Minor Prophets

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated


The group of 12 short prophetic books of the Old Testament is called the Minor Prophets. The name Minor Prophets goes back apparently to St. Augustine [Civ. 18.29: Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum (Vienna 1866) 40.2.306], who distinguished the 12 shorter prophetic books as prophetae minores from the four longer books of the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The term, therefore, is not concerned with the relative importance of these books. Since the collection of the 12 Minor Prophets contains writings from the 8th to probably the 4th century b.c., it is of great importance for understanding the religious and political history of Israel during these centuries. Besides, many of the Minor Prophets, despite their brevity, rank on a par with the best chapters of the Major Prophets from a literary viewpoint. In the Septuagint the Minor Prophets are placed before the Major Prophets; in the Vulgate and other Christian versions, after Daniel; in the Hebrew Bible, after Ezekiel. Since all the 12 Minor Prophets can be written on one scroll, in the Hebrew Bible they are considered a single book, called by the Aramaic word t erê ašar (the Twelve). The Greek Fathers, too, knew them as a single unit called the δωδεκαπρόφητον (the Twelve Prophets). Their order in the Vulgate is the same as in the Hebrew Bible: hosea, joel, amos, obadiah, jonah, micah, nehemiah, habakkuk, zephaniah, haggai, zechariah, and malachi. In the Septuagint the order of the first six is somewhat different: Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah. Neither order, however, shows a correct chronological sequence, although no doubt chronological considerations played a major role in both arrangements.

[l. f. hartman]