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Books of the Bible

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Books of the Bible are listed differently in the canons of Jews, and Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, although there is overlap. Most modern editions in English follow either the Roman Catholic or the standard Protestant canon. Some other important printed canons are covered here, but the enormous number of different canons found in manuscript Bibles and listings in various writings are not.[1]

Old Testament (including Tanakh)

The Tanakh, or Jewish scriptures, have the following standard arrangement.

Jewish Scriptures or Tanakh
or Law
or Prophets
or Writings
1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy

Former Prophets

6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Samuel
9. Kings

Latter Prophets

10. Isaiah
11. Jeremiah
12. Ezekiel
13. The Twelve Prophets
a. Hosea
b. Joel
c. Amos
d. Obadiah
e. Jonah
f. Micah
g. Nahum
h. Habakkuk
i. Zephaniah
j. Haggai
k. Zechariah
l. Malachi
14. Psalms
15. Proverbs
16. Job

The Five Rolls

17. Song of Songs
18. Ruth
19. Lamentations
20. Ecclesiastes
21. Esther

22. Daniel
23. Ezra-Nehemiah
24. Chronicles

The Protestant Old Testament is identical to the Tanakh in contents, but different in arrangement. The usual Christian arrangement of both Old and New Testaments is into historical, teaching and prophetic (past, present and future). This is not usually made explicit in the tables of contents of English Bibles, though it is commoner in German and Latin ones. The Roman Catholic Old Testament includes additional books (marked here with *) and passages in other books (marked with †).

  • historical books
    • Pentateuch
      • Genesis
      • Exodus
      • Leviticus
      • Numbers
      • Deuteronomy
    • Joshua
    • Judges
    • Ruth
    • Samuel (2 books)
    • Kings (2 books)
    • Chronicles (2 books)
    • Ezra
    • Nehemiah
    • Tobit*
    • Judith*
    • Esther†
    • 1 Maccabees*
    • 2 Maccabees*
  • teaching books
    • Job
    • Psalms
    • Proverbs
    • Ecclesiastes
    • Song of Songs or Song of Solomon
    • Wisdom*
    • Ecclesiasticus or Sirach*
  • prophetic books
    • Isaiah
    • Jeremiah
    • Lamentations
    • Baruch*
    • Ezekiel
    • Daniel†
    • Hosea
    • Joel
    • Amos
    • Obadiah
    • Jonah
    • Micah
    • Nahum
    • Habakkuk
    • Zephaniah
    • Haggai
    • Zechariah
    • Malachi

Neither the Eastern Orthodox Church nor the Oriental Orthodox Church has an agreed Bible. In addition to all the contents of the Roman Catholic canon, the following books are regularly included in modern Eastern Orthodox printed Bibles:

  • 1 Esdras
  • 3 Maccabees

The following are also included, but not as separate books:

  • Psalm 151, in Psalms
  • Prayer of Manasseh, in 2 Chronicles

Many editions also include one or other of the following, though not usually both:

  • 2 Esdras
  • 4 Maccabees

Early Protestant Bibles and some more recent ones included the "extra" books of the Roman Catholic canon and some others in a separate section, usually between the Old and New Testaments and under the title Apocrypha, sometimes with notes explaining their inferior status. A similar practice is followed in recent ecumenical Bibles. Those usually included in addition are

  • 1 Esdras
  • 2 Esdras (the Western version here includes passages not found in Orthodox Bibles)
  • Prayer of Manasseh

The standard printed editions of the Bible of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (which is Oriental Orthodox, not Eastern) is the most extensive, including all the above except 4 Maccabees, together with the following:

  • (1) Enoch
  • Jubilees

The following are also Oriental Orthodox. The Coptic Bible includes 3 Maccabees but not 1 and 2 Esdras or the Prayer of Manasseh. The East Syriac Bible includes 3 Maccabees but not Tobit. The Armenian Bible omits 3 Maccabees and 1 and 2 Esdras.

Note on the books of Esdras

The numbering of these is very confusing:

  • Greek/English 1 Esdras = Latin 3 Esdras
  • Greek 2 Esdras = Hebrew/English Ezra/Nehemiah = Latin 1/2 Esdras
  • Latin 4 Esdras = English 2 Esdras and includes Slavonic 3 Esdras

Some scholars additionally refer to parts of English 2 Esdras as 5/6 Esdras.

The English terminology is used in this article.

New Testament

In general, among Christian groups the New Testament canon is agreed-upon, although book order can vary. The listing here is the normal order in English Bibles.

  • historical books
    • Gospels
      • Matthew
      • Mark
      • Luke
      • John
    • Acts of the Apostles
  • teaching books: Epistles
    • ascribed to Paul
      • Romans
      • 1 Corinthians
      • 2 Corinthians
      • Galatians
      • Ephesians
      • Philippians
      • Colossians
      • 1 Thessalonians
      • 2 Thessalonians
      • Pastoral Epistles
        • 1 Timothy
        • 2 Timothy
        • Titus
      • Philemon
      • Hebrews
    • "Catholic" Epistles
      • James
      • 1 Peter
      • 2 Peter
      • 1 John
      • 2 John
      • 3 John
      • Jude
  • prophetic book: Revelation


The oldest surviving Christian lists of canonical books date from late in the second century, and the oldest actual Bibles from the fourth. For earlier times scholars must collate and interpret numerous individual references. They generally conclude that the situation was similar to that in the following centuries: the canon of scripture was fuzzy, with a grey area at the edges of both the Old Testament and the New. Both the lists and the physical Bibles vary somewhat in contents, but they contain mostly the same material. The differences were not considered important. People did not call each other heretics or excommunicate each other over them. Though ecumenical councils were convened to deal with disputes within the church, there is no documented canon of scripture from such a council until the (Roman Catholic) Council of Florence in 1439, though there is a tradition that the Council of Nicaea (325) approved one (Jerome, writing about 60 years later, says it included the book of Judith).

In the case of the New Testament this variation gradually disappeared. The modern canon of the New Testament is first documented in 367, in the Easter letter of Athanasius of Alexandria. It was adopted at various local Western church councils later in that century, but the church of Antioch continued to exclude several books well into the next century, and many Eastern authorities continued to exclude Revelation for several centuries thereafter. Gradually, though, over the centuries, an almost universal consensus evolved.

For the Old Testament, no such consensus has ever been achieved. The Easter letter mentioned above gives an Old Testament canon differing from the modern Jewish canon only in excluding Esther and including Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah. It also gives a separate list of Apocrypha, including Esther, and such a two-tier Old Testament is typical of most Eastern authorities in later centuries. The actual manuscripts, however, just as in the West, mix the Apocrypha in with the Old Testament, and this, together with studies of the way texts are cited, suggests the theoretical distinction was not considered very important in practice.

Most Western authorities, on the other hand, mention no such distinction, though it was not until 1546 that the Council of Trent explicitly stated that all the books and parts of books in the Roman Catholic canon are equally sacred and canonical. This canon first appears in the records of the same fourth century councils that approved Athanasius' canon of the New Testament, though the actual contents of manuscripts, as in the East, varied somewhat.

Disputes between Catholics and Protestants combined with the introduction of printing to fix Western canons definitively. Protestants adopted the by then standard Jewish canon as their canon for the Old Testament. However, at first their Bibles included a separate Apocrypha section. The seventeenth-century British Puritans were mainly responsible for a movement to excise them altogether from Protestant Bibles, which largely succeeded in the nineteenth century.

The Eastern Orthodox Church continues largely with the traditional attitude of the East: Bibles vary somewhat in contents, there is a theoretically recognized distinction between two grades of books, but they are mixed together.

For the ancient Jewish tradition, scholars are not agreed on which Jews regarded which books as canonical when, because of the uncertainty in the dates of many of the rabbis quoted.

See also


Return links: Tanakh/TanakhNew Testament

  1. see [1] for an extensive tabulation