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The books containing Gods covenant to man are designated by three equivalent terms in the three great Scriptural tongues. In Hebrew it is כְּרִית, in Greek, Διαθήκη and in Latin, Testamentum. Although the etymological construction of these terms is not exactly identical, still, in fact, their accepted sense in this predication is the same, that of a pact, treaty or covenant; and they designate the written instruments of Gods solemn covenant with mankind.

A fundamental variation took place in Gods dealings with his creature in the mission of the Messiah, and, as the Greek language became at that time the principle medium of religious thought, the changed and better economy was called in that language the Καινὴ Διαθήκη, in contradistinction to the Παλαιὰ Διαθήκη; hence in Latin, which later preponderated as the vehicle of religious thought, the terms were rendered by Vetus and Novum Testamentum, whence come our equivalent English terms.

The books of the Old Testament can, from their very nature, be easily divided into three great classes: the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa. Such division, in fact, existed among the Jews from the very earliest times, but their arbitrary, ill-founded ranging of the different books under each particular class renders their data worthless. By their division, we must include Daniel among the Hagiographa, while Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings are enrolled among the Prophets. Of course the Law remained ever and with all a unique element, admitting no other book to be classified with itself. There was also in vogue among the Jews a well-known liturgical section of Holy Scripture, the חָמֵשׁ מְגִלוֹת or five volumes: The Canticle of Canticles, Ruth, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, Ecclesiastes and Esther. These formed a collection which was wont to be read on certain festal days of the year.

Our Saviour and the Apostles oft divided the Old Testament in two great divisions, the Law and the Prophets; thus, in a general way, designating all that was subsequent to the Law as the Prophets.

The Jews were wont also to divide the Pentateuch into liturgical divisions which they call פָּרָשָּׁה from root פָּרַשּׁ, to expound. These were first arranged so that every third year the Pentateuch was totally read in the synagogues. Now, however, the Babylonian mode prevails in all the synagogues, which divides the Pentateuch in fifty-four parashas, so arranged that, by reading them on every Saturday, they finish the Pentateuch within the course of the year. To this usage St. James alludes, Act. 15:21: For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him in the synagogues, where he is read every Sabbath. These parashas are designated in the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch by three •פ or three •ם They are designated by •פ if the section begins on the beginning of the line; by •ם if it begins in the middle of the line. The •פ is initial for פְּתוּחוֹת open, to signify that the section is an open one, as it begins with the line; while •ם is initial for םְתוּמוֹת closed, implying that the section is shut up, as it were, beginning in the middle of the line. Thus, for instance, the first parasha, Gen. 1:1–6:8 inclusively, is open; so also the second, extending from 6:9–11 inclusively, is open and designated by three •פ The parasha, enclosed from Gen. 28:11–32:3, inclusive, is closed, and designated by three •ם The parashas were subdivided into minor sections, designated in the Hebrew text by single •פ or •ם as they respectively began either in the beginning or middle of a line. Later, they conjoined the reading of select portions of the Prophets to the sections of the Law. They called these הַפְטָּרהָ from root פָטַר to dismiss; because, after they were read, the people were dismissed. It was in accordance with this usage, that Jesus Christ at Nazareth read in the synagogue the passage from Isaiah, Luke 4:16–19. This haftara is not now found among those assigned for synagogical readings. The antimessianic tendency of the Jews has probably expunged it.

Setting aside, therefore, rabbinical opinions, we can easily arrange all the books under the three great heads. First, the Law, comprising the five books of Moses; second, the Prophets, comprising the four great Prophets and the twelve minor Prophets, and lastly, the Hagiographa, composed of all the remaining books. However, modern writers find it convenient to divide the books in still another way, to facilitate their treatment. In this modern division, the motive of classification is the nature of the theme of the book. They thus divide them into Historical, Sapiential, Poetic, and Prophetic books. We shall employ this division in our special introduction to the different books.

The well known division of both Testaments into the protocanonical and deuterocanonical books seems to have first been employed by Sixtus Sennensis (1520–1569). In his Bibliotheca Sancta, Book 1. Sec. 1, he writes thus: Thus Canonical books of the first order we may call protocanonical; the Canonical books of the second order were formerly called ecclesiastical, but are now by us termed deuterocanonical. Although retaining and making use of this nomenclature, we in no wise attribute an inferior degree of dignity to the books of the second canon; they are in such respect equal, as God is the Author of all of them. We designate by the name of protocanonical, the books concerning whose divine origin no doubts ever existed; while the deuterocanonical books are those concerning which greater or less doubts were entertained for a time by some, till finally the genuineness of the books was acknowledged, and they were solemnly approved by the Church.

The deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament are seven; Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch and the two books of Maccabees. Together with these, there are deuterocanonical fragments of Esther, (from the 4th verse of 10th chapter to 24th verse of 16th chapter, and Daniel 3:24–90; 13, 14) The deuterocanonical books of the New Testament are also seven in number: The Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of St. James, the Second Epistle of St. Peter, the Second and Third Epistle of St. John, the Epistle of St. Jude, and the Apocalypse of St. John. There are also deuterocanonical fragments of Mark, 16:9–20; Luke 22:43–44; and John 7:53–8:11. Many of the protestants reject all the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament, and apply to them the term Apocryphal. It shall be a part of our labors to defend the equal authority of these books.

The Jewish mode of enumeration of their Holy Books was as arbitrary and as worthless as was their system of division. Taking twenty-two, the number of the letters of their alphabet, as a number of mystic signification, they violently made the number of the Books of Holy Scripture conform thereto. Josephus makes use of this mode of enumeration. In his defense against Apion, he says: For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us (as the Greeks have), disagreeing from and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all past times; which are justly believed to be divine. [Contra Apion I. 8.] St. Jerome also, in his famous Prologus Galeatus to the Books of Kings, testifies of the existence of such number, and explains its mystic foundation: As there are twenty-two elements, by which we write in Hebrew all that which we speak, so twenty-two volumes are computed, by which, as by letters and rudiments, the tender and suckling infancy of the just man is trained in the doctrine of God. And thus there are of the Old Law twenty-two books; five of Moses, eight of the Prophets, and nine of the Hagiographa. Some, however, reckon Ruth and the Lamentations among the Hagiographa, and consider that these are to be numbered in their individual number, and thus they think to be of the Old Law twenty-four books, which John personifies in the number of the twenty-four Ancients who adore the Lamb. We see then that there were two modes of enumeration, and the Fathers confused these modes in trying to adjust their enumeration to the Jewish tradition. We can not tell who was the first to find a mystic relation between the Greek alphabet of twenty-four letters and the twenty-four books, but it must have been done after the preponderance of the Hellenistic influence. The appended schema will more vividly illustrate the Jewish mode of enumeration of the Holy Books:

              1.             

              בֵרֵאשִׁיתא

              Genesis

              2.             

              וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹתב

              Exodus

              3.             

              וַיִּקְרָאג

              Leviticus

              4.             

              וַיְּדַכֵּרר

              Numbers

              5.             

              אֵלֶּה חַדְּבָרִיםה

              Deuteronomy

              6.             

              יְהוֹשֻׁעַו

              Joshua

              7.             

              שֹׁפֵטִים וְרוּתו

              Judges and Ruth

              8.             

              שְׁמוּאֵלח

              Samuel I and II, commonly called I and II Kings.

              9.             

              מְלָכִיםט

              Kings I and II, commonly called III and IV Kings.

              10.             

              יְשַׁעְיהָוּי

              Isaiah

              11.             

              יִרְמְיָהוּ וְקִינוֹתכ

              Jeremiah and The Lamentations.

              12.             

              יְחֶוְקֵאלל

              Ezekiel

              13.             

              נְבִיאִים תְּריֵ עֲשַׂרם

Literally the twelve Prophets, whom we designate as the twelve minor Prophets. These, by the Jews, were computed one book.

              Hosea, Joel, Amos Obadiah, Jona, Micah Nahum, Habakuk Zephaniah, Haggai Zachariah, Malachia

              14.             

              םֵפֶר תְּהִלִּיםנ

              Liber Laudum, or The Psalms

              15.             

              מִשְׁלֵים

              The Proverbs of Solomon

              16.             

              אִיּוֹבע

              Job

              17.             

              דָנִיאֵלפ

              Daniel

              18.             

              עֶוְרָאצ

              Ezra I and II

              19.             

              דִּכְרֵי הַיָּמִיםק

              Chronicles I and II

              20.             

              אֶםְתֵּרר

              Esther

              21.             

              קוֹהֶלֶתש

              Ecclesiastes

              23.             

              שׁיִר הַשִּׁירִיםת

              The Canticle of Canticles

By separating Ruth from Judges, and the Lamentations from Jeremiah, twenty-four books resulted, and these are the books of the Jewish Canon, or as it is commonly called the Canon of Ezra, from his supposed influence upon it. As no doubts have ever arisen concerning these books, they have been called the protocanonical works or books of the First Canon. Which mode of computation is prior, it is impossible to ascertain with certainty. Loisy believes the number twenty-four to be prior, as it seems to be the Talmudic number. Against this is the authority of Josephus, who speaks of the number twenty-two as the sole traditional one. A question of so little importance may well be left in its uncertainty.








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