Skip to Content

What Is the Difference Between Tanakh And Old Testament? (Explained)

What Is the Difference Between Tanakh And Old Testament? (Explained)

For years, people have struggled to distinguish between Christians and Jews. Despite their differences, these two religions are very similar. Sacred texts exist for Jews and Christians alike. Among Christians, there’s the Holy Bible and the Old Testament, while among Jews, there is the Tanakh.

Tanakh and the Old Testament are holy scriptures but have quite a few differences.

There are 39 books in the Old Testament, starting with Genesis and ending with Malachi. They’re arranged according to the subject matter in one long list. Tanakh, on the other hand, contains only 24 books. Hebrew and Christian Bibles differ in number because 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel are combined into Samuel. The same goes for King 1 and 2 and the Chronicles.

Moreover, observing closely, you’ll also find differences in their translation and interpretation.

In this article, I’ll explain more about these two scriptures. So keep reading.

An image of a front page of an Old Testament.
The Old Testament is a part of the Holy Bible.

What Is the Tanakh?

Tanakh is an acronym made up of the names of the three divisions in the Hebrew Bible: Torah, Neviʾim, and Ketuvim.

Originally written in Hebrew with some passages in Aramaic, the Tanakh is sometimes called the Hebrew Bible. Tanakh consists of three sections:

  • Torah (Five Books of Moses)
  • Nevi’im (Prophets)
  • Ketuvim (Writings)

In the Torah, five books were given directly to Moshe by God after the Exodus from Mitzrayim. Since Moshe, the Torah has been passed down through successive generations.

There are eight books in the Nevi*im: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings in the Former Prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel in the Latter Prophets; and the Twelve Prophets in the Latter Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Zephaniah, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The Ketuvim include the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles and a collection of religious poetry and wisdom literature known as the “Five Megillot.”

An image of an opened Holy Bible.
Many Christian clans do not follow the Old Testament.

What Is the Old Testament?

The Old Testament is the first part of the Christian Bible that’s longer than the New Testament. Christian Old Testament is the compilation of books that makes up the first half of the Christian Bible. The term “Old Testament” in Christianity refers to ancient Israel’s religious writings.

Various denominations use different Old Testaments. Catholics, Coptic, Eastern Orthodox, and Ethiopian churches recognize a much more extensive collection of texts than Protestants, who accept only the Tanakh’s canon but divide it into 39 books.

It’s a compilation of ancient texts written and rewritten by numerous authors and editors over hundreds of years, not a single book. Their laws and rituals depict the ancient Hebrew people and tell the story of their religion.

You can divide the Old Testament into these broad categories:

  • Pentateuch, which describes God’s election of Yisrael as His chosen people.
  • The history books detailed Canaan’s conquest and the Israelites’ defeat and exile in Babylon.
  • Poetic and wisdom books address ethical issues.
  • Biblical prophetic books warn about the consequences of turning away from God.

What Is the Difference Between the Old Testament And the Tanakh?

Tanakh differs from Old Testament in that it’s a collection of Jewish holy texts created and maintained initially by the Jewish people. In contrast, the latter is a Christian Bible translated or revised by Protestants.

Moreover, In Tanakh, there are 24 volumes, while in the Old Testament, there are 39 books. Apart from that, the Tanakh is in the Hebrew language, while the Old Testament exists in various languages, mostly translated from Tanakh.

There’s also a difference in the interpretations of the Old Testament as it’s the translated version of the Tanakh and has a lot of things differently interpreted as compared to the Tanakh.

Furthermore, the Tanakh is followed mainly by Hebrews (Israelites) or Jewish people, whereas the Old Testament is majorly followed by the Protestant sect of the Christian community.

Here’s a table containing these differences in simplified form:

The Old TestamentThe Tanakh
It is the collection of the holy scriptures of the Jews and Christians, including the five books of the Torah.It is the collection of the holy scriptures of the Jews.
It contains a total of thirty-nine books.It is a compilation of twenty-four books.
It has four main sections.It has three main sections.
It is accepted and followed mostly by the Hebrew people (Israelites).It is accepted and followed by the Protestant clan of the Christian community.
Tanakh Vs. Old Testament

Here’s a short video clip about the difference in the arrangement of books in both holy scriptures:

The Old Testament Vs Tanakh.

Are the First Five Books Of the Bible the Same As the Torah?

Yes, the first five books of Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Christian’s Old Testament are the same as the Torah.

In its entirety, the Torah consists of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In that sense, Torah is the same as Pentateuch or Moses’ Five Books.

An image of Torah placed on a platform.
Moses himself wrote Torah.

Why Did Moses Not Write The Whole Torah?

Most people assume that Moses didn’t write the last eight verses of the Torah. It was incomplete when he handed it over to Israelites.

In the view of Abraham ibn Ezra, the Torah was not written in its entirety by Moses. According to Abraham ibn Ezra, Moses did not write all twelve passages in this chapter since he was alone on top of the mountain where he died and didn’t descend to report what happened. According to him, Joshua wrote the chapter knowing what happened through prophecy.

How Many Gods Did Judaism Have?

According to Jewish beliefs, only one God has made a covenant or special agreement with them. Their God communicates with believers through prophets, rewards good deeds, and punishes evil. Moreover, most Jews believe their Messiah is yet to come (except for a few groups).  

What Is Contained In the Tanakh?

The Tanakh has twenty-four books, counting 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicle and 2 Chronicles,1 King and 2 Kings, and Ezra–Nehemiah as a single book. Likewise, the Twelve Minor Prophets are counted as one book.

How Old Is the Tanakh?

Until recently, Hebrew writing was believed to date back no further than the 6th century B.C., which is why many scholars believed that the Hebrew Bible originated in the 6th century B.C. While the new deciphered Hebrew text predates it by about four centuries.

What Is the Old Testament Written About?

In the Old Testament, God narrates the history of Israel over millennia, beginning with the creation of the world and humans. In addition, it contains the stories, laws, and moral lessons Jews and Christians use to live their religious lives.


  • Tanakh and the Old Testament are the names given to the almost same holy scriptures followed by the Jews and Christians. Although the books in both scriptures are identical, you can still find a few differences between them.
  • Tanakh is the holy scripture of the Jews that contains twenty-four books. In contrast, The Old Testament is the holy scripture of the Christians and is composed of thirty-nine books.
  • The major part of the Tanakh is in Hebrew, whereas The Old Testament has been written and translated into many different languages.
  • Although most of the books in both are the same, the interpretation and translation written in the Old Testament are slightly different from Tanakh.

Related Articles

The Difference Between a Religion and a Cult (What You Need to Know)

What Is the Difference Between “The Tree of Life” and “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”? (Facts Revealed)

Catholic VS Evangelical Masses (Quick Comparison)


Skip to content