General Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon William Henry Green


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their past history as a reward of their goodness (x. 15-

20), whereas in the Scriptures these are always spoken of

as undeserved mercies, bestowed in spite of their unfaith-

fulness. The miracles are exaggerated in a way that

has no sanction in the inspired narrative of them, from

a mere love of the marvellous. Thus the manna is said

(xvi. 20, 21) to have agreed to every taste, and to have

tempered itself to every man's liking; and the plagues

of Egypt are related (ch. xvi., xvii.) with a number of

embellishments existing only in the imagination of the

writer. A false explanation is given of the symbolical

meaning of the high priest's dress (xviii. 24, 25), and a

virtue attributed to it which was due only to his office

and his official mediation. Cain's murder of Abel is

said to have been the cause of the flood (x. 4), and a very

superficial account is given of the origin of idolatry,

which is traced (xiv. 15) to fathers making images of

their deceased children, entirely overlooking the great

moral causes which the apostle points out in Rom. i.

21-23—the alienation of the heart from God so dark-

ening the understanding that men changed the glory

of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to

corruptible man and to birds and four-footed beasts

and creeping things. The Book of Wisdom, more-

over, claims to have been written by Solomon (ch. vii.,

ix. 7, 8), and yet the people of God are spoken of as

in subjection to their enemies (xv. 14), which never

occurred in Solomon's days; and the book was, as

is evident, originally written not in Hebrew, but in


Ecclesiasticus, with much that is commendable, con-

tains also quite a number of passages that are at variance

with the spirit and teachings of the inspired word. Thus

it says that almsgiving makes atonement for sin (iii. 30).

Generosity to the wicked is prohibited (xii. 4-7), cruelty

to slaves is justified (xxxiii. 26, 28, xlii. 5), and hatred

to the Samaritans (1. 25, 26). Expediency is substituted.

for right as the ground of obligation, and exhortations

given to do what will gain the favor of men in place of

a single regard to what is acceptable in the sight of

God. Thus, xxxviii. 17, "Weep bitterly for the dead for

a day or two, lest thou be evil spoken of."

Baruch purports to have been written by Baruch,
the helper of Jeremiah, though it was probably written

in the Greek language in whole or in part. It contains

passages imitated or quoted from Daniel and Nehe-

miah, who lived later. According to i. 14 this book

was required to be read in the house of the Lord on

feasts and solemn days; but there is no trace of such a

custom having ever been observed by the Jews Baruch

is said to have been in Babylon, though he went with

Jeremiah into Egypt after the capture of Jerusalem by

Nebuchadnezzar. The Temple is spoken of as standing,

and offerings said to be made in Jerusalem (i. 7-10),

though the Temple was burned when the city was taken.

The vessels of the Temple are said to have been sent

back from Babylon in the time of Jeremiah (i. 8), though

they were not in fact returned until after the exile was

over (Ezra i. 7). God is spoken of as hearing the pray-

ers of the dead (iii. 4), which, like 2 Macc. xv. 14,

where Jeremiah prays for the people after his death,

has been used as a proof-text for soliciting the prayers

of departed saints. The epistle of Jeremiah, which now

appears as the last chapter of the Book of Baruch, is

probably older than this book and by a different author.

It conflicts with the genuine writings of Jeremiah in

declaring that the captivity was to last seven generations,

instead of seventy years, ver. 3.

1 Maccabees contains historical and geographical er-

rors, which it is not worth while to detail here, but is

much more reliable than 2 Maccabees, which abounds in

legends and fables, as that of the miraculous preserva-

tion of the sacred fire (i. 19 ff.), Jeremiah's hiding the

Tabernacle with the ark and altar of incense in Mount

Nebo (ii. 4 ff.), the apparition which prevented Heli-

odorus from invading the sanctity of the Temple (iii.

25), etc. It justifies suicide (xiv. 41-46), and prayers

and offerings for the dead (xii. 41-45). And the writer

does not claim inspiration, but only to have written ac-

cording to his ability (xv. 38, 39).

The genuine Book of Esther is written in Hebrew

and found in the Hebrew canon, but the additions are

only in the Greek and in the old Latin version. Some

writer appears, as is remarked by Jerome, to have un-

dertaken to add what might have been said by the vari-

ous persons mentioned in the book under the circum-

stances there described. But in so doing he interrupts

the connection, contradicts the genuine chapters in vari-

ous particulars, and adds others which are exceedingly

improbable or evidently untrue.

The additions to the Book of Daniel consist of three

parts: 1. The prayer of the three children, Shadrach,

Meshach and Abednego, in the fiery furnace, which is

a devout meditation, but without any special adapta-

tion to the occasion or their situation; and it contains

(vs. 23-27) some particulars not warranted by the gen-

uine narrative. 2. The story of Susannah, which con-

tains a play upon words, showing that it must have

been written in Greek. 3. The legend of Bel and the

Dragon, which is an absurd and ridiculous fiction.


BLOCH, p. 137, infers from the concluding verses of

Ecclesiastes that this book stood last in the original

arrangement of the canon. Following a conjecture of

Krochmal and Graetz, he regards Eccl. xii. 12-14 as no

part of the book itself, but a note appended to the

completed canon by its collectors, certifying that it

the endless multitude of other books as only wearisome,

regard to his duty and his destiny, and warning against

sufficiently sets forth all that man requires to know in

without being able to give a satisfactory response to

these great questions. As there is no good reason for

attributing these verses to the collectors of the canon,

or understanding them as anything else than a fitting

conclusion to the book itself, the inference as to its po-

sition in the canon falls of course.

An opinion much more widely entertained is that

certain passages in the New Testament show that in the

time of our Lord the books were arranged as they are

in Hebrew Bibles at present. Thus, Mat. xxiii. 35,

Luke xi. 51, in speaking of "all the righteous blood

shed upon the earth," our Lord particularizes "from

the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacha-

riah, son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the

sanctuary and the altar" (cf. 2 Chron. xxiv. 20, 21).

From this it has been inferred that Chronicles must

have been then, as now, the last book in the Hebrew

canon, since one example is taken from Genesis and the
other from Chronicles, to represent all that are record-

ed in the Bible from first to last. And this, though

the murder of a prophet later in point of time might

have been found in that of Uriah, the contemporary of

Jeremiah (Jer. xxvi. 23). Plausible as this argument

seems, it can scarcely be called convincing, for two

reasons: 1. From Genesis to Chronicles, considered as

the earliest and the latest of the historical books, would

be equally comprehensive, irrespective of the position

of the latter in the arrangement of the canon. And 2.

It is perhaps not absolutely certain that Zachariah, the

son of Barachiah, of Matthew, is the same as Zachariah,

the son of Jehoiada, in Chronicles.

Our Lord's words (Luke xxiv. 44) "All things must

needs be fulfilled which were written in the law of Mo-

ses, and the prophets, and the psalms concerning me,"

have been thought to indicate that the Psalms then,

as now, was the first book in the third division of the

canon, and as such is here used to denote all that is

included in that division. But the Psalms in this pass-

age mean simply the particular book so called, which is

singled out from the rest of the Hagiographa as making

the fullest disclosures respecting Christ; so that nothing

can be inferred from it respecting the arrangement of

the books in that division of the canon.

The books of Moses and the Former Prophets, or the

historical books from Joshua to Kings, preserve one un-

varying order in all the early lists of the canon, which is

determined by their chronological succession. The Lat-

ter Prophets, or the strictly prophetical books and the

Hagiographa, are variously arranged. The order of the

Latter Prophets in the Talmudic tract Baba Bathra is

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, the Twelve; and that of the

Hagiographa, Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes,

Song of Songs, Lamentations, Esther, Ezra, Chronicles.


Various reasons have been assigned for the position

here accorded to Isaiah:

1. The explanation offered in the Talmud is that the

Books of Kings end in desolation, Jeremiah is all deso-

lation, Ezekiel begins in desolation and ends in conso-

lation, Isaiah is all consolation. Hence like is joined

with like, desolation with desolation, and consolation

with consolation.

2. Modern critics from the time of Eichhorn1 have

sought to find in it a confirmation of their views respect-

ing the composite character of the Book of Isaiah, as

partly the genuine production of the prophet, and partly

belonging to the later years of the Babylonish exile. But

that the authors of this passage had no such meaning is

apparent from their statement that "Hezekiah and his

associates wrote the Book of Isaiah," see p. 94, showing

that they attributed it to the lifetime of Hezekiah and

consequently of the prophet himself. And nearly four

centuries previously the author of the Book of Ecclesi-

asticus (xlviii. 24, 25; cf. Isa. xl. 1, xlii. 9) makes it evi-

dent that Isa. xl.-lxvi was at that time regarded as the

work of the prophet Isaiah; and he names the prophets

in the following order: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and

the Twelve (xlix. 6-10).

3. Herzfeld (III. p. 103) thinks that the books of the

Prophets are arranged according to their respective

length: Jeremiah as the longest stands first, Ezekiel

next, Isaiah next, and the Minor Prophets, constituting

one book, which is shorter still, stand last. The treatises

1 Einleitung, 4th Edition, p. 50; Dillmann, p. 452, note; Strack, p.

433; Davidson, Canon of the Bible, pp. 93, 94; Furst, p. 16, who, while

professedly tracing early Jewish tradition, everywhere mingles with it

his own critical notions, proposes to alter the text of the passage under

consideration into accordance with them, claiming that its original form

may have been "Isaiah (I.), Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah (II.)."


in the several divisions of the Mishnah are arranged on

this principle.1

4. Konig (Einleitung, p. 459, note) seeks a reason

for this arrangement of the Prophets in the respective

distances to which they were enabled to penetrate the


5. Marx (p. 36) proposes the explanation that the

Book of Jeremiah was placed before the other prophets

that it might stand next to Kings, of which, according

to Baba Bathra, he was the author; Ezekiel follows as

his junior contemporary; Isaiah is thus brought into

conjunction with Hosea, the first of the Minor Prophets,

who (Isa. i. 1; Hos. i. 1) prophesied under the same

four kings.2

While it may be a matter of curious speculation what

led to this particular arrangement of the Prophets,

it is of no especial moment, as it was neither ancient

nor authoritative. The passage in Baba Bathra, with

which we are now concerned, is preceded by inquiries,3
1 Strack (p. 433) gives Geiger the credit of having established this


2 So also Buhl, p. 38; Ryle, p. 228.

3 Marx (p. 28) extracts the following from the tract Baba Bathra,

fol. 13b: "Our Rabbis taught, It is not forbidden to write the law,

prophets and hagiographa in one volume: these are the words of R.

Meir (an eminent doctor of the second century A.D., a pupil of R.

Akiba). R. Judah (either Ben-Hai, a contemporary of R. Meir, or

Ben-Bethera of the first century) says: The law ought to be written by

itself, the prophets by themselves, and the hagiographa by themselves.

Other scholars say: Each book should be written separately. R. Judah

defends his opinion by relating that Boethus ben-Zonin had the eight

prophets written together in one volume, and this was approved by

Eleazar ben-Azariah (President of the Synod along with the Patriarch

Gamaliel of the first century). But some say that the Prophets of Boe-

thus were each written separately. The Rabbi (Judah ha-Kadosh,

writer of the Mishnah in the second century) said: They brought us the

law, prophets, and hagiographa combined in one volume, and we pro-

nounced it all right."

"whether it is allowable to combine the law with the

prophets and hagiographa in one volume; and in an-

other place (Megillah, fol. 27a) the question is asked

whether it is proper to lay books of the prophets on the

volume of the law. These two questions show that at

that time the Jews were not in the habit of writing all

the sacred books in one volume. For, if they were, it

would have been stated that they had very many books

containing the entire Scriptures or all the prophets or

all the hagiographa. Among these there certainly would

have been several approved by distinguished Rabbis,

and not merely a single volume of the prophets and one

of the entire Old Testament of which mention is made.

Synagogues also and schools would have been supplied

with copies venerable from age, so that no one could have

asked whether it was allowable to have copies of this

sort. . . . We have tried in vain to discover a passage

in the Talmud which speaks of a book of the prophets

or a book of the hagiographa as a unit. Rabbis often

mention old books which contained the whole law, but

never books containing either all the prophets or all the

hagiographa, except in that one passage of the tract Baba

Bathra cited in the preceding note. . . . When now

the question arose, what order should be adopted if all

the sacred books were to be written in one volume, it is

not surprising if some would think one order best and

others another. We cannot consequently expect to find

in the Talmud a legally required and anciently estab-

lished order, but only what certain doctors thought true

and right."1

It is evident from these considerations, as stated

by Marx, that no more weight can be attributed to

this order prescribed for the books of the prophets

than to the speculations contained in the same para-

1 Marx, pp. 29, 30, 33.


graph concerning the origin of the several books, see

p. 94.

In the Talmudic order of the Hagiographa Ruth

stands first. The question is asked why Job, whom

they referred to the time of Moses, did not have the first

place; and the answer is given that it was not suitable

to begin with calamity. The real reason for prefixing

Ruth to the Psalms probably is that it records the ances-

try of David, by whom so many of the Psalms were writ-

ten. As some of the Psalms were attributed to Adam,

Melchizedek and Abraham (though committed to writing

by David), the Psalter is put before Job. Then follow

the three books ascribed to Solomon, Proverbs, Eccle-

siastes and Song of Songs; then, in chronological order,

the Lamentations of Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and

finally Chronicles, which was attributed to Ezra.

Another Baraitha1 speaks of the Psalms, Proverbs,

and Job as the three greater K'thubhim, and the Song

of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations as the lesser

K'thubhim. Furst (pp. 57, 60), without any reason, con-

verts this into a distinction of older and more recent

K'thubhim, and hence infers the gradual formation of

this part of the canon; that the Song of Songs and Ec-

clesiastes were a comparatively late addition, and that

Esther had not yet been advanced to canonical dignity

when this phraseology became current. But no such

consequences follow from the use of this simple phrase.

In the Talmudic arrangement the six poetical books

stand together and spontaneously divide themselves into

three of larger and three of smaller size.

The Talmudic arrangement of the books is only fol-

lowed in a very limited number of Hebrew manuscripts,

which are specified in detail by Strack (p. 441). The

Massoretic arrangement, which according to Elias Levita

1 Berachoth, fol. 57b.
is followed chiefly by the Spanish manuscripts, is in the

Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Twelve; and

in the Hagiographa: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs,

Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther,

Daniel, Ezra. In this order Isaiah is restored to its

proper chronological place. Chronicles leads the Hagi-

ographa because its genealogies begin with Adam;

Ruth is transposed so as to stand with the smaller

K'thubhim, and Esther is transposed with Daniel for a

like reason.

The German manuscripts, followed by the printed

editions of the Hebrew Bible, adopt a different order

still in the Hagiographa. The three large poetical books

stand first, Proverbs as the work of Solomon being

transposed with Job, so as to stand next to the Psalms

of David; then the five small books called Megilloth in

the order of the festivals upon which they are read in

the Synagogues; then Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah,

chronologically disposed; and finally Chronicles, which

with its genealogies and its history, extending from

Adam to the end of the Babylonish exile, forms a

suitable appendix to the entire volume of Scripture.

The Jewish authorities, whom Jerome followed in his

Prologus Galeatus (his helmed prologue, intended as a

defence against the intrusion of apocryphal books into

the canon), joined Ruth with Judges, Lamentations with

Jeremiah, and arranged the Hagiographa thus: Job,

Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Daniel,

Chronicles, Ezra with Nehemiah, and Esther. Job is

probably put before the Psalms on the assumption that

it was written by Moses or in his time; Chronicles be-

fore Ezra as the proper historical order; and Esther

last on the supposition shared by Josephus that Ezra

and Nehemiah lived under Xerxes, and that Ahasuerus

was his son Artaxerxes.


In the Septuagint the threefold division of the canon

is abandoned, and the fourfold classification into the

Law of Moses, the Historical, Poetical, and Prophetical

Books substituted in its stead. It is not worth while

here to detail the various arrangements of the books,

which are found in early Christian catalogues and in the

manuscripts of the Greek and Latin Bibles.1

There was a great diversity likewise in ancient cata-

logues in their enumeration of the books of the Old Tes-

tament, though without any real difference in the extent

of the canon. The difference lay merely in the various

modes of grouping and counting the very same books.

We have already seen that it was usual to reckon Sam-

uel, Kings, the twelve Minor Prophets and Chronicles

as each one book, and to count Ezra and Nehemiah as

together constituting one. Then (p. 87) if Ruth was

joined to Judges, and Lamentations to Jeremiah, the

total was 22; if Ruth and Lamentations were each

counted separately, it was 24. The 22 books were

sometimes divided into four Pentateuchs or groups of

five: 1. The five books of Moses. 2. Five historical

books, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.

3. Five poetical books, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesi-

astes, and Song of Solomon. 4. Five prophetical books,

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Minor Proph-

ets. Ezra and Esther were supernumeraries.

Epiphanius and Jerome mention that they were some-

times reckoned 27, or equal to the Hebrew alphabet with

the five final letters added. Thus Jerome says: "As

there are five letters with double forms in the alphabet,

so there are five double books in the canon, viz.: Samuel,

Kings, Chronicles, Ezra with Nehemiah, and Jeremiah

1 Several of these are given in Ryle (pp. 213-218), and Excursus C

(pp. 281, 282). And a much more detailed list may be found in Hody,

De Bibliorum Textibus Originalibus (pp. 644-664).
with Lamentations." If each of the books thus paired

together be counted separately, the whole number will

be 27. Then if in addition Ruth be separated from

Judges, the number will be 28.1

Again they have been counted 33, which, with the

27 books of the New Testament, makes 60 in the entire

Bible, a number which was associated with the 60

queens of the Song of Solomon (vi. 8). This is made

out by uniting the books as in counting 22, only reck-

oning the Minor Prophets as twelve instead of one.

Finally, if all the books are counted separately, the

number will be 39, as in the English Bible.

1 So reckoned by John Ferus (A.D. 1540), as stated by Cosin, p. 202.

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