For starters, the Bible is not one book. The Bible is 66 books if you’re a Protestant Christian. The Bible is 73 books if you’re a Catholic. The Bible is only 24 books if you’re Jewish. (And it’s called the Tanakh, not the Bible.)
As you can see, we’re already off to a good start! There isn’t even consensus on what books get included in the Bible. Across different religions, it varies. So let’s dive into that during this first post. We’ll cover:
- What books are in the Bible for Jews (aka the Hebrew Bible / Tanakh)?
- What books are in the Bible for Protestant Christians?
- What books are in the Bible for Catholics?
- What books are in the Bible for Eastern Orthodox Christians?
- Why does it matter what books are included in the Bible?
- Other questions about the Bible
What books are in the Bible for Jews (aka the Hebrew Bible / Tanakh)?
Most Americans believe the Hebrew Bible / Tanakh is the exact same as the Old Testament. That’s not entirely accurate though. The Jews divide and organize their Bible differently than Protestant Christians and Catholics. Here is how the Hebrew Bible / Tanakh is organized:
Torah (the Teaching, the Law, the 5 Books of Moses)
- Genesis (1)
- Exodus (2)
- Leviticus (3)
- Numbers (4)
- Deuteronomy (5)
Nevi’im (the Prophets)
- Joshua (6)
- Judges (7)
- Samuel – as one book (8)
- Kings – as one book (9)
- Isaiah (10)
- Jeremiah (11)
- Ezekiel (12)
- The 12 – as one book (13)
- Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Ketuvim (the Writings)
- Psalms (14)
- Proverbs (15)
- Job (16)
- 5 Scrolls
- Song of Songs (17)
- Ruth (18)
- Lamentations (19)
- Ecclesiastes (20)
- Esther (21)
- Daniel (22)
- Ezra-Nehemiah -as one book (23)
- Chronicles (24)
It looks a lot different from the Protestant Christian Bible, doesn’t it? Instead of ending with Malachi, you end with Chronicles. Instead of having a lot of books split up, you have a lot of books combined. Instead of seeing Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings classified as history, you see them classified as prophets. Job is described as poetry. It’s refreshing to look at it this way.
Now, let’s look at the Protestant Christian Bible.
What books are in the Bible for Protestant Christians?
This is the most common understanding of the books of the Bible. There are 66 in total, with 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. For most people reading this, you won’t find surprises here.
- 1 Samuel
- 2 Samuel
- 1 Kings
- 2 Kings
- 1 Chronicles
- 2 Chronicles
- Song of Songs
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- 1 Thessalonians
- 2 Thessalonians
- 1 Timothy
- 2 Timothy
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter
- 1 John
- 2 John
- 3 John
For 90% of the people reading this, I’m guessing this list above is your understanding of what books are included in the Bible. But if you’re a Catholic reading this, you’ll know there’s more to the story…
What books are in the Bible for Catholics?
For Catholics, there are more than 66 books in the Bible. There are actually 73 books. Instead of listing all 66 again, we’ll just list out the 7 extra books. They are as follows:
- The Historical Books
- 1 Maccabees (1)
- 2 Maccabees (2)
- The Didactic Books
- Sirach – or The Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach (3)
- The Wisdom of Solomon (4)
- Baruch (5)
- The Folk Literature
- Tobit (6)
- Judith (7)
In addition to the Didactic Books, there are some extra additions to the books of Daniel and Esther. Most people think the Catholics have the most books in their Bible, but actually, the Eastern Orthodox Christians have even more.
What books are in the Bible for Eastern Orthodox Christians?
In addition to the Protestant Christian Bible and Catholic Bible lists, there are 3-5 more books in the Bible for Eastern Orthodox Christians, depending on who you ask. These books are:
- 1 Esdras (1)
- 2 Esdras (2)
- 3 Maccabees (3)
- Prayer of Manasseh (4)
- Psalm 151 (bonus)
Why does it matter what books are included in the Bible?
Simply put, it doesn’t. It only matters who you become in the process of reading the Bible.
At the end of the day, you can read and enjoy all of those books and still love God. You can read and enjoy all of those books and still believe Jesus is Lord. You can also read all of those books and be a bigot. You can be a Bible-know-it-all and be a complete jerk, whether you call yourself a Christian, a Catholic, or a Jew.
I sincerely believe that reading the Bible, however many books exist in it, should make you a better human, not a bigot. If you’re letting the Bible do its work in you, you should become kinder, more loving, more compassionate, more patient, more peaceful. Reading the Bible should make you more self-controlled, more faith-filled, and more gentle. If you’re not more generous and more joyful after reading it, there’s a big problem.
So whether you believe there should be 24, 66, 73, or 77+ books in the Bible, I could care less. The number isn’t the point. The person you become from reading it is the point.
Other Questions About the Bible
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be answering more fun questions about the Bible:
- Is the Trinity in the Bible?
- Was the Flood real?
- Who wrote the Bible?
- What are the craziest stories in the Bible?
- What does it mean to be born again?
Visit this page for more posts in this series on “What is the Bible?”.
Visit this page for commentary on different books in the Bible.