What is the Neviim? How are the 'prophetic books' classified in the Hebrew Bible?

The Neviim is the second part of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible is known as the TaNaK, which stands for Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim. Torah means "instruction, teaching, or law" and contains the first five books of the Christian Bible. Neviim means "prophets" and includes twenty-one books of the Protestant Old Testament that are only eight scrolls in the Hebrew Bible. Ketuvim means "writings" and includes the other thirteen books of the Old Testament contained in eleven scrolls.

During Jesus' time on earth, the Hebrew Bible already existed in this form. He referenced this three-part structure in Luke 24:44 when He said, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses [Torah] and the Prophets [Neviim] and the Psalms [representing all of the Ketuvim] must be fulfilled." In this way, Jesus affirmed the Scripture of the Old Testament as contained in the TaNaK.

The Neviim is broken into two major sections: the Former Prophets and the Latter Prophets. The Former Prophets include the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel (simply one scroll of Samuel), and 1 and 2 Kings (again one scroll). In the Christian Bible, these books are categorized as historical books rather than prophetic books. "Prophet" simply means one who speaks forth the Word of God. These authors, under the inspiration of God's Spirit, faithfully recorded the story of God's work in His chosen people and in their Promised Land. This history is God's Word spoken forth by the authors of these books, which is why they are categorized as Former Prophets in the Hebrew Bible.

The Latter Prophets include three Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, as well as one scroll of twelve Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).

A reader of the Christian Bible might notice that certain historical books, like Ruth and 1 and 2 Chronicles, are not listed; certain prophetic books, like Daniel, are also missing. Those books are contained in the Ketuvim, or Writings, in the Hebrew Bible. The TaNaK includes every book of the Protestant Old Testament, they are just categorized, divided, and ordered differently in the Hebrew Bible.

God used these authors to record His work in the world so that people could know His character and His ways. Jesus affirmed that these books were indeed God-breathed scripture whose climax and fulfillment is found in Him. Whether reading instruction, history, prophecy, or poetry, whether reading it in the Hebrew Bible of the TaNak or the Christian Old Testament, whether reading in Hebrew, English or any other language, readers should be gaining an understanding of God and humanity's need for God to provide a saving Messiah. The prophetic books of the Neviim are a vital part of this endeavor. For we know that "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17).


Related Truth:

What is the Torah?

What are the Writings? What is the Ketuvim?

What is 'the Law and the Prophets' mentioned in the New Testament?

What is the canon of the Bible and how did we get it?

The Septuagint — What is it?


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