How many Books do you have in your Bible? 24? 66? 73? 78? Why the difference in the numbers? The Hebrew Bible has 24 Books. The Protestant Bible has 66. The Catholic Bible has 73. The Eastern Orthodox Bible has 78.
I believe that the Bible I study contains the Word of God. I’ve seen other Bibles that have more books than mine, but have not been convinced to add them to my Bible study. Many Christians do, so why won’t I? I trust God to preserve and present His Word to the world in the exact compilation He planned from the beginning. I trust that even as He carefully inspired the writing of each Book that would become part of His Written Word, God was also involved in the formation and canonization of His Word.
The Canon (“reed, measuring stick” – rule or standard authority) of The Old Testament was settled soon after Malachi wrote the last prophetic book at the end of the 5th century BC. We know that the Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy) was referenced by early prophets (as early as Joshua) and kings of Israel (as early as Saul and David). As for the writings of Israel’s prophets and kings (Joshua – Malachi), the Talmud (ancient rabbinic instructions) states that the Tanakh (Canon of the Hebrew Bible) was compiled during the 5th century BC. Some scholars date the final version to the 2nd or 1st centuries BC. Jesus Christ read from the Tanakh and quoted extensively from the three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible (Law, Prophets, Writings) early in the 1st century AD.
The Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint – LXX) was compiled during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC in Alexandria, Egypt. Philo of Alexandria, born in 20 BC, quoted from the Septuagint. The 1st century AD historian Josephus also quoted from the Septuagint. The Septuagint has been proven through the centuries to be a reliable translation from the Hebrew.
The Masoretic Text is a Hebrew version of the Old Testament copied by the Masoretes during the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries AD. The Masoretes were Jewish scribes and scholars who painstakingly made sure that the Hebrew Bible was accurately preserved. While many scholars doubted and even mocked the Masoretic Text as being unreliable to the original Hebrew text, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 changed many minds about the accuracy of the Masoretic Text. More than 970 texts from the Hebrew Bible were discovered and include some of the oldest surviving copies of the Tanakh. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain manuscripts dating from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Comparisons of the Masoretic Text to those in the Dead Sea Scrolls have confirmed that the Masoretes were excellent copyists.
“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” Luke 24:44-45
Jesus made it clear from one of the last things He told His disciples before He ascended to Heaven that Hebrew Scripture contained the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. That’s the 24 Books of the Hebrew Bible and the 39 Books of the Protestant Old Testament (e.g. Book of Samuel is one Book in the Hebrew Bible, but two Books in the Protestant Old Testament; Kings is one Book in Hebrew Bible, but two Books in Protestant Old Testament, etc).
Our Lord gave no authority to any other writings as Holy Scripture than those in the Masoretic Text, but there are other “books” included in some copies of Bibles. The Catholic Bible also includes the books of Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon. The Greek Orthodox Bible includes those books plus five others including 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, Prayer of Manasseh, and Letter of Jeremiah. Some Ethiopian Orthodox Churches also include 3 Baruch, 4 Baruch, 1 Enoch, Jubilees, 1 Meqabyan, 2 Meqabyan, and 3 Meqabyan in their canon of Scripture. The Syrian Orthodox Church also accepts 2 Baruch and Psalms 152-155 as Scripture. None of them are confirmed in Scripture to be Scripture, so what should Christians do with them? Do we read them? Study them? Obey them? We’ll look at that important question in the next part of our study.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”