The number of the books was variously estimated. Josephus gives twenty-two, which was the usual number among Christian writers in the second, third, and fourth centuries, having been derived perhaps from the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Origen, Jerome, and others have it. It continued longest among the teachers of the Greek Church, and is even in Nicephorus's stichometry.(83) The enumeration in question has Ruth with Judges, and Lamentations with Jeremiah. In Epiphanius(84) the number twenty-seven is found, made by taking the alphabet enlarged with the five final letters, and dividing Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles into two books each. This is probably an ingenious combination belonging to the father himself. The Talmud has twenty-four,(85) a number which did not originate in the Greek alphabet, else the Palestinian Jews would not have adopted it. The synagogue did not fix it officially. After the Pentateuch and the former prophets, which are in the usual order, it gives Jeremiah as the first of the later, succeeded by Ezekiel and Isaiah with the twelve minor prophets. The Talmud knows no other reason for such an order than that it was made according to the contents of the prophetic books, not according to the times of the writers. This solution is unsatisfactory. It is more probable that chronology had to do with the arrangement.(86) After the anonymous collection or second part of Isaiah had been joined to the first or authentic prophecies, the lateness of these oracles brought Isaiah into the third place among the greater prophets. The Talmudic order of the Hagiographa is Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Chronicles. Here Ruth precedes the Psalter, coming as near the former prophets as possible; for it properly belongs to them, the contents associating it with the Judges' time. The Talmudic order is that usually adopted in German MSS. What is the true estimate of it? Is it a proper Talmudic regulation? Perhaps not, else the Hebrew MSS. of the French and Spanish Jews would not so readily have departed from it. Bloch supposes that Baba Bathra, which gives the arrangement of the books, is one of the apocryphal Boraithas that proceeded from an individual teacher and had no binding authority.(87)
The Masoretic arrangement differs from the Talmudic in putting Isaiah before Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The Hagiographa are, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra (with Nehemiah), Chronicles.(88) This is usually adopted in Spanish MSS. But MSS. often differ arbitrarily, because transcribers did not consider themselves bound to any one arrangement.(89) According to some, a very old testimony to the commencing and concluding books of the third division is given by the New Testament (Luke xxiv.44; Matthew xxiii.35), agreeably to which the Psalms were first and the Chronicles last; but this is inconclusive.
The Alexandrian translators, as we have seen already, placed the books differently from the Palestinian Jews. In their version Daniel comes after Ezekiel, so that it is put beside the greater prophets. Was this done by Jews or Christians? Perhaps by the latter, who put it between the greater and lesser prophets, or in other words, out of the third into the second division, because of dogmatic grounds, and so effaced a trace of the correct chronology. Little importance, however, can be attached to the order of the books in the Septuagint; because the work was done at different times by different persons. But whatever may have been the arrangement of the parts when the whole was complete, we know that it was disturbed by Protestants separating the apocryphal writings and putting them all together.