What Are the Five Divisions of the Old Testament?

by Kay Dean

From Genesis to Malachi, for over 6,000 years, the Old Testament of the Holy Bible has been the book of faith for millions of people in the Christian and Jewish religions. After studying the overall message or purpose of the different books, biblical scholars grouped the Old Testament into five divisions.

Five Divisions

The Protestant Old Testament contains thirty-nine books, which are divided into five sections: Law, History, Wisdom -- sometimes known as Poetry, Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. According to Dr. Clint Dunagan, former professor of Bible and Philosophy at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Tex., the differentiation of "major" and "minor" prophets is a reference to the size of the books.

Chronology of Books

The order of the Old Testament books is not based on linear time. According to the "Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Life and Times," "The chronology of the Bible books reflects the time described by the books rather than the time when they were written." For instance, Genesis, a book of the law, is considered first in chronology, followed by Job, which is from the Wisdom writings. Malachi is the last book listed in the Old Testament, but Joel was written last.

History of the Divisions

According to F.W. Grant's "The Numerical Bible, Volume 1 -- The Pentateuch (1890)," the present division of the Old Testament was adapted from the Septuagint. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew, done between 300 and 200 B.C.

Features

The five books of the Law, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, are also known as the Torah in the Jewish religion. The History books are Joshua through Esther. The Wisdom books are Job through the Song of Solomon. The Major Prophets are Isaiah through Daniel, and the Minor Prophets are Hosea through Malachi.

Time Frame

The "Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Life and Times" claims that the Protestant Old Testament was written from 4,000 B.C. to 375 B.C. Deuteronomy was written ten years after the Trojan War. Amos was written 16 years after the first Olympic Games. Proverbs was finished nine years after the Roman Empire was founded. The Battle of Carchemish took place one year after Daniel was written. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt 43 years after Joel was written.

Resources

About the Author

After attending Hardin Simmons University, Kay Dean finished her formal education with the Institute of Children's Literature. Since 1995, Dean has written for such publications as "PB&J," Disney’s "Family Fun," "ParentLife," "Living With Teenagers" and Thomas Nelson’s NY Times bestselling "Resolve." An avid gardener for 25 years, her experience includes organic food gardening, ornamental plants, shrubs and trees, with a special love for roses.

Photo Credits

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