The Bible is like 2 Bookcases. (Click here on the Bookshelf diagram to visualize it.)
Each Bookcase has three shelves, for Old Testament and New Testament both have
History — Writings — Prophecy in that order
The first five books of bookshelf one are called the Books of Moses. Other names for these five are “The Torah,” (that is a Hebrew term meaning “teachings); “The Law”, and the Pentateuch (that is a Greek word meaning “five scrolls.”)
The first four books of the New Testament are called the “gospels.” (Gospel is an “Old English” way of saying “good news.” The particular good news in these books is the life of Jesus and his death on the cross as a substitute for us, taking the punishment we deserve due to disobeying God.
Old Testament, first shelf (History)
tells the events in the History of the Jewish people starting from their ancestor, Abraham, about 2000 BC, up to about 400 BC. Before Abraham are recorded the events of creation, the fall of mankind into sin, and the Great Flood. Click to see the entire story on one sheet. You may want to put a pencil mark after “Esther” in your Bible’s table of contents to show where the history part ends.
Old Testament, second shelf (writings)
includes poetry of the Jewish people written during the time period of the first shelf. The largest of the five books is the Psalms, 150 poems meant to be sung. The subheadings indicate King David as author of many. You may want to put a pencil mark just above “Isaiah” in your Bible’s table of contents to show where the “writings” part ends and the
“prophets” section begins.
Old Testament, third shelf (prophecy)
These are books written by prophets, during the time period from about 700 BC to 400 BC.
New Testament, first shelf (history)
The first four books tell events in the life of Jesus, and the fifth book, called Acts, includes events right after the life of Jesus. The second half of Acts is concerned with the missionary travels of a man named Paul. You may want to put a pencil mark after “Acts” in your Bible’s table of contents to show where the history part ends.
New Testament, second shelf (writings)
These are Letters written by early Christians. The first 13 are written by Paul to churches in various locations and to people. You may want to put a pencil mark after “Jude” in your Bible’s table of contents to show where the “letters” part ends.
New Testament, third shelf (prophecy).
There is only one book, Revelation, in which John, the disciple of Jesus, describes visions he has seen.
BIBLE BOOKS History Writings Prophecy
OTHER BOOKS from Bible times
I. JEWISH BOOKS WRITTEN BETWEEN OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT TIMES.
A. THE ONES INCLUDED IN THE CATHOLIC BIBLE.
The Hebrew Bible is made up of the books which were written in Hebrew up to around 400 BC, and is exactly identical to the books that Christians call the “Old Testament.” .This paragraph introduces some books which were written written by Jewish authors starting about 250 BC. Though they were never regarded as part of the Hebrew Old Testament, they were included in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which was also begun around that time4. Therefore they were familiar to the early Christians, and were included along with the Latin translation of the Old and New Testaments. After the reformation, Protestants have generally published only the Old Testament (the same as the Hebrew Bible) and New Testament, while the Roman Catholic Bible still includes these additional books along with the Old and New Testaments These additional books are called the “Apocrypha” (meaning “hidden,” because they are found mixed in with the Old Testament books). The Roman Catholic Church calls them “deutero-canonical,” meaning “second authorized list of books;” the first authorized (that is, “canonical”) list would be the Hebrew Old Testament.) Here are the names of the apocryphal books that are included in today’s Catholic Bible, called the New American Bible:
Maccabees (2 books)
Daniel additions (in chapter 3 and added after chapter 12)
Esther additions (5 sections interspersed within the book)
(To see where they are mixed in among the Old Testament books, go to bottom of this page)
Footnotes: 1Also called Wisdom of Solomon. 2Also called Wisdom of Joshua ben Sirach, and also called by its Greek name “Ecclesiasticus.” 3Chapter six of Baruch is called “Letter of Jeremiah.” 4The Greek translation of the Old Testament, begun around 250 BC, is called the “septuagint.”)
B. THE ONES NO LONGER INCLUDED IN TODAY’S CATHOLIC BIBLES:
The following apocryphal books were in the Greek edition (Septuagint) but are not included in the 1990 New American Bible. They are still included by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Second Chronicles addition (called “prayer of king Mannasah”),
First and Second Esdras
The church of Ethiopia has yet another selection of books added to the Old and New Testaments.
II. OTHER JEWISH BOOKS.
There are other books written by Jews during this time period between the Old and New Testaments that were never published with the Bible. Example (out of about 20 known today): “Jewish Sibylline Oracles.”
III. BOOKS WRITTEN AFTER CHRIST.
There were books written in the first few centuries AD that were recognized as having teachings that differed from the apostles and so were not included in the New Testament. Many of these books called themselves by the name of a famous Bible person. Example: (out of 28 known today) “Acts of Thomas.” Some of them promoted a teaching called “Gnosticism.” (the meaning of “Gnosis” is “wisdom”). Some Gnostics used Christian terminology but their teachings included such things as: Matter is evil because God did not create the world; it was actually created by a power that is lower than God. Some people have a divine spark that wants to be reunited with God; the books claim to give the secret knowledge needed for the spark to go to God after death. The Gnostics did not present Jesus as God or savior; but taught that each individual must save himself. Examples (out of 30-some known today): “Gospel of Mary;” “Gospel of Thomas.”
IV. EARLY CHRISTIAN BOOKS
Already in the first century there are books that recognize and draw upon parts of the New Testament, and were recognized as being in harmony with the teachings of the apostles. The Christian authors of the first five centuries, taken together, are called “the Church Fathers.” Examples from the first century (written around 95 AD:) Seven Letters of Ignatius (a bishop in Turkey). Two letters by Clement (a bishop in Rome.)
Where the books called “apocrypha” are placed within the Old Testament:
(They are in italics in the list below):
BIBLE BOOKS History Writings Prophecy
|OLD TESTA-||MENT||NEW TESTAMENT|
Samuel (2 books)
Song of Songs1
Footnotes: 1) Also called “Song of Solomon”
2) Also called “Ecclesiasticus”
Return to Bible as a Whole
How the Jewish people list the Bible Books
The Hebrew Bible is called the Tanakh. The T stands for Torah, the first five books of the Bible, also called the five books of Moses. The N stands for Nevi’im, which means “prophets,” but which includes not only the prophets but also some of what we have called books of history above. The Kh stnads for Kethuvim, which means “writings.” It includes Psalms, Job, and all the reset of the books not included in the other two categories. The small letter “a’s” in the title Tanakh are the vowels which must be added in order to pronounce the Hebrew consonants T and N.
|TORAH (Teachings)||NEVI’IM (continued)||KETHUVIM (writings)|
|Genesis||The MINOR PROPHETS||Psalms|
|Deuteronomy||Obadiah||Song of Songs|
|The FORMER PROPHETS||Micah||Lamentations|
|Samuel (2 books)||Zephaniah||KETHUVIM (continued)|
|Kings (2 books)||Haggai||Daniel|
|Ezekiel||Chronicles (2 books)|
Go to Bible as a Whole