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How Many Books In The Old Testament

The Bible is one of the most popular books ever written. Some consider it important for its religious influences. Others like its stories and learn from its real life examples. No matter why people read the Bible, what are some of the interesting facts about this great book?

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How Many Books In The Old Testament

The Old Testament contains 39 (Protestant), 46 (Catholic), or more (Orthodox and other) books, divided, very broadly, into the Pentateuch (Torah), the historical books, the “wisdom” books and the prophets.

The Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, is a collection of texts that Jews regard as the original scriptures for Judaism. It is made up of one complete book and two primary divisions: The Torah and the remaining books. The Old Testament contains 39 books in total.

The Old Testament includes 39 books. The first five books are called the Pentateuch, meaning “five scrolls.” They are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The next twelve books are historical narratives such as Joshua, Judges, Ruth and 1-2 Samuel. The next eight books (three of them just one book) make up the prophets — Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel — followed by chronicles such as Daniel and Esther. Next come nine poetic books like Psalms and Proverbs. Finally come the five poetic books of Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations and Esther.

How Many Books In The Old Testament Catholic

The most read book of all time is the Bible, surpassing favorites such as The Lord of the Rings series, the Harry Potter series, and even classics like The Diary of Anne Frank and To Kill a Mockingbird. It is recorded by Business Insider that the Bible has sold 3.9 billion copies over the last 50 years, while the Harry Potter series has sold 400 million copies.

What is it about the Bible that has made it the book to “turn to” for the last half-century? It is a book that also has various translations to choose from and even different representations among the Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant faiths. The Book of Hebrews states it best when explaining why the Word of God is something everyone is drawn to:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, (Hebrews 4:12).

Let’s journey through the origins of the Bible, learning as we go of how the Bible has affected not only the lives of countless people but has also become the foundational building blocks for the leading faiths in our world today.

How Many Books Are in the Bible?
To offer a brief overview, the current English Bible consists of 66 books with two distinct sections: The Old Testament (39 books) and the New Testament (27 books). The two sections are arranged this way to highlight the birth of Jesus, with the Old Testament sharing the emerging prophecies of the Messiah and Jesus’ actual birth, death, and resurrection taking place at the start of the New Testament with the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

There are about 50 versions of the English Bible in circulation, with revised versions well into the hundreds. The most popular of the Bible translations is that of King James Version, which is also public domain and doesn’t require obtaining permission for reprinting Scripture verses in published books. Bible Study Tools even has a list of the best-known versions and translations of the Bible for readers to peruse, with a brief explanation of each version.

What’s the Difference Between the Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Bible?
How the Bible was established to include what it does of stories and parables is part of the canonization process, which is, initially, a Christian communion performed by the Roman Catholic Church (as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church) to appoint selected deceased members of the church into the determined canon, or list, to be considered a saint in the church.

The same process was applied to determine what books of the Bible would be included, seen as to whether they were inspired by the Spirit or not, to be the authorized Word of God. It comes from the Greek word “kanon,” which means reed or measurement.

The Hebrew Bible consists of 24 books, believed to be determined by the councils of Jamnia in AD 90 and 118 as the list of books to be part of the Bible. There is still debate over what all the council selected to be canonized of the Bible, as this council has only been mentioned in ancient Hebrew writings and no confirmation has been found that this council existed or what they canonized. It is believed the Hebrew Bible was written between 1200 to 100 BC and has been in its current form since the second century BC.

The believed criteria used to determine what books were to be canonized, as the Word of God, may have included prophetic authorship (text written by an apostle or prophet), inner witnesses of the Holy Spirit, eyewitness testimonies, and then the final acceptance of the book by the people. Given that Jesus’ disciples were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ actions and words, they were the ones to give authorization of the New Testament and whether something was divinely inspired or not.

The Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Bible have the same content in the Old Testament, but the organization is different, such as, for example, the Hebrew Bible has one book of Samuel while the Protestant Bible has two. Primarily for those of Jewish faith, especially Messianic Jews, the first five books of the Bible are the Torah (or Pentateuch) and the main asset of the Bible, detailing how God chose Abraham to be the father of many nations and established the Law (Ten Commandments) as the way to live for God. The New Testament is seen as commentary to the Torah/Old Testament.

What’s the Difference Between the Protestant Bible and the Catholic Bible?
The Protestant Bible comprises much of the Hebrew Bible but organizes the stories into a larger collection than its Jewish predecessor. While the Hebrew Bible was formed entirely from ancient scrolls (24 for each book), the Protestant Bible combines the Hebrew Bible with the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible written in the third and second century BC.

The Eastern/Greek Orthodox Church may use the New King James Version or other translations that allow more of the Greek translation to be used, coupled with their belief that the Bible’s New Testament, with the story of Jesus, is precedent over the Old Testament. The Catholic Bible consists of 46 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament (which is the same NT as the Protestant Bible).

The additional Old Testament sections in the Catholic Bible are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch (includes Letters of Jeremiah), I and II Maccabees, and additional sections for the books of Daniel and Esther. Those of the Catholic faith believe what is in their Bible was canonized by the Synod of Rome council and the early church in AD 382.

It was decided several years later, during the Reformation, by Protestants to follow more of the Greek translations of the Bible instead of the entire Hebrew Bible, which had been canonized and accepted in the original King James Bible by the Catholic Church.

Thus, the Apocrypha is present in the Catholic Bible as the collection of books not found in the Protestant Bible. They can be found in the original 1611 King James Bible but were pulled from the Bible in 1885 and named “deuterocanonical books.”

Other Bible Translations for Other Faiths
Jehovah’s Witnesses use their own version of the Bible, New World Translation of Holy Scriptures, which they believe is more accurate, clearer, and has God’s name listed as they believe it should in the text. Before this version, Jehovah’s Witnesses heavily consorted to the King James Bible.

For Mormons, there are four books they hold as the Word of God: The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (which have believed records of how God interacted with people of America from 2000 BC to 400 AD), the King James Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants (collection of declarations about the formation and regulation of the Church of Jesus Christ in the last days), and The Pearl of Great Price (writings from Mormon church founder Joseph Smith).

What Does This Mean?
One can see while learning the path toward the creation of the Bible, that it is still one open to interpretation of whose Bible relates most to God’s spoken word on paper. The debate over using canonized Scripture or more Greek translation-infused Scripture will continue, as more people gravitate to reading and studying the Bible and the truth of the Holy Trinity.

What is hoped is readers find a translation that allows their relationship with God to bloom and strengthen their awareness that Jesus lived and died for us so that we would be united with God for eternity.

what is the last book of the old testament

The Old Testament is the first major section of the Bible and tells the stories of the people of Israel, laying out the rituals and laws that form the foundation of the Jewish and Christian faiths. It is a text of profound meaning and depth expressed through rich language. Most people are familiar with the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis. Its account of the world “in the beginning” is one of the most famous written passages in human history. Less well-known is the last book found in the Old Testament, the book of Malachi.

What is this final Old Testament book all about? And why is this the book that closes out this first major division of the Bible? Let’s take a closer look at the book of Malachi and explore the message and impact this text has for us today.

Sunset Far Away

Context for Malachi

Malachi is not only the final Old Testament book but also the last of the Minor Prophets. The book is believed to have been written by the prophet Malachi during the post-exilic period of Israel’s history. However, since the name Malachi means “my messenger” in Hebrew, some scholars have argued that this is ascription is not intended as the name of the author, but instead a general designation or title. Indeed, the term is used elsewhere in scripture to refer to other messengers and priests of the Lord. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition has referred to the author of this text by the name, “Malachi”.

Historical Background

After the Assyrian invasion, Babylonian exile and captivity, and Persian rule, the Jewish people were finally allowed to return home to Jerusalem and their homeland. Malachi deals with the period of time after the people of Israel rebuilt the Temple and returned to the law and practices laid out by God. 

This era of renewal and restoration occurred under the leadership and guidance of Nehemiah, a governor and prophet with his own namesake book of the Bible. Despite the revival Nehemiah helped to usher in, when he returned to Persia to serve the king, the people fell back on their sinful ways. Laws and practices such as tithing and Sabbath-keeping were abandoned; priests were corrupted. Nehemiah and Malachi both address these errors and denounce the faithlessness of the people in this Jewish community. The similarities between this book and the book of Nehemiah suggest that both prophets were active around the same period.


Malachi’s theme is one of both judgment and restoration. The central message is that God, as Israel’s ultimate and great king, will hold the people accountable for the wickedness they have enacted. But God will also bless and preserve God’s people, protecting them and restoring them to righteousness. The book concludes with an announcement that the Day of the Lord is coming.

In many ways, Malachi follows the typical structure of prophetic texts: a renouncement of sinful behavior, a call to repentance and reorientation, and a message of hope and future renewal.

Why Malachi?

Why is this the book to close out the Old Testament? Interestingly, the Tanakh–sometimes called the Hebrew Bible– concludes not with Malachi, but with the book of Chronicles. This distinction reflects the difference in structure between the Hebrew scriptures and the Old Testament found in Christian Bibles. 

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The Tanakh

The three parts that make up the Tanakh are the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim, which make up the “T”, “N”, and “K” in the word. The Nevi’im translates to “the prophets” in Hebrew. This section of the Tanakh can be broken down into two major sections: the Former and the Latter Prophets. The Former Prophets are mostly comprised of historical narratives documenting the time after Moses’ death as the people of Israel enter the Promised Land, including stories from the reigns of King David and King Solomon. The Latter Prophets contain the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve, a single book that recounts the stories of 12 other prophets, such as Jonah and Malachi. 

The last part of the Tanakh is the Ketuvim, or “writings” in Hebrew. This portion contains 11 books and consists of history as well as wisdom mostly in the form of poetic verse. The main parts of the Ketuvim are the poetic books, which consist of the book of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. The Ketuvim also contains the Megillot scrolls, the prophecy of Daniel, and the history books which consist of the books of Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles. Because of this categorization, the last text in the Tanakh is a historical account in Chronicles, not the prophetic book of Malachi.

The Old Testament

In contrast, the Old Testament designates the books found in the Tanakh’s Former Prophets as Historical Books. And since the OT orders the Prophetic Books after the Historical Books and Wisdom Books, Malachi closes out the first major division of the Bible.

Malachi is believed by many scholars to be the last or latest of the prophets chronologically–hence it’s being ordered last. Although some argue that Joel is actually later, thematically, Malachi still serves as a fitting transition between Old and New Testament in Christian Bibles.

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Malachi as a Transition

The book of Malachi demonstrates that even after generations in captivity, the hearts of the people were not fundamentally changed. While they committed themselves fully to God upon their return to Jerusalem, at the first opportunity, God’s chosen people returned to their own ways of living, instead of the Lord’s way. Malachi drives home the need for a greater reckoning–the need for a savior. This leads well into the New Testament and, more specifically, the four Gospels as they introduce Jesus Christ and present him as the very Savior of which the prophet spoke.

how many books in the old testament and new testament

I remember growing up in Sunday School and we had to learn the books of the Bible. Surprisingly all these years later I can still recite all sixty-six of these books in order. As important as it is to know how many books are in the Bible, why just those books were chosen is equally important.

I don’t know if you have ever asked the question how did we get to those books? This process of selection was not a decision that was devised in the minds of men. What is true is that this process was really birthed in the mind of God. Having a little better understanding of this will help you understand why we have these books in the Bible and why just those 66 were the ones selected.

How Many Books Are in the Bible?
The Bible is often thought of as one book. However, it is actually a compilation of 66 different books written by 40 different authors. These authors were not all connected to each other, most did not even know each other because these books were written over a period of approximately 1500 years.

What makes the Bible so unique and special is that even with this large time gap between the first book written and the last book written, there is a consistency of thought and messaging. There is no other book that can match that. Though there continues to be skeptics today, this type of accuracy and consistency could only be accomplished by the hand of God.

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How Many Books Are in the Bible and How Did They Get There?
How Were the Books Decided Upon?

The books in the Bible are considered the canon, which are simply the books that are accepted as part of Scripture. For the record, there are 39 books included in the Old Testament canon and 27 books in the New Testament canon. The question is how were these books in the Bible chosen and why just those? Let’s answer this by looking at each testament separately.

The Old Testament scriptures were paramount to the Jewish religion, or Judaism. These scriptures were divided into three main sections: The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings. They were grouped a little bit differently than the way you would recognize the Old Testament today, but they still contain the same books. For example, the books of Joshua and Judges were included as among the writings of the Prophets, where today they are referred to more as historical books. Again, this doesn’t change the messaging or authority of these books, it is just simply their groupings.

Jews recognized the authority of the Hebrew scriptures almost from the moment they were written. Consider for instance that Moses wrote the first 5 books, which is known as the Law. This was the basis for all Hebrew life and culture and was implemented as soon as Moses wrote them. You will also notice that Jesus and other New Testament writers referred to the Old Testament, even quoting from it. This gave further credibility to their authenticity and authority as the scriptures or the word of God.

How Many Books Are in the Bible and How Did They Get There?
Organizing the New Testament

The New Testament went through a slightly different process of being considered as part of the canon of scripture. One of the major differences was while the Old Testament was written primarily to one group of people, the Jews or Hebrews, the New Testament was written to and for different groups of people. Among those were both Jewish and Gentile audiences. There were some specific questions that were asked about the New Testament books that were necessary for them to be included in Scripture. Here are some of those questions or considerations:

  • Was it written by an apostle or someone close to an apostle?
  • Was it in alignment with what was already known about God or being taught?
  • Was it accepted universally by the churches at that time?

Another way of looking at it is the authority of Scripture was determined by how the new writings lined up with the scriptures that already had this authority. Did what was new line up with what was old? The goal was not to create authority in the writings but simply to recognize the authority that was already there. Ultimately the writings were inspired by God and this inspiration was seen and acknowledged in the writings themselves. As we are reminded:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

The goal of canonization of the scriptures was to look for and see the mark of the “breath of God” within the writings. That’s why consistency and conformity to what has already been taught and revealed mattered, because ultimately God is the author and his message won’t change from one period of time to the next.

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How Many Books Are in the Bible and How Did They Get There?
When Was the Bible Compiled into One Book?

When considering when the Bible was compiled into one book you are focusing on the New Testament, because the Old Testament was already accepted as Scripture. While the writings existed, it really wasn’t until the 5th century that there was a measure of consensus on the canon of scriptures.

What we know and treasure as the Bible today was not how the Bible was distributed very early on. Because there were no printing presses the Bible had to be copied by hand, which was a massive undertaking, and these copies were distributed.

The other challenge you had when Bibles were first copied and distributed is that many people were illiterate and therefore unable to read. One of the earliest Bibles that was printed and not copied by hand was the Gutenberg Bible which was printed in the 1450’s. There were also translations of the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into English. Among those were the Great Bible in 1539, the Geneva Bible in 1559 and the more well-known King James Version in 1611.

Why Aren’t Other Books Included?
Even though we have the canon of Scripture today, there were other writings that were not included. Among those were the writings found in The Apocrypha, which are 14 books written somewhere between 450 BC and the writings of the New Testament. These books can be found as part of the Catholic Bible but are not found in what we would deem a Protestant Bible, which is the Bible you are probably most familiar with. In fact, if you have never seen a Catholic Bible you might not even know these books existed.

After consideration in early church history, it was deemed that these books would not be included in the canon. Though they included useful historical information and were not necessarily “bad” writings, they were not considered to have the authority of Scripture. Among the reasons is that neither Jesus, nor the early apostles ever referred to these writings and there were teachings within these writings that did not line up with other portions of Scripture. As we mentioned earlier, this was an important test because of the unity of the teachings of Scripture.

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How Many Books Are in the Bible and How Did They Get There?
How and Why Can We Trust the Books of the Christian Bible?

If you search around the internet, you may find people who will try to cast doubt about the authenticity of the Bible. You however can be confident in how many books are in the Bible and why just those books are included. Ultimately the decision to include or not include books was not a random decision, made by the whim of man, but was truly led and inspired by the hand of God. It is his desire to protect and provide the truth of who he is to all of mankind. For this reason, he has preserved the authenticity of the scriptures. His word, his promises, his decrees, can all be trusted. Consider these scriptures:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23-25).

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).

“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Psalm 19:7-8).