Books of the Bible

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NameBooks of the Bible
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of the Bible.

Old Testament, Part I.



of the Bible.

Old Testament, Part I.





Noah's Ark.

Tower of Babel.




Pasch, or Passover.



The Jewish Priesthood.





Cana, Canaanites.

Josue (Joshua).



Book of Ruth.

First and Second Books of Kings.

King David.

The Books of Paralipomenon (Chronicles).




Esdras (or Ezra).

I Esdras.

II Esdras.

III Esdras.

IV Esdras.

Book of Nehemiah.


Book of Esther.

The Machabees.

The Books of Machabees.

The First Book of Machabees.

The Second Book of Machabees.

The Third and Fourth Books of Machabees.

Book of Tobias.

Book of Judith.

Some History and Geography.

Biblical Chronology.



Temple of Jerusalem.









In Greek pentateuchos, is the name of the first five books of the Old Testament. Though it is not certain whether the word originally was an adjective, qualifying the omitted noun biblos, or a substantive, its literal meaning “five cases” appears to refer to the sheaths or boxes in which the separate rolls or volumes were kept.

At what precise time the first part of the Bible was divided into five books is a question not yet finally settled. Some regard the division as antedating the Septuagint translation; others attribute it to the authors of this translation; Blessed Jerome was of opinion (Ep. 52, ad Paulin., 8; P.L. XXII, 545) that St. Paul alluded to such a division into five books in I Cor. 14:19. At any rate, Philo and Josephus are familiar with the division now in question (“De Abrahamo,” I; “Cont. Apion.” I, 8).

However ancient may be the custom of dividing the initial portion of the Old Testament into five parts, the early Jews had no name indicating the partition. They called this part of the Bible hattorah (the law), or torah (law), or sepher hattorah (book of the law), from the nature of its contents (Jos. 8:34; 1:8; 1 Esdr. 10:3; 2 Esdr. 8:2-14; 10:35-37; 2 Par. 25:4. They named it torath Mosheh (law of Moses), sepher Mosheh (book of Moses), sepher torath Mosheh (book of the law of Moses) on account of its authorship (Jos. 8:31-32; 23:6; 3 Kings 2:3; 4 Kings 14:16; 23:25; Dan. 9:11; I Esdr. 3:2; 6: 18; II Esdr. 8:1; 13:1; etc.). Finally, the Divine origin of the Mosaic Law was implied in the names: law of Yahweh (I Esdr. 7:10; etc.), law of God (II Esdr., 8:18; etc.), book of the law of Yahweh (II Par. 17:9; etc.), book of the law of God (Jos. 24:26; etc.).

The word law in the foregoing expressions has been rendered by nomos, with or without the article, in the Septuagint version. The New Testament refers to the Mosaic law in various ways: the law (Matt. 5:17; Rom. 2:12; etc.); the law of Moses (Luke 2:22; 24:44; Acts 28:23); the book of Moses (Mark 12:26); or simply, Moses (Luke 24:2; Acts 15:21). Even the Talmud and the older Rabbinic writings call the first part of the Bible the book of the law, while in Aramaic it is simply termed law (cf. Buxtorf, “Lexicon Chaldaicum Talmudicum Rabbinicum,” 791, 983; Levy, “Chaldaisches Worterbuch,” 268, 16; Aicher, “Das Alte Testament in der Mischna,” Freiburg, 1906, p. 16).

The Greek name pentateuchos, implying a division of the law into five parts, occurs for the first time about A.D. 150-75 in the letter to Flora by the Valentinian Ptolemy (cf. St. Epiphan., “Haer.,” XXXIII, iv; P.G. XLI, 560). An earlier occurrence of the name was supposed to exist in a passage of Hippolytus where the Psalter is called kai auto allon pentateuchon (cf. edition of de Lagarde, Leipzig and London, 1858 p. 193); but the passage has been found to belong to Epiphanius (cf. “Hippolytus” in “Die griechischen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte,” Leipzig, 1897, t. I, 143). Origen uses the name (Comment. in Ev. Jo., t. II; P.G. XIV, 192; cf. P.G. XIII, 444), as does St. Athanasius (Ep. ad Marcellin., 5; P.G. 27: 12), and, several times, St. Epiphanius (De mensur. et ponderib., 4, 6; P.G. XLIII, 244). In Latin, Tertulian uses the masculine form Pentateuchus (Adv. Marcion., I, 10; P.L. II, 257), while Isidore of Seville prefers the neuter Pentateuchum (Etym., VI 2:1, 2; P.L. LXXXII, 230). The analogous forms Octateuch, Heptateuch, and Hexateuch have been used to refer to the first, eight, seven, and six books of the Bible respectively. The Rabbinic writers adopted the expression “the five-fifths of the law” or simply “the five-fifths” to denote the five books of the Pentateuch.

Both the Palestinian and the Alexandrian Jews had distinct names for each of the five books of the Pentateuch. In Palestine, the opening words of the several books served as their titles; hence we have the names: bereshith, we'elleh shemoth or simply shemoth, wayyiqra, wayedhabber, and elleh haddebarim or simply debarim. Though these were the ordinary Hebrew titles of the successive Pentateuchal books, certain Rabbinic writers denote the last three according to their contents; they called the third book torath kohanim, or law of priests; the fourth, homesh happiqqudhim, or book of census; the fifth, mishneh thorah, or repetition of the law.

The Alexandrian Jews derived their Greek names of the five books from the contents of either the whole or the beginning of each division. Thus the first book is called Genesis kosmou or simply Genesis; the second, Exodus Aigyptou or Exodus; the third, Leueitikon; the fourth, Arithmoi; and the fifth, Deuteronomion. These names passed from the Septuagint into the Latin Vulgate and from this into most of the translations of the Vulgate. Arithmoi however was replaced by the Latin equivalent Numeri, while the other names retained their form.

The contents of the Pentateuch are partly of an historical, partly of a legal character. They give us the history of the Chosen People from the creation of the world to the death of Moses, and acquaint us too with the civil and religious legislation of the Israelites during the life of their great lawgiver.

Genesis may be considered as the introduction to the other four books. It contains the early history down to the preparation of Israel's exit form Egypt. Deuteronomy, consisting mainly of discourses, is practically a summary repetition of the Mosaic legislation. It concludes also the history of the people under the leadership of Moses.

The three intervening books consider the wanderings of Israel in the desert and the successive legal enactments. Each of these three great divisions has its own special introduction (Gen. 1:1-2:3; Ex. 1:1-7; Deut. 1:1-5). Since the subject matter distinguishes Leviticus from Exodus and Numbers, not to mention the literary terminations of the third and fourth books (Lev. 27:34; Num. 26:13), the present form of the Pentateuch exhibits both a literary unity and a division into five minor parts.

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Books of the Bible iconBible study class

Books of the Bible iconBible study class

Books of the Bible iconBible study class

Books of the Bible iconBible study class

Books of the Bible iconBible study class

Books of the Bible iconScripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible

Books of the Bible iconScripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible

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