The Old Testament vs. Tanakh: Are they the same?

Being brought up in a family of believers and attending a Christian school, the Bible was a major part of the teachings and morals instilled in me. Growing up, I learned that the Bible is split into the Old and New Testaments. Recently, during our weekly Bible study, I learned that there is a Hebrew version of the Old Testament known as the Tanakh. So, today I made a decision to dig deep into the two books, The Old Testament vs. Tanakh; are they the same? And if not, how exactly do they differ?

The Old Testament is the compilation of books that make up the first section of the Bible and record the history of the time before Jesus Christ was born. On the other hand, The Tanakh is defined as the canonical collection of the Hebrew scripture, and the name is an acronym for its three parts, namely Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim.

In this article, I will discuss the meaning of the Old Testament and the Tanakh in depth. I will also discuss the various differences and similarities between the two books. Keep reading on to find out more.

The Old Testament vs. Tanakh: Difference in definition

According to Christianity, The Old Testament is the first division of the Bible, which consists of thirty-nine books that record the history of the Jewish people and were written in the time before Jesus was born. On the other hand, Tanakh, also known as the Hebrew Bible, is the collection of Hebrew scriptures, including the Ketuvim, Torah, and Nevi’im.

What are the differences between Old Testament and Tanakh?

The Old Testament vs. Tanakh - Are they the same?
The Old Testament. Image source: Pixabay

The number of books

The Old Testament contains thirty-nine books divided into five groups, namely: Pentateuch, e.g., Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus; Historical Books such as Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, Ruth, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles; Poetry books including Job, Songs of Solomon, Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes; Major prophets, e.g., Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lamentation; and minor prophets, e.g., Micah, Amos, Joel, Jonah, Habakkuk, Nahum, Haggai, etc.

In contrast, the Tanakh contains twenty-four books divided into three sections: Torah, Which are five books given directly to Moshe by God after the exodus, including Genesis (Bereshit), Leviticus (Vayikrah), Deuteronomy (Devarim), etc.; Nevi’im (Prophets) such as Yehoshua (Joshua), Shmuel (Samuel), Shoftim (Judges), Melakhim (Kings); and Ketuvim (Writings) such as Iyov (Job), Mishlei (Proverbs), Tehilim (Psalms), Shir Ashirim (Songs of Solomons) and Qohelet (Ecclesiastes).

The Tanakh has fewer books than the Old Testament since some books are combined. For example, 1 and 2 Samuel are combined into Samuel (Shmuel), 1 and 2 Kings are combined into one book known as Kings (Melakhim), Ezra and Nehemiah are merged into a single book called Ezra-Nehemiah and all the minor prophet books are combined into one book known as Trei Asar.

Canonical order

The canonical order of these books also differs in various ways:

In the Tanakh, the book of Ruth is placed in the category of writings (Ketuvim) between Songs of Songs and Lamentations, while in the Old Testament, Ruth is found in the Historical books between the books of Judges and 1 Samuel.

The twelve Minor Prophets’ books in the Old Testament, from the book of Hosea, Joel Amos, and Obadiah, all the way to the last book of Malachi, are compiled into one book known as The Twelve or Trei Asar in the Tanakh. The book of Trei Asar is found in the Nevi’im category of the Tanakh, which comes before the books of writings (Ketuvim), as opposed to the Old Testament, where they come last, after the major prophet books and the books of wisdom.

Additionally, the last book in the Tanakh is Chronicles (Divrei Hayamim), which is found in the category of writings (Ketuvim). At the same time, in the Old Testament, Malachi is the last book, and the book of Chronicles is sub-divided into 1st and 2nd Chronicles and is found in the Historical books.


The Tanakh is majorly in the Hebrew language since it is mainly followed by the Jewish people. At the same time, The Old Testament has been translated into various languages since it is accepted and followed worldwide by Christians from different denominations, e.g., Protestants and Catholics.

Are there any similarities between Old Testament and Tanakh?

The Old Testament vs. Tanakh
Similarities between Old Testament and Tanakh. Image source: Pixabay

Yes. The Old Testament and Tanakh have a couple of similarities.

The first one is that they were both originally written in Biblical Hebrew. This is because they were initially meant to be used by Hebrew people who spoke and understood the language.

Additionally, the books contained in the Old Testament and Tanakh are identical and contain the same information, although they are arranged differently. All the books in the Tanakh are also in the Old Testament. Although the arrangements of the books differ, the first five books of both, also known as Torah or the Pentateuch, are similar, i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in that order in the Old Testament are in the same order as Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bamidbar, and Devarim for the Tanakh.

Why is the Old Testament called the Tanakh?

The Old Testament is often referred to as Tanakh as it is primarily based on the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). The thirty-nine Old Testament books correspond with the Tanakh books.

What was the Old Testament originally called?

Before the New Testament was written, the Old Testament was known as the Hebrew Bible or the Hebrew Scriptures. This is because it was first compiled in Hebrew before being translated into other languages.

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