The Order and the Ordering of Biblical Books

How did the Bible end up in the order it's in today?

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The Torah--authoritative first--is fully stable: all manuscripts have the order as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus , Numbers, Deuteronomy. (Of course, given the contents of these books, their order is not really flexible.) Within Nevi'im, the same is true for the Former Prophets. Concerning the order of the Latter Prophets, there is more flexibility; most manuscripts do not follow the Talmudic order. Within Kethuvim, manuscripts show a tremendous variation in the order of its books. Quite surprisingly, the ancient sources do not indicate what the last--culminating--book of the Bible should be!

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Marc Zvi Brettler is the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies and chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. His main areas of research are religious metaphors and the Bible, biblical historical texts, and women and the Bible.