How the Bible is Organized

The Bible is actually 66 small books assembled together into one large volume.  It is like a bookshelf of books.

When people refer to passages in the Bible, the first number is always the chapter number, and the second number is always the verse (usually a sentence) number.  For example, Joshua 23:6 means the book of Joshua, chapter 23, and the 6th verse (or sentence).  Occasionally there will be an “a” or “b” attached to a verse number, and that simply means it is the first half or last half of the verse.

DIVISIONS OF THE BIBLE

 If you own a Bible, look in the Table of Contents.  As you read the divisions below, you might want to draw brackets around the books of each division, and write their category in the margin of your Bible’s Table of Contents.

OLD TESTAMENT

Written Mostly to the Jews

(Christians do read it, especially Genesis and prophecies of God’s King of the World)
 BOOKS OF LAW & HISTORY
  • Covers about 4000 ~ 1400 BC
  • 5 Books:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

They begin with the creation of the world and progress to the creation of the Jewish Nation.  They also itemize the Law of Moses which consists of some 600 commandments, not just the Ten Commandments people hear so much about.

BOOKS OF HISTORY
  • Covers about 1400 ~ 450 BC
  • 12 Books:  Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st & 2nd Samuel, 1st & 2nd Kings, 1st & 2nd Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

They cover the establishment of the Jewish nation, its downfall, and its eventual but weak return to power in the Promised Land.

BOOKS OF POETRY
  • Covers about 300 ~ 1000 BC
  • 5 Books:  Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (sometimes called Song of Solomon)

Job took place during the time of Genesis, while the other four were written during the time of II Samuel and I Kings.

MAJOR PROPHETS
  • Covers about 700 ~ 530 BC
  • 5 Books:  Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel 

Most of these prophets lived during the downfall of the Jewish nation as told in II Kings and II Chronicles.  Some lived when the Jews returned to their Promised Land from exile in Babylon/Persia (Iran & Iraq) and restored it nearly a century later.

MINOR PROPHETS
  • Covers about 750 ~ 430 BC
  • 12 Books:  Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. 

These prophets were not less important than the major prophets; they just wrote much shorter books.   They, too, lived during the accounts of I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles.

NEW TESTAMENT

Written mostly to Christians

LIFE OF CHRIST
  • Covers about 4 BC ~ 29 AD*
  • 4 Books:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.

Each author ~ two were apostles ~ gives his own memories of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven from his point of view.

BOOK OF HISTORY
  • Covers about 29~65 AD
  • One Book:  Acts of the Apostles

Beginning with the ascension of Jesus to heaven, it progresses through the establishment of the church over a period of 30 years, and how people became Christians under the direction of the Apostles.

  • BOOKS ON CHRISTIAN LIFE BY APOSTLE PAUL
  • Covers about AD 50 – about AD 68

13 Books:  Romans, I & II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon,

It’s easy to become a Christian.  The hard part is living the Christian life afterward.  That’s what these books are all about.

BOOKS ON CHRISTIAN LIFE BY APOSTLES JAMES, PETER, JOHN & JUDE
  • Covers about AD 68 – 90
  • 8 Books  – Hebrews, James, I & II Peter, I,  II & III John, Jude.

Again, it’s easy to become a Christian.  The hard part is living the Christian life afterward.  And so the other apostles wrote encouragement too.

BOOK OF PROPHECY & HISTORY
  • Covers about 95 AD
  • 1 Book:  Revelation

This book was written to Christians being threatened with torture and execution for believing in Jesus.  Its theme is “God Keeps His Promises and Will Take Care of Them.”  Some applies to the past, some to the present, some to the future.  This symbolic book can be interpreted through the numerous Old Testament events to which it refers.

 

 *Even though the Christian calendar was to begin when Jesus was born, due to an error in the Gregorian Calendar,  events place about 4 years before the new calendar was to begin.