How are the Hebrew Scriptures different than the Old Testament?
There is a hierarchy to the Hebrew Scriptures and a different order to the books. The most sacred books are the Torah – the first 5 books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These are the equivalent to our Gospels, the central event through which everything else is shaped.
The second level of books are the Prophets – the Nevi'im: Joshua, Judges I & II, Samuel I & II, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. These are important, serving the function of the Second Reading. Certainly, something to which to pay attention, perhaps a lens to point to the central message. The third level of books are the twelve minor prophets – definitely to be included, but notably less significant. The fourth level is the Writings – the Kethuvim, books to be included but not theological treatises: Psalms, Job, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, etc. These are storybooks meant to go along with the central message of the Torah.
Together, all of these books form the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures: “Ta” for Torah, “Na” for Nevi'im, and “Kh” for Kethuvim.
Next month: The New Testament and why its order is important.