Number Of Books

The first division of the Scriptures, as already mentioned, is into the Old and New Testaments. The New belongs to the Christians, but the Old was received from the Jews; and it is from them, therefore, that we must learn what the number of the books of it originally was, and everything else relating to this most ancient and interesting production.

The celebrated Jewish writers, Josephus and Philo, reckon two and twenty canonical books in the Old Testament, which is the number of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet: and to make out this, they join the book of Ruth to that of Judges, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah to the book of his Prophecies. But other Jewish doctors divide the book of Ruth from that of Judges, and, making likewise a separate book of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, they reckon four and twenty books in all. In order to accommodate this number to that of the letters of the alphabet, they repeat the letter yod three times, as they say, in honor to the great name of God Jehovah, of which yod is the first letter; and in Chaldee three yods together were used to express this adorable name, but as the modern Jews thought this savored too much of what Christians call the Trinity, they use only two yods for this purpose. St. Jerome is of opinion that St. John had this division of the Hebrew scriptures in view, when in his Revelation he speaks of the four and twenty elders who paid adoration to the Lamb of God.

The Jews divide the whole of these books into three classes, namely, the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa or Holy Writings, which last division includes more particularly the poetical parts; and some are of opinion that Jesus Christ alludes to this division of the Scriptures, when he says that “all things must be fulfilled that were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning” him. For the book of Psalms, they understand all the books of the third class. The Law comprehends the Pentateuch; that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Prophetical books are eight viz: (1) Joshua, (2) Judges, with Ruth, (3) Samuel, (4) Kings, (5) Isaiah, (6) Jeremiah, (7) Ezekiel, and (8) the twelve Lesser Prophets. The first four books of this division are called the Former Prophets, and the last four the Later Prophets. The Hagiographa, or Holy Writings, are nine, viz: (1) Job, (2) the Psalms, (3) Proverbs, (4) Ecclesiastes, (5) The Song of Songs, (6) Daniel, (7) Chronicles, (8) Ezra, with Nehemiah, and (9) Esther. The Jews do not put Daniel in the rank of a prophet, although they acknowledge him to have been a man inspired by God, and whose writings are full of the clearest prophecies concerning the time of the Messiah's coming and what should  happen to their nation. Jesus Christ, therefore, gives him the name of a Prophet, and the Jewish doctors are much puzzled to find out a proper reason for their not doing the same. “It is,” says Maimonides, “because everything that Daniel wrote was not revealed to him when he was awake and had the use of his reason, but in the night, and in obscure dreams.” But this is a very unsatisfactory account of the matter; and others are of opinion that the name of a Prophet was commonly given to those only who were of a certain college, and whose business it was to write the annals; and that, therefore, their works were ranked among the prophetical books, though they did not contain a single prediction of anything to come, as the books of Joshua and Judges; while, on the contrary, the works of those who were of not of these colleges of the prophets were not ranked among the prophetical books, although they contained true prophecies.

The Latins agree with the Jews as to the number of the Psalms, which is a hundred and fifty; but both they and the Greeks divide them differently from the Hebrews. In the Greek Bible and the Vulgate, or common Latin version, the ninth and tenth, according to the Hebrew, make but one psalm; and therefore, in order to make up the number of a hundred and fifty, they divide the hundred and forty-seventh into two.




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