Why Are The Books Of The Bible In Such A Crazy Order

(Re)Discovering The Bible: Vol 1 – A Quick Start Guide For  Understanding the Bible’s Origins, its Purpose and its Translations by [Burton, Sam]

To Listen Click HERE



This week we’re kind of taking a rabbit trail. I’ve gotten a ton of questions since I did a broadcast on the best way to read the Bible. Most of the time, people have asked things like, then Why is the Bible in the order it’s in, if that’s not the best way to read it? Fair question. So I thought I’d take a break from our normal Study and explain why the Bible is in the order it’s in. Fair enough? Next week, we’ll get back to our look at the Gospel of John.

Most of us think of the Bible as a Book. In fact, that’s what the word Bible means. It’s just the ancient Greek word for book. I remember in a lot of old Movies and Television programs it was referred to as “The Good Book.” And how do we read a book? From beginning to end. Most books are designed to be read that way. You know, novels, history books, biographies. But not every book. I can’t help but think of several text books back in High School, or even at Uni, where we jumped around according to the topic we were dealing with. The Bible is kind of that way.

The simplest way to explain it, is to say that the Bible is not a book. It’s a collection of 66 books. It was written over a period of about 1500 years, by various authors and editors. The first book probably written was the book of Job. Seriously. Most scholars suggest that Moses wrote it during the time the Jews were wandering in the wilderness. About the same time he was writing his other books. The last book to be written was the book of Revelation. That, however, is not necessarily the reason it’s the last book in your Bible.

Confused yet? Think of the Bible as a library or even a book store. I realize that book stores are mostly a thing of the past, but most of us have been on one. Libraries might be an easier comparison. BTW, if you haven’t been to the Buckie Library recently, you should really go. They have an excellent selection. And the staff are very helpful. And, there is internet service with a great selection of computers for your use. Ok, commercial over.

When you go into a library, you’ll find books grouped according to subject matter, if what’s called the dewey decimal system. First is the group, let’s say we want to study dogs. You’ll search for that section, then you’ll find the books about dogs in general followed by breeds. The subsections like breeds, are grouped in alphabetical order by author name. In the fiction section, books are grouped in more generic topics like, science fiction, romance, murder mysteries, etc. And the books are listed by Author. There are some exceptions, but that’s generally the pattern. No one would just go in and start by reading the first book, and working his way around. That would be more boring and confusing that I could even begin to suggest.

The Bible is put into groups. First, there are two major groups, the Old Testament which has 39 books, and the New Testament, which has 27 books. The word Testament kinda means will. As in Will and Testament. So we have God’s old will, or his old relationship and His New Will. I truly believe that we would understand the Bible better if we would read the New Testament first. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Just hold that in mind for now.

There are 39 books in the Old Testament. They are grouped together in 4 categories. When we look at the breakdown of the books think 5 12 5 5 12.

  1. The Law of God

    1. Genesis

    2. Exodus

    3. Leviticus

    4. Numbers

    5. Deuteronomy

These 5 books are sometimes called, The Pentateuch, which means, roughly, The Five. The Jews call it, The Torah, which means, “The Law”. They were written by Moses during the Israelis’ forty years of traveling in the wilderness. They are a mix of history and laws, with a song or two thrown in, and cover a time period from the Creation of the world to (give or take) 1407 B.C.

  1. The People of God

    1. Joshua

    2. Judges

    3. Ruth

    4. 1 and 2 Samuel

    5. 1 and 2 Kings

    6. 1 and 2 Chronicles

    7. Ezra

    8. Nehemiah

    9. Esther

This next set of 12 books tell the story of the Jewish people from when they entered the Promised land under the leadership of Joshua, circa 1407 B.C. and runs to the time of the Artaxerxes I, King of the Persian Empire.

  1. The Heart of God

    1. Job

    2. Psalms

    3. Proverbs

    4. Ecclesiastes

    5. Song of Solomon

Right here in the middle of the Bible are five books of Poetry. These books have multiple authors who include: Moses, David, and Solomon, among others. They cover a wide range of subjects and emotions. The Book of Psalms, by the way, formed the first Hymn Book of the Church. In some denominations, like the Free Presbyterians of Western Scotland and Northern Ireland, it’s still the hymn book they use.

  1. The Promises of God

    1. Isaiah

    2. Jeremiah

    3. Lamentations

    4. Ezekiel

    5. Daniel

    6. Hosea

    7. Joel

    8. Amos

    9. Obadiah

    10. Jonah

    11. Micah

    12. Nahum

    13. Habakkuk

    14. Zephaniah

    15. Haggai

    16. Zechariah

    17. Malachi

The last 17 books of the Old Testament are the messages of the Prophets of Israel, mixed with little bits of history from time to time. To put them in their historical setting, they begin about the time period covered in 1nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles and end just after the story of Esther.

These books are entered roughly in order of size, though a bit inconsistently. Lamentations, for example, has only 5 chapters and Obadiah has only 1. Lamentations is listed after Jeremiah because he is the source of both books and many ancient manuscripts have them together in one scroll.

Sometimes Isaiah through Daniel are called the “Major” Prophets, and Hosea to Malachi are referred to as the “Minor” prophets. This designation, broadly speaking, is related to the length of the books, and has nothing to do with perceived importance or value.

The Prophets are most often calling the people to repentance from sin, and include the promises of judgment if the people fail to repent as well as promises of blessing when they do. There are many prophesies that refer to the coming of the Messiah (Jesus) and even to the last days of human history when Jesus returns.

Let’s move on now to the New Testament and see how it’s 27 books are divided.

  1. The Son of God

    1. Matthew

    2. Mark

    3. Luke

    4. John

These first 4 books of the New Testament are often called, “The Gospels” and introduce us to Jesus. They tell us who Jesus is. These 4 Gospels explicitly lay out the claims Jesus made about His own identity. It’s rather amusing (bemusing, really)when we hear preachers, philosophers and professors offering their opinions about who Jesus is and who He claimed to be, when there is little ambiguity in the Gospels themselves. Once you read them, you’ll know what I mean.

Two of the Gospels were written by men who actually walked with Jesus and were a part of the 12 men Jesus called, “Apostles”. One was written by a traveling companion of The Apostle Peter who was probably writing the book on Peter’s behalf. He also may have alluded to himself in one of the later chapters of his Gospel. And one of them was written by a Gentile convert to Christianity, who was extremely detail oriented, was a physician and a companion of the famous Apostle, Paul. I guess you’ll have to read them for yourself to discover which is which. (Spoiler alert: I’m about to give away part of the answer.)

  1. The Church of God

    1. Acts

The Book of Acts is often called, “The Acts of the Apostles”, and covers a time period from A.D. 30 until probably the early 60s A.D. when Nero is Emperor of the Roman Empire. It describes the founding of the Church and its early spread from Jerusalem, throughout the Empire, and to the Capital itself.

Acts is the only book in the Bible that describes how people became Christians and how Churches were born. I like to say that the Gospels tell us Who Jesus is and the book of Acts tells us what to do about it.

  1. Living For God

    1. Letters to Churches

      1. Romans

      2. 1 and 2 Corinthians

      3. Galatians

      4. Ephesians

      5. Philippians

      6. Colossians

      7. 1 and 2 Thessalonians

    2. Letters to Individuals

      1. 1 and 2 Timothy

      2. Titus

      3. Philemon

    3. Open Letters

      1. Hebrews

      2. James

      3. 1 and 2 Peter

      4. 1,2, and 3 John

      5. Jude

  2. The 21 books I call, Living for God, are letters written to Believers to encourage, rebuke, teach, and correct them as they cope with life in Christ and learn to grow in Faith. As with most other categories, there are sub groups. Each subgroup, like most of the categories, is ordered according to length. The author of all the specific Church letters, as well as those to specific individuals, was the Apostle Paul. Many scholars also believe he wrote the general letter, Hebrews, as well.

  3. James and Jude were written by two of Jesus’ half-brothers who became Christians and leaders in the early Church. The letters of Peter and John are authored by the Apostles to whom the books are attributed.

  4. The Kingdom of God

    1. Revelation

      1. The ever mysterious and challenging last book of the Bible was written by the Apostle John somewhere around A.D. 90 while he is living in exile on the Mediterranean island of Patmos, where he had been sent by the Emperor Domitian because of his Faith. The book is written to encourage Christians under persecution, that Jesus would ultimately conquer evil and set up His Kingdom forever. A great number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, have been written about understanding the Book of Revelation and ‘the end times’. Some of them have been really good; some, not so much. I would say, on the whole, these books, sermons and movies have caused more confusion than they have solved. Revelation was a book of hope and comfort. It has far too often become a revenue stream for televangelists and con artists. (Preview Note; if you think I used strong language right there, just wait until you read my book about it. It will be in Volume 5).

I know that’s a lot to take in. I’m going to refer you to the Notes on this broadcast at www.radiofreebuckie.com. And in another blatant plug, most of the information in this broadcast is taken from my book, (Re)Discovering The Bible, Vol. 1. Its currently available as an e-book on Amazon. Later in the year, I am thinking about turning into a paperback. I’ll keep you posted.

As I think I’ve said a few times on earlier broadcasts, and hinted at a few minutes ago, if you’re new to reading the Bible, or have had trouble understanding it, or staying focused. And I know plenty of people who have suffered from all those, you should read the New Testament first. Read the Book of Luke first, followed by the book of Acts. The first will tell you who Jesus is, and the second will tell you what to do about it. As for the rest of the reading, I shared that in an earlier broadcast. But in case you didn’t get to listen to it, I will include that information in the notes page on the website. Also, you can write me radiofreebuckie@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to send you a copy.

Before we leave this section on how the Bible is divided, I want to add a sentence or two about the chapters and verses.

When the Bible was written, there were no chapters and verses. Frankly, there wasn’t even punctuation. I bet that was fun reading, eh?

There were a few rudimentary chapter type divisions as early as the 300s (4th century A.D.), but the chapter divisions as we understand them, came in the 1100s and were put there by one, Stephen Langton. The verses were added in roughly 1551 by a clergyman known today simply as Stephanus (real name, Robert Estienne).

These divisions were added to the text to make the Bible easier to read and memorize. They are not inspired, nor does anyone claim they are, but they do help in understanding the flow, even if some of them seem to stop in weird places.

And that’s how and why the Bible is in the order its in. No secret code. No mystifying theological reasons, merely an attempt to organize the contents. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and ask away. I will get back to you as soon as possible. I love hearing from listeners. That’s it for now. Have a great week. Stay warm. We’ll get back to John’s gospel next time, but for now, I’m out.

Here’s the Document on the Best order in which to read the Bible. Contains recent edits.

First Start with the New Testament. This is more important than most people understand. I am convinced that if we have Jesus in Place, then the rest of the Bible makes more sense.

Luke, Acts, 1&2 Thessalonians. Essentially, this tells us who Jesus is, what to do about it, and how everything turns out in the end.

Gospel of John, 1, 2, 3 John – Because Matthew Mark and Luke are very similar, reading John and his letters next gives variety and make a great deal of sense.

Galatians, James, Matthew,1 &2 Corinthians

1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Mark

Ephesians, Colossians, Hebrews

Philippians, Philemon, 1 Peter

2 Peter, Jude, Romans


Now before reading the Old Testament, I highly recommending reading the Book of Hebrews again. Hebrews is the Key to understanding the Old Testament. Especially the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy.

When reading through the Old Testament – Read a chapter or two from Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon each day as you are reading other books. Eg.

3 chapters from Genesis, 1 from the Poetry section,


Genesis, Joshua, Isaiah

Exodus, Judges, Jeremiah

Leviticus, Ruth, Job

Lamentations, Numbers, 1 Samuel

Ezekiel, 2 Samuel

1 & 2 Kings, Daniel

2 thoughts on “Why Are The Books Of The Bible In Such A Crazy Order

  1. Like to reblog this excellent post, but there is not an option. Do you mind if I copy it and put the link and credit in the post? God Bless you


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