The Old Testament

An introduction to the Old Testament for Catholics. The books of the Old Testament tell the story of God's covenant with the Israelites. We’ve created a free series of downloads for Scripture Seekers where you can learn more about the Old Testament.

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What is the Old Testament and what does it mean to Catholics?

The first part of the Bible, the Old Testament, is common to both Jews and Christians (with some differences). The Old Testament is divided into shorter ‘books’. Jews and Protestants recognise only the books that were written in Hebrew – 39 of them. Catholics also recognise seven books which were written in Greek (these are called deutero-canonical). The seven books are: Tobit, Judith, Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus), Wisdom, Baruch and 1- 2 Maccabees.

The Old Testament is divided into four parts.

The Catholic Canon (or set of Catholic rules and laws) divides the books into four main parts:

  • The Pentateuch (literally meaning the “five scrolls”) contains the same five books as found in the Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
  • The Historical Books – Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ruth, Esther, Lamentations*, Judith, Tobit, Baruch*, 1-2 Maccabees.
  • The Wisdom Books – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes (or Qoheleth), Song of Songs (or Canticle of Canticles), Wisdom and Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus).
  • The Prophetic Books – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and the Book of Daniel (which is half prophetic and half apocalyptic).

Each set of books has its own special wisdom and lessons to impart. We’ve created four free downloadable articles for you to find out more about the Old Testament.

As a Catholic the Old Testament will prompt you to ask many questions. Our guides give you some different ways of interpreting these ancient texts.


Download the free Scripture Seekers’ series on the Old Testament.

*We have included the Books of Lamentations and Baruch in the Prophetic Books download since we are following the order in which they are found in the Bible; most Bibles put these two books after Jeremiah, even though they are NOT part of the Major Prophets.