How is the Bible Organized?

The Bible is a very long book, really huge, and if you are a beginning reader, it can be quite intimidating.  Here is how it’s organized.

The entire Bible is divided into 66 “books,” written by about 40 different authors over a period of 1,600 years (see Who Wrote the Bible and When for more information on this subject).

The Bible has two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament.  All the books of the Old Testament were written before Jesus was born.  The books in the New Testament were written after He was born.

There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. 

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Old Testament Classifications

The books in the Old Testament fall into three categories: History, Poetry, and Prophecy.

Historical books tell the history of the Jewish people from creation to about 600 BC.  Nearly half of the Bible, from Genesis to Esther consists of history books.

The first five history books are also known as the Pentateuch, or the Books of Moses.  They are historical in nature, but they also contain the Jewish legal code.

Following the book of Esther, the Bible takes a very different turn in content.  The books from Job to Song of Solomon Poetry books. They do not contain historical content but are devotional and instructional in nature.  They are also sometimes called the Wisdom Books.

Beginning with Isaiah, the Bible takes another turn in content.  The rest of the Old Testament, the sixteen books from Isaiah to Malachi, are Prophecy Books.  They are the written records of prophets, specific people God chose to speak directly to the people on His behalf.  Their messages sometimes encouraged people, sometimes rebuked people, and sometimes told the future.

There are four Major Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  There are also twelve Minor Prophets from Hosea to Malachi.

New Testament Classifications

The New Testament introduces two more classifications: Gospels and Epistles.

The word gospel means “good news.  There are four Gospel Books in the New Testament.  The writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, told us about the “good news” of Jesus Christ.  The gospels contain some biographic information about Jesus, but more importantly they tell about everything He taught and did during

The next book, Acts, is a history book which records the history of the early church for the first 30 years or so.

Then we come to the epistles.  Epistles is a fancy term for letters.  The early Christians wrote letters to each other, and 21 of these letters, from Romans to Jude, have come down to us in the New Testament.

The Apostle Paul wrote the first thirteen epistles (Romans through Philemon) and these are called Pauline Epistles.  The rest make up a category called General Epistles.

The last book in the Bible is Revelation which is a Prophecy book.

To sum up

There are five categories of books in the Bible: History, Poetry, Prophecy, Gospels and Epistles.

The Old Testament contains History, Poetry and Prophecy books.  The Pentateuch is a subset of the history books.

The New Testament mostly contains Gospels and Epistles.  There is one History book in the New Testament, Acts, and one Prophecy Book, Revelation.  The New Testament does not contain any Poetry books.