22 Not 39 Books in the Tanakh or Old Testament

The Number of the Books of the Bible

The first point in determining the symmetry of the Scriptures is to realize that originally the Tanakh (Old Testament) was subdivided into 22 books, not the 39 in our present Bible. There was no difference in the content between then and now but only in how the books were categorized. The Book of Jubilees, a Jewish pseudepigraphic work dating to the second century b.c., attests to the fact (Jubilees 2:23) of there originally being 22 books in the Tanakh, as does Josephus in his Contra Apion (Book 1.8), and as do many early Church fathers and other early Christian scholars (In Restoring the Original Bible, Ernest L. Martin references 22 such early Christian writers, including Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.14, Martin, pp. 58–60). 

It is believed that Ezra the scribe originally arranged the books of the Old Testament in this manner. Thus, books such as Samuel, Kings and Chronicles were combined into one book each and the 12 Minor Prophets were combined into one book as well. We will discuss the significance of the number 22 in the Scriptures momentarily, but for now, how did the Tanakh get expanded from 22 to 39 books? According to Martin, the Jewish translators of the Greek version of the Tanakh (the Septuagint) in the second and third century b.c. subdivided the books of the Tanakh into the pattern we have today. There were, however, no Hebrew manuscripts that followed the Greek version (Martin, p. 65). Sometime in the last part of the first century or beginning of the second century a.d. Jewish authorities decided to re-divide the Tanakh into 24 books rather than to maintain the 22 (Martin, pp. 67–68). Eventually the Jews adopted the Christian numbering system of the books of the Tanakh found in the modern Protestant Christian Bible.

“There may well have been political and religious reasons why the Jewish authorities made the change when they did. When the New Testament books were being accepted as divine literature by great numbers of people within the Roman world, all could see that the 27 New Testament books added to the original 22 of the Old Testament reached the significant number 49 [7 x 7]. This was a powerful indication that the world now had the complete revelation from God with the inclusion of those New Testament (the Testimony of Yeshua) books. Since Jewish officials were powerless to do anything with the New Testament, the only recourse they saw possible was to alter the traditional numbering” (Martin, p. 68).

The Significance of the Number 22 in Hebrew Thought

Martin next draws our attention to the ancient Jewish Book of Jubilees which mentions the significance of the number 22 in Hebraic biblical thought. Annotated to the restored text of Jubilees 2:23 is the remark that Elohim made 22 things on the six days of creation with man being the twenty-second created thing—the crowning achievement of YHVH’s creative activities. These 22 events paralleled the 22 generations from Adam to Jacob (i.e. the Israelite nation being the crowning achievement of YHVH’s work among the nations of the world with Israel being the vehicle through which redemption would occur), the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the 22 books of the Holy Scriptures (Martin, p. 57).

The 22 numbering is most interesting and fits in well with the literary and symbolic meaning of “completion” as understood by early Jews. The Book of Jubilees put forth that this number represented the “final” and “complete” creation of Elohim. Adam was the last creation of Elohim (being the 22nd). Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, was the 22nd generation from Adam; and Jacob was acknowledged as the father of the spiritual nation of Elohim. Also the Hebrew language became the means by which Elohim communicated his divine will to mankind. It had an alphabet of 22 letters. And, finally, when Elohim wished to give his complete Old Testament revelation to humanity, that divine canon was presented in 22 authorized books. The medieval Jewish scholar Sixtus Senensis explained the significance of this matter (Martin, pp. 57–58).

As with the Hebrew there are twenty-two letters, in which all that can be said and written is comprehended, so there are twenty-two books in which are contained all that can be known and uttered of divine things.


11 thoughts on “22 Not 39 Books in the Tanakh or Old Testament

  1. Blessings to you and yours Natan, A question came to mind as I was reading this. I apologize if you have already addressed this somewhere, but do you think that it’s worth putting time into studying Jubilees? Thank you, Yvonne.

    • The jubilees are important primarily because it seems likely that Yeshua will return on a jubilee year, and actually touch down on earth on Yom Kippur of a jubilee year. That said, no one knows the exact timing of his return. Instead of focusing on the date of his return, which Scripture says we cannot know, we need to be focusing on preparing ourselves to be ready to meet him. That has been the primary focus of this ministry. Most people who study the jubilees and put down timelines don’t seem to be focusing on this. This is folly. They’re more interested in prophecy than in Him. There are so many different opinions out there on what year is the jubilee year, and some people even write and sell books and videos on it, and swarms of people follow them. (It’s good for business.) Who knows who is right, and I don’t have the time to sort it all out. So, as of this time, this is a subject that Yah hasn’t led me to study or given me any revelation on.

  2. I read (somewhere) that the little bones in our inner ear vibrate 22x before we can hear a sound and since He said (over the waters) Be Light, that when sound waves are introduced (a certain decibel I would imagine) into water, they produce light! What a wonderful Creator. I also believe that in Genesis where it states the Earth was w/o FORM an void I doesn’t necessarily mean “shape” but rather w/o INFORMATION such as His laws of physics ie: thermos and aero dynamics and that once they were established then He filled it and it was no longer void and He could continue filling it with His creatures because the foundation was set!

  3. Yesheyahu would indicate the end time scriptures to be 66 books. 39 Tanakh and 27 B’rit Chadasha.

      • The whole book and its make-up.
        66 chapters and the way that they are set out: 39/27.
        I see the whole of Yeshayahu as a prophetic statement.
        The first 39 chapters relating to the Tanakh, the last 27 chapters relating to the B’rit Chadashah.

      • I have never heard this before and will have to look into it.

        Nevertheless, when the Jews canonized the OT in the time between Ezra and the birth of Yeshua, they originally had 22 books. This is historical fact. Twenty two was for the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet meaning that the Word of Elohim was complete from aleph to tav. Nothing more could be added to his Word. And then the apostles of Yeshua came along and added 27 more books, which added up to 49 books between the OT and the NT. Now the Jews were in a pickle. Like in a spiritual poker game, the number 49 (7 x 7) trumped 22. Now the Word of Elohim was really complete—a perfect completion at 7 x 7 = 49. Well, in the early common era, the Yeshua hating rabbinic Jews wouldn’t allow themselves be trumped by the Messianics, so they expanded the OT from 22 to 39 books simply by subdividing the existing books a little differently (interestingly 39 is the number of stripes laid on Yeshua’s back, which is another discussion). This made 66, the number of man, which cunningly, to the twisted thinking of the rabbinates, indicated that the addition of the NT books was of man, not of Elohim. If what you’re saying about Isaiah is correct, then Yah used the prophet to predict that this would occur, which shows YHVH’s imprimatur on the current number of books in the Bible including the NT as the inspired Word of Elohim.

      • John, been looking at Isaiah from your perspective. I think you’re on to something. I’ll write a blog post about it when I collect all the data, and I’ll give a hat tip to you when I do so for telling us of your discovery. Blessings and thank you. We all have so much to learn from each other—the body of Messiah at work edifying itself. HalleluYah!

  4. Dear Natan, thank you for the informative post, I agree with the 22 books as a historical fact told by historians, but I agree more with John saying that the book of Isaiah and its 66 chapters are prophetic. The Scripture is the whole Word of God. I believe that they are 66 too based on the symbolic structure of the Menorah (the candlestick). “The Menorah” book by VM Juliao is very interesting book explaining why 66, you can grab it for free by visiting: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/the-menorah.
    Given Psalm 119:105 and many others, the Word of God is the Menorah. Studying its structure as described in Ex 25:31-40 reveals the 66 parts. We have 6 branches, 3 on each side, each branch carries 3 bowls and each bowl has an almond, a knob, and a flower, i.e. each bowl has 3 parts, so each branch carries 3 bowls times 3 parts = 9 parts, since we have 6 branches then 6 times 9 = 54 parts, additionally the main candlestick has 4 bowls as verse 34 says (so 4 times 3 parts = 12 parts), then by adding 12 to 54, we come wondrously to the number 66. How ironic the symbol of the Menorah is very dear to many Jews today. A time will come, when the hearts and eyes will be opened and behold His glory in all the details of His wonderful timeless Word.

    His Blessings.

  5. The 39 books of the Christian canon are the same as the 22 of Judaism. The difference is that modern Christian scholars separate Kings, Chronicles, Samuel, Ezra and Nehemiah all into two separate writings. The content is the same. The major difference is that unsaved Jews don’t recognize the full revelation of Jehovah which explains why national Israel won’t be saved until the day of the Lord, the time of His great wrath, has been experienced. That’s a shame since Israel in that time will experience a holocaust that makes Hitler’s tragic holocaust pale in comparison as some 10 million Jews will be executed apart from faith in the Messiah.

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