How the Bible is organized

How the Bible is organized

The standard Protestant Bible is a collection of 66 books. In the Catholic and Anglican Bibles, there are 15 extra books, called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonicals. The most obvious breakdown of these books is in the separation of the Old Testament from the New Testament.

The Old Testament was written before Jesus Christ came to earth. It is the Bible of the Jewish faith. The New Testament was written after and about Jesus. It is part of the Christian Bible. Christians use the Old and New Testament.

The Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals are books that were written before Christ and were included in the Septuagint. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of Hebrew scriptures that included the Apocrypha. When the final canon of Hebrew scripture was established following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the books of the Apocrypha were not included. Since the Septuagint was read in the lingua franca of the day (Greek), these books became part of the Bible that early Christians read.


The Old Testament is composed of 39 books. It is much larger than the New and takes up 75% of the Bible. These books are divided into three types of literature.

Historical Books:

There are 17 historical books in the Old Testament. They are arranged in chronological order and begin with the Pentateuch or Torah (the Law). The Torah is sometimes called the Books of Moses because many believe that he was the author. It is also called the Law because in these 5 books Moses received the Law from God. The history starts with Creation and goes right up to the re-establishment of Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile (about 400 BC).

Poetic Books:

The poetic books are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. These books teach about the practical and spiritual aspects of living for God. They are not history; they are the literature of ancient Israel. They are a source of inspiration and reflection regarding God.

Prophetic Books:

There are 17 prophetic books in the Old Testament. Prophetic does not strictly apply to foretell the future. Prophets spoke for God and often spoke about the times they were living in. Some refer to it as forth-telling; they speak forth what they hear from God. They are our spiritual eyes and ears. There are 5 Major Prophets and 12 Minor ones. The Major Prophets wrote the most, which is why they’re major.


The Apocrypha generally sits at the end of the Old Testament, as some of it should. There is wisdom, poetry and history here too. These books help to fill in the blank historical period between Malachi and Matthew.


The New Testament contains 27 books. There are also three types of writings here.

Historical Books:

There are five historical books in the New Testament, the four Gospels and the Book of Acts. The four Gospels all describe the life of Christ. Acts is the history of the early church.

The Letters:

There are 21 epistles in the New Testament. These letters were written and circulated throughout the very first organized churches. St. Paul was the author of thirteen of them. The apostle John wrote three, Peter two and James and Jude wrote one each. These epistles formed the teaching of the early believers and served to interpret the meaning of Jesus’ words in the Gospels.

Prophetic Book:

The only prophetic book in the New Testament is the Revelation of John. It is sometimes called the Apocalypse.

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