Q. Is it true that the canon of the Hebrew scriptures is different from the Christian Old Testament canon? Could you explain the similarities and differences? Could you identify and give a brief summary of the Tri-Partite Divisions of the Hebrew Canon, list each of its books (Hebrew) included in each division?
Most scholars believe that the Hebrew canon was essentially the same as the canon identified by various “Christian councils” which began in 365 A.D. There are really very few differences.
Some traditions add the books of the apocrypha, but it is believed that by the time of Christ most had rejected these books. By the time of Christ the canon of the Old Testament contained the same material as found in our 39 books of the Old Testament.
In reference to the Tri-Partite Division of the Bible –This is the same way of dividing the Old Testament which our Lord used in Luke 24:44: Luke 24:44
“Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
The Law (Torah) contained the 5 books of the Pentateuch (Gen, Ex, Lev, Nu, Dt) which were called “the Five-fifths of the Law.”
The Prophets (Nebiim) contained the four so-called Former Prophets, Josh, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel counted as one book; 1 & 2 Kings also counted as one book, and the four so-called Latter Prophets, Isa, Jer, Ezk, and the Twelve Minor Prophets counted as one book. The “Prophets” totaled 8 books.
The Psalms (also known as the “Writings) (Chethubim) contained 11 books in all including Ps, Prov, Job, the five Mghilloth or Rolls (Song of Sol, Ruth, Lam, Eccl, Est), Dan, Ezra and Neh. counted as one book and 1 &2 Chronicles counted as one book, 24 books in all, exactly the same material as found in our Bibles today.
This is the way the Jews referenced the books of the Old Testament as far back as we can trace it. Much later in history certain Jewish authorities appended Ruth to Judges and Lam to Jer to try to make 22 books corresponding to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, but the divisions given above are the oldest Jewish tradition, predating Christ.