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Bible Basics

Jewish Bible/Old Testament and Apocrypha

There are 39 books in Protestant Old Testament, plus seven more in the Roman Catholic Old Testament and a few besides that in certain versions of the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint or LXX), which are used by various Eastern Orthodox churches. The Jewish Bible is composed of the same material found in the Protestant Old Testament, but the arrangement is slightly different.

In the Protestant Old Testament, the arrangement of the books are as follows:

  • Five books of the Law (Torah, or the Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
  • Twelve books of History: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
  • Five books of Poetry: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
  • Five books of Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
  • Twelve books of Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Note the pattern 5-12-5-5-12.

New Testament

There are 27 books in the New Testament. The contents and arrangement are the same among Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox.

  • Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
  • The Acts of the Apostles
  • Fourteen “Pauline” Epistles: Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews. (Hebrews is almost certainly not Pauline in authorship, and many scholars dispute some of the rest, but the series of fourteen is still useful for mnemonic purposes, as we shall see…)
  • Seven General or “Catholic” Epistles: James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude.
  • The Book of Revelation (which begins with a series of seven letters to churches in Asia).

Note the pattern 14-7-7.

How to Find a Bible Passage

Biblical references use numbers, colons, and dashes to locate material. When numbers appear alone, they refer to chapters; when numbers are followed by a colon, chapter and verse are indicated. Dashes indicate that a passage extends between two locations. 1 Corinthians 13 indicates the First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. Luke 2:52 indicates the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2 and verse 52. Matthew 1-2 indicates the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 1 and 2. Luke 6:12-13 indicates the Gospel of Luke, chapter 6, verses 12 and 13. Ephesians 5:21-6:9 indicates a passage that begins with the Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 21 and continues through chapter 6, verse 9.

Hint: Look for the colon. If none appears, the passage covers one or more chapters; if one colon appears, the passage covers verses within a single chapter; if two colons are present, the passage covers parts of two (or more) chapters.

Best Hint: Ask for help if you are confused.


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