An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Old Testament

The name traditionally given to the first thirty-nine books of the Christian Bible, i.e., Genesis through Malachi in Protestant versions. Roman Catholic versions and those of the various Orthodox churches have additional books, called the Apocrypha or the Deutero-canonical books. Other versions include the apocryphal books in a separate section of the Bible. In recent years the term “Hebrew Scriptures” has been used frequently for the first part of the Bible. The practice presumably reflects the concern that the adjective “old” might seem pejorative and imply that the NT has invalidated the OT, which would be offensive to Jewish people. The Hebrew Bible itself consists of the thirty-nine books of the Protestant Bible but in a different order. It has three divisions: 1) the Pentateuch (or Torah); 2) the Prophets (or Nebiim), divided into the Former and the Latter Prophets; and 3) the Writings (Kethubim). This seems to be the order in which the three were accepted as authoritative by the Jewish community. The term “testament” comes from the Latin translation of the Hebrew word berith, which means “covenant.” Thus the two parts of the Christian Bible refer basically to the two covenants of biblical times, the first with the Hebrew people and the second with the Christian community. See Apocrypha.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.