What’s the difference between the Tanakh (TNK) and the Old Testament?

  • The Tanakh (TNK) is another name for the Hebrew bible (what Christians call the Old Testament). But the Christian Old Testament is not in the same order as the Hebrew bible/Tanakh. The Hebrew bible is organized into Torah (first five books Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy), Nevi’im (Prophets, which for the Jews includes the historical writings) and Ketuvim (Writings, which include the more modern wisdom books and philosophical works like Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Songs, etc.) so TNK or Tanakh. The Tanakh/TNK/Hebrew bible ends with the command in Chronicles by Cyrus, the Persian king, to return to Judah and rebuild the temple. The final TNK was organized and ordered after the second temple in Rome was destroyed. The TNK ends that way so that the promise of a new temple is always out there in the world (“Tomorrow in Jerusalem”).
  • The Old Testament is organized differently, and it ends with the prophecy of Malachi that a “Day of Yahweh” was coming and Elijah, a famous Hebrew prophet, would return. The Christians organized the Old Testament that way because they read Malachi as predicting the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus. So they wanted the Old Testament to point to the New Testament. In the same way, the New Testament puts Matthew first, even though it was written after Mark, because it begins with a genealogy connecting Jesus to Abraham (through Joseph).
  • Since Jews don’t believe Jesus is the coming “messiah” (Hebrew for anointed Davidic king), their text ends with the promise of the restoration of the temple, which is a necessary precondition of the return of the Jewish “messiah.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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