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In Christianity, the Old Testament refers to the books that form the first of the two-part Christian Biblical canon. These works correspond to the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), with some variations and additions. In the Eastern Orthodox Church the comparable texts are known as the Septuagint, from the original Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. In the Syriac Orthodox church, they are known as the Peshitta. The term "Old Testament" itself is credited to Melito of Sardis. Tertullian also used the Latin vetus testamentum. The Old Testament in the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox Bibles have 39 books in common.
Scholars believe much of the Old Testament was written in Mesopotamia. It is believed the Old Testament was composed and compiled between the 12th and the 2nd century BC. Jesus and his disciples referenced it when discussing Jesus's newer teachings, referring to it as "the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms ... the scriptures". (Luke 24:44–45) The accounts of Jesus and his disciples are recorded in the New Testament.
The early Christian Church used the Septuagint, the oldest Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, as its religious text until at least the mid-fourth century. Until that time Greek was a major language of the Roman Empire and the language of the Church (except Syrian Orthodoxy which used the Syriac Peshitta and Ethiopian Orthodoxy which used the Geez). Also, the Church Fathers tended to accept Philo's account of the Septuagint's miraculous and inspired origin, and Christ and the Apostles in the New Testament quoted extensively from the text.
When Jerome undertook the revision of the Old Latin translations of the Septuagint in about 400 AD, he checked the Septuagint against the Hebrew text that was then available. He came to believe that the Hebrew text better testified to Christ than the Septuagint. He broke with church tradition and translated most of the Old Testament of his Vulgate from Hebrew rather than Greek. His choice was severely criticized by Augustine, his contemporary, and others who regarded Jerome as a forger. But with the passage of time, acceptance of Jerome's version gradually increased in the West until it displaced the Old Latin translations of the Septuagint.
The Hebrew text differs in some passages that Christians hold to prophesy Christ, and the Eastern Orthodox Church still prefers to use the Septuagint as the basis for translating the Old Testament into other languages. The Orthodox Church of Constantinople, the Church of Greece and the Cypriot Orthodox Church continue to use it in their liturgy today, untranslated. Many modern critical translations of the Old Testament, while using the Hebrew text as their basis, consult the Septuagint as well as other versions in an attempt to reconstruct the meaning of the Hebrew text whenever the latter is unclear, undeniably corrupt, or ambiguous.
Many of the oldest Biblical verses among the Dead Sea Scrolls, particularly those in Aramaic, correspond more closely with the Septuagint than with the Hebrew text (although the majority of these variations are extremely minor, e.g. grammatical changes, spelling differences or missing words, and do not affect the meaning of sentences and paragraphs). This confirms the scholarly consensus that the Septuagint represents a separate Hebrew text tradition from that which was later standardized as the Hebrew text (called the Masoretic Text).
Of the fuller quotations in the New Testament of the Old, nearly one hundred agree with the modern form of the Septuagint and six agree with the Hebrew text. The principal differences concern presumed Biblical prophecies relating to Christ.
In early Christianity the Septuagint was universally used among Greek speakers, while Aramaic Targums were used in the Syriac Church. To this day the Eastern Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint, in an untranslated form. Some scripture of ancient origin is found in the Septuagint but are not in the Hebrew. These include additions to Daniel and Esther. For more information regarding these books, see the articles Biblical apocrypha, Biblical canon, Books of the Bible, and Deuterocanonical books.
Some books that are set apart in the Hebrew text are grouped together. For example the Books of Samuel and the Books of Kings are in the Septuagint one book in four parts called "Of Reigns" (Βασιλειῶν). Scholars believe that this is the original arrangement before the book was divided for readability. In the Septuagint, the Books of Chronicles supplement Reigns and are called Paraleipoménon (Παραλειπομένων—things left out). The Septuagint organizes the minor prophets as twelve parts of one Book of Twelve.
All the books of western canons of the Old Testament are found in the Septuagint, although the order does not always coincide with the modern ordering of the books. The Septuagint order for the Old Testament is evident in the earliest Christian Bibles (5th century).
The New Testament makes a number of allusions to and may quote the additional books (as Orthodox Christians aver). The books are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Jesus Seirach, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremy (sometimes considered part of Baruch), additions to Daniel (The Prayer of Azarias, the Song of the Three Children, Sosanna and Bel and the Dragon), additions to Esther, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, Odes, including the Prayer of Manasses, and Psalm 151.
Canonical Christian Bibles were formally established by Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem in 350 and confirmed by the Council of Laodicea in 363, and later established by Athanasius of Alexandria in 367. The Council of Laodicea restricted readings in church to only the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The books listed were the 22 books of the Hebrew Bible plus the Book of Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy, together with the New Testament containing 26 books, omitting the Book of Revelation.
The Council of Carthage, called the third by Denzinger, on 28 August 397 issued a canon of the Bible restricted to: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Josue, Judges, Ruth, 4 books of Kingdoms, 2 books of Paralipomenon, Job, Psalter of David, 5 books of Solomon, 12 books of Prophets, Isaias, Jeremias, Daniel, Ezechiel, Tobias, Judith, Esther, 2 books of Esdras, 2 books of Machabees, and in the New Testament: 4 books of Gospels, 1 book of Acts of the Apostles, 13 letters of the Apostle Paul, 1 of him to the Hebrews, 2 of Peter, 3 of John, 1 of James, 1 of Judas, and the Apocalypse of John.
The canonical acceptance of these books varies among different Christian traditions, and there are canonical books not derived from the Septuagint. For a discussion see the article on Biblical apocrypha.
The exact canon of the Old Testament differs between the various branches of Christianity. All include the books of the Hebrew Bible, while most traditions also recognise several Deuterocanonical books. The Protestant Old Testament is, for the most part, identical with the Hebrew Bible; the differences are minor, dealing only with the arrangement and number of the books. For example, while the Hebrew Bible considers Kings to be a unified text, and Ezra and Nehemiah as a single book, the Protestant Old Testament divides each of these into two books.
Translations of the Old Testament were discouraged in medieval Christendom. An exception was the translation of the Pentateuch ordered by Alfred the Great around 900, and Wyclif's Bible of 1383. Numerous vernacular translations appeared with the Protestant Reformation.
The differences between the Hebrew Bible and other versions of the Old Testament such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac, Greek, Latin and other canons, are greater. Many of these canons include whole books and additional sections of books that the others do not. The translations of various words from the original Hebrew may also give rise to significant differences of interpretation.
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Current debate concerning the historicity of the various Old Testament narratives can be divided into several camps.
The vast majority of scholars at American universities are somewhere between biblical minimalism and maximalism.
Here are sentences from other pages on Old Testament, which are similar to those in the above article.