. This group, from 
chronological considerations, is followed by the poetical and other 
"Writings," the Prophets coming last (so in Codex Vaticanus, etc.; in 
Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, prophets precede poets). The 
internal order of the Greek Hagiographa, which includes quasi-historical 
(Esther, Tobit, Judith) and Wisdom books, is variable. Daniel now first 
finds a place among the Prophets. The 12 minor prophets usually precede 
the major (Codex Sinaiticus and Western authorities give the four 
precedence), and the order of the first half of their company is 
shuffled, apparently on chronological grounds, Hosea being followed by 
Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah. Jeremiah has his train of satellites, 
Baruch, Lamentations (transferred from the "Writings") and Epistle of 
Jeremiah; Susanna and Bel and the Dragon consort with and form integral 
parts of Daniel. Variation in the order of books is partly attributable 
to the practice of writing each book on a separate papyrus roll, kept in 
a cylindrical case; rolls containing kindred matter would tend to be 
placed in the same case, but there would be no fixed order for these 
separate items until the copying of large groups in book-form came into 
vogue (Swete, Introduction, 225, 229 f).

Harold Holmyard

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