TaNaKh/Pentateuch: The Old Testament, an Introduction

TaNaKh/Pentateuch: The Old Testament, an Introduction

In the Christian and Messianic Jewish Communities, we divide the Bible into two parts, the Old and New Testaments or, for our Jewish Brethren, TaNaKh and Brit Chadeshah. TaNaKh is shorthand for Torah, Neviim, and Kethuvim, the 3 Divisions of the Jewish Holy Scriptures.

The Old Testament introduces God, sin, mankind, the promise of Messiah/the Redeemer, the Eternal Law, and the End of Days when we the creation is redeemed and restored unto God.

TaNaKh is the version of the Bible that Jesus and the Apostles would be familiar with. In TaNaKh the books are listed out as follows:

The Torah (תּוֹרָה, literally “teaching”),

  • Breshit(בְּרֵאשִׁית, literally “In the beginning”) — Genesis
  • Shemot(שְׁמֹות, literally “The names [of]”) — Exodus
  • Vayikra(וַיִּקְרָא, literally “And He called”) — Leviticus
  • Bemidbar(בְּמִדְבַּר, literally “In the desert [of]”) — Numbers
  • Devarim(דְּבָרִים, literally “Things” or “Words”) — Deuteronomy


Nevi’im (נְבִיאִים‎ Nəḇî’îm“Prophets”) is the second main division of the Tanakh, between the Torah and Ketuvim. It contains three sub-groups. This division includes the books which cover the time from the entrance of the Israelites into the Land of Israel until the Babylonian captivity of Judah (the “period of prophecy”).

Their distribution is not chronologicalTaN, but substantive.

The Former Prophets (נביאים ראשונים‎ Nevi’im Rishonim)

  • Yĕhôshúa‘(יְהוֹשֻעַ) — Joshua
  • Shophtim(שֹׁפְטִים) — Judges
  • Shmû’ēl(שְׁמוּאֵל) — Samuel
  • M’lakhim(מְלָכִים) — Kings

The Latter Prophets (נביאים אחרונים‎ Nevi’im Aharonim)

  • Yĕsha‘ăyāhû(יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) — Isaiah
  • Yirmyāhû(יִרְמְיָהוּ) — Jeremiah
  • Yĕkhezqiēl(יְחֶזְקֵאל) — Ezekiel

The Twelve Minor Prophets (תרי עשר‎, Trei Asar“The Twelve”), which are considered one book 

  • Hôshēa‘(הוֹשֵׁעַ) — Hosea
  • Yô’ēl(יוֹאֵל) — Joel
  • ‘Āmôs(עָמוֹס) — Amos
  • ‘Ōvadhyāh(עֹבַדְיָה) — Obadiah
  • Yônāh(יוֹנָה) — Jonah
  • Mîkhāh(מִיכָה) — Micah
  • Nakḥûm(נַחוּם) — Nahum
  • Khăvhakûk(חֲבַקּוּק) — Habakkuk
  • Tsĕphanyāh(צְפַנְיָה) — Zephaniah
  • Khaggai(חַגַּי) — Haggai
  • Zkharyāh(זְכַרְיָה) — Zechariah
  • Mal’ākhî(מַלְאָכִי) — Malachi

Ketuvim (כְּתוּבִים‎, “Writings”) consists of eleven books, described below. They are also divided into three subgroups based on the distinctiveness of Sifrei Emet and Hamesh Megillot.

The three poetic books (Sifrei Emet)

  • Tehillim(תְהִלִּים) — Psalms
  • Mishlei(מִשְׁלֵי) — Proverbs
  • Iyyôbh(אִיּוֹב) — Job

The Five Megillot (Hamesh Megillot). These books are read aloud in the synagogue on particular occasions, the occasion listed below in parenthesis.

  • Shīr Hashīrīm(שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים, literally “Song of songs”, also known as “Song of Solomon”) — Song of Songs (on Passover)
  • Rūth(רוּת) — Ruth (on Shavuot)
  • Eikhah(אֵיכָה) — Lamentations (on Tisha B’Av[24])
  • Qōheleth(קֹהֶלֶת) — Ecclesiastes (on Sukkot)
  • Estēr(אֶסְתֵר) — Esther (on Purim)
  • Dānî’ēl(דָּנִיֵּאל) — Daniel
  • ‘Ezrā(עֶזְרָא) — Ezra and Nehemiah
  • Divrei ha-Yamim(דִּבְרֵי הַיָּמִים) — Chronicles

In the Gentile Christian Tradition we would divide and list the books as follows:


Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy


Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

Poetry & Wisdom

Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon

The Major Prophets

 Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel

The Minor Prophets

Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.


There are some additional, very important concepts introduced in the Old Testament. They are: Covenant, Redemption, Atonement, Sacrifice, Worship, and Holiness. Some pastors think that we can “unhitch” as it were from the Old Testament, but this is a foolish error since without the Old Testament the New Testament not only does not make any sense, but it would be pointless to try to be redeemed from our sin as we would have no idea of the concept of sin. Indeed, all of the doctrines that we hold dear as Christians find their beginnings in the Old Testament.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.