Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Acts 28:23—twofold division of OT

We read this in Acts 28:23—
Ταξάμενοι δὲ αὐτῷ ἡμέραν ἦλθον πρὸς αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν ξενίαν πλείονες οἷς ἐξετίθετο διαμαρτυρόμενος τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, πείθων τε αὐτοὺς περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἀπό τε τοῦ νόμου Μωϋσέως καὶ τῶν προφητῶν, ἀπὸ πρωῒ ἕως ἑσπέρας.
It's traditional to see the OT as having had three divisions in Jesus' day: Law, Prophets, Writings. Here, we see two divisions. In Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures, R. Laird Harris makes the case (convincingly, I think) that the OT was more characteristically seen under two divisions.

Notice τε twice. The first time it looks as if it coordinates the two ways in which Paul ἐξετίθετο, namely διαμαρτυρόμενος and πείθων.

The second time, we have τε...καὶ (both...and), coordinating the two divisions of the OT, and thus indicating the whole OT as Paul's range of texts.


Stefan Ewing said...

Hi, Dan:

Isn't this the same twofold division—the Law of Moses and the Prophets—that Jesus refers to in Matthew 5.17?

In the Jewish Bible, Prophets includes not just Isaiah through Malachi, but also Joshua, Judges, 1/2 Samuel, and 1/2 Kings (but excluding Lamentations, Daniel, Ruth, Chronicles, etc.).

Everything else—the Poetical books, Lam, Dan, Ruth, Chron, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther—goes under a third category, "Writings," that was probably not well defined or universally recognized as canon at the time of Jesus and Paul.

So yes, in a sense, "του νομου μωυσεως και των προφητων" means basically the Pentateuch, Prophets, and Historical Books—from the point of view of a first-century born again Jewish Christian, the whole Biblical kit and kaboodle!

Michael Hanel said...

Another very good overview of the question of OT canon is a book by Andrew Steinmann called the Oracles of God (

He does a stellar job of showing what evidence there is in written texts to account for the divisions of the OT.