1.16 What is the difference between the Catholic Old Testament and the Jewish Tanakh?
The Jewish Tanakh contains seven books less than the Catholic Old Testament, which consists of 46 books. The list of the 39 books of the Tanakh was compiled in 70 AD, when the Jews were looking for guidance and stability after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. However, a list of 46 books was already in use centuries earlier.
The books of the Old Testament and the Tanakh are arranged in a different order. The biggest difference is that the Tanakh is considered complete in itself. The Old Testament, however, is inextricably linked to the New Testament: together they form the Scripture. The New Testament allows us to gain a better understanding of the Old Testament.
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The Wisdom of the Church
What is the Canon of Scripture?
The Canon of Scripture is the complete list of the sacred writings which the Church has come to recognize through Apostolic Tradition. The Canon consists of 46 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New. [CCCC 20]
What is the right way to read the Bible?
The right way to read Sacred Scripture is to read it prayerfully, in other words, with the help of the Holy Spirit, under whose influence it came into being. It is God’s Word and contains God’s essential communication to us.
The Bible is like a long letter written by God to each one of us. For this reason I should accept the Sacred Scriptures with great love and reverence. First of all, it is important really to read God’s letter, in other words, not to pick out details while paying no attention to the whole message. Then I must interpret the whole message with a view to its heart and mystery: Jesus Christ, of whom the whole Bible speaks, even the Old Testament. Therefore I should read the Sacred Scriptures in the faith that gave rise to them, the same living faith of the Church. [Youcat 16]
This is what the Popes say
The Bible is not a single book, but a collection of literary texts composed over the course of a thousand years or more, and its individual books are not easily seen to possess an interior unity; instead, we see clear inconsistencies between them. This was already the case with the Bible of Israel [the Tenach], which we Christians call the Old Testament. It is all the more so when, as Christians, we relate the New Testament and its writings as a kind of hermeneutical key to Israel’s Bible, thus interpreting the latter as a path to Christ. [Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, n. 39]