On Knowing the Bible, by Witness Lee


A. The Old Testament

The arrangement we now have of the books of the Old Testament was not the original sequence in the Hebrew Old Testament. Rather this was the sequence adopted in the Septuagint. In 277 B.C. seventy scribes translated the Old Testament into Greek, and they rearranged the sequence of the books. They were arranged quite properly according to the spiritual context, and Bible scholars acknowledge God’s sovereignty in this arrangement.

The original Hebrew Old Testament was divided into three parts, in accordance with the Lord’s speaking in Luke 24:44 and 27. These three parts were the Laws of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

1. The Laws of Moses

The Laws of Moses consisted of the Pentateuch of Moses, five books in all.

2. The Prophets

The Prophets were divided into the Former Prophets and the Latter Prophets. The Former Prophets consisted of four books: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (without distinction of 1 and 2), and Kings (without distinction of 1 and 2), in that order. The Latter Prophets also consisted of four books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets. (The remaining twelve prophetic books, excluding Lamentations and Daniel, were combined into one as the Minor Prophets.)

3. The Psalms, or the Other Writings

The Psalms, or other writings, included quite much and were altogether eleven books: the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra and Nehemiah were counted as one), and Chronicles (with no distinction of first and second).

The five books of the Law of Moses, the eight books of the Prophets, and the eleven books of the Psalms totaled twenty-four books. This was the ancient Jewish Old Testament and its sequence.

At the beginning of the church age, the Fathers preferred to consider the Old Testament as twenty-two books to correspond to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This division was also confirmed by the historian Josephus.

Some of the names of the Old Testament books were also first used by the Septuagint. Originally, many books had the first word of the book as their name. For example, the original name of Genesis was “The Beginning.” Some took the meaning of the name of the prominent person of that book as the name. For example, the original name of the book of Samuel was “Given from God,” the meaning of the name “Samuel” (1 Sam. 1:20). The original name for the book of Isaiah was “Salvation of Jehovah,” the meaning of the name “Isaiah.” After the compilation of the Septuagint, these books were called by the names we use today.

B. The New Testament

Since A.D. 397, after the recognition of the books of the New Testament at the council at Carthage, the books and sequence of the New Testament became what we have today.

(On Knowing the Bible, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)