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Relating to this question: Is the Jewish Tanakh same as the 'Old Testament' which Christians use?

Do they contain the same books and is the textual content same? If not where do they differ?

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This question came from our site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more.

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Variants of this question have also been asked here and here on C.SE. –  Caleb Mar 5 '13 at 9:56
    
The question has nothing to do with canonicity , but explicitly where does tanakh differs from Christian OT. –  Ali Jul 4 '13 at 3:25
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2 Answers

In general the Tanakh is the same as the Christian Old Testament. The differences are:

  1. Some Christians use a few extra books, which are called deuterocanonical (or apocrypha, by those who reject them). These books are found in the earliest Greek translation of the Tanakh, but were later rejected by the rabbis.

  2. The books of the Tanakh are usually printed in a different order than you will find in Christian editions. Also, some books (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and the twelve minor prophets) are split in the Old Testament. Wikipedia has a wonderful table showing these differences.

  3. Jewish publishers use a different versification scheme than Christian publishers. This is perhaps the biggest practical difference and can be a real hassle on this site. Thankfully, the chapter and verse divisions are not original and can be ignored in interpretation. This difference just makes citing verses tricky.

  4. The Jewish Tanakh follows the Masoretic textual tradition, while some Christian groups follow ancient translations based on other textual traditions (Septuagint, Peshitta, Vulgate, etc.) or combine readings from different textual traditions. The Jewish Publishing Society's 1917 English translation is subtitled, "According to the Masoretic Text". Eastern Orthodox translators follow the Septuagint reading. Syriac Orthodox translators use an ancient translation called Peshitta. Catholic translators regularly consult the Vulgate, an ancient Latin translation. Protestant and interdenominational translation are influenced by these sources and (since 1946) the Dead Sea Scrolls. Generally, the differences are minor to nonexistent, but occasionally a word or phrase will differ. Usually the translator will note such variations in footnotes.

  5. Jewish and Christian translators sometimes pick a primary reading of a Hebrew text because of doctrinal considerations. The good news is that we have access to the same original text and can reason together about their meaning in the original language.

Summary

Jews and Christians use essentially the same set of Hebrew Scriptures. Like any text from before the invention of the printing press, there are variations between copies. But as a practical matter, the variations are minor and rarely impact interpretation.

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Hey @Jon, in point 5 you mention that "We have access to the same original text and can reason together". Where would I find the original text of scripture (Old Testament in my case)? I know ESV and ASV are very close translations to the original text. –  contactmatt Mar 12 '13 at 4:46
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@contactmatt: Well, I mean the Hebrew text itself in that point. Obviously that requires knowing the language or having access to someone who does. (I gloss over the issues in #4, of course, and assume we can use the MT, rather than the LXX. Not everyone agrees about that.) But your question is so good it's been asked before: Which 'modern' English translation of the Bible is considered the 'closest' or most accurate translation? –  Jon Ericson Mar 12 '13 at 16:49
    
@JonEricson, #4 should read "One textual tradition of the Tanakh is called the Masoretic Text." It's like in NT studies there are the different families of manuscripts; Western, Receptus, and Alexandrian. –  Frank Luke Apr 27 '13 at 17:09
    
I agree with @FrankLuke that point 4 isn't phrased exactly right, but am not sure if his suggestion gets at the point you're trying to make. Maybe something like: "The Jewish Tanakh follows the Masoretic textual tradition, while some Christian groups follow ancient translations based on other textual traditions (Septuagint, Peshitta, Vulgate, etc.) or combine readings from different textual traditions." –  Noah Apr 28 '13 at 23:07
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@Ali: Not at all! A better analogy is that oranges bought in one store are the same as oranges sold in another even though they are packaged differently. –  Jon Ericson Jul 2 '13 at 8:56
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Here is a chart which gives a comparison of the books and order:

Book and order comparison

(source website)

The other important thing to remember is that the Jewish Tanach exists primarily in Hebrew and is augmented by commentary from within the Jewish tradition. Any translation, especially one whose translation was influenced by other theologies will deviate in terms of content.

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Thanks for the useful link resends: please can you summarise the content within your answer in case it doesn't last forever? –  Jack Douglas Mar 4 '13 at 16:28
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It looks to me like that article is the result of a bad copy-and-paste job. There are some strange missing words in it. One example: "the oldest copy of the Tanakh, the , places Chronicles at the head of the third division". Huh? –  TRiG Mar 4 '13 at 19:38
    
@TRiG the chart is great though, don't you think? –  Jack Douglas Mar 5 '13 at 18:10
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