Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 1 “The Old Testament Canon” pp. 1-12.
The term “canon” indicates an authoritative listing. Lessing and Steinmann note that the Old Testament canon is recognized by many groups, though there may be some variations in the order or in how some additional resources are viewed (Lessing 2014, 1). By the second century B.C. there seems to be recognition of such a collection of writings. Though canonicity may not have been formally stated in Judaism until the fourth century, the common acceptance and use of the canonical books seems to reach considerably earlier (Lessing 2014, 2).
The idea of binding scrolls together in books was unknown at the time of Jesus (Lessing 2014, 3). Therefore we would not expect to see an earlier example of an entire Old Testament. Lessing and Steinmann observe that other books were read, especially by some Christians, alongside the Old Testament books which Jews rather universally accepted. In the West, these books tended to be accepted as part of the Old Testament (Lessing 2014, 3). In the Reformation, while those additional books were noted, they were normally removed from the group Jews would recognize as canonical (Lessing 2014, 3). As a reaction to the Protestant Reformation, the Roman church tended to adopt and hold to those books. Protestants referred to them as “apocryphal” while Roman Catholics called them “deuterocanonical” (Lessing 2014, 4).
Lessing and Steinmann continue with a comparison of the Jewish, Protestant, and Roman Catholic canonical lists (Lessing 2014, 4-5). The Jewish canon is largely arranged in an order useful in the liturgy, quite possibly developed in the first century or after (Lessing 2014, 6). The Protestant Old Testament is the same in content but is arranged differently. The books are also divided differently, resulting in a different number of documents (Lessing 2014, 6). The Roman Catholic Old Testament is similar to the Protestant arrangement, but inserts the deuterocanonical books in logical locations (Lessing 2014, 7). Lessing and Steinmann walk through the deuterocanonical books, giving a very brief summary of each and its likely time of composition. They then observe that in Eastern Orthodoxy there are differing customs about the Apocrypha (Lessing 2014, 10).