1 in Faith: A Christian Bible Study





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Christian scripture includes the books of Old Testament and the New Testament

For a study of the New Testament with questions and answers, click on Christian Bible Study.


In the Jewish tradition the scriptures (included in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible), are presented in twenty-four books as follows:

The Law (Torah
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

The Prophets (Nebi'im

Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1 and 2), Kings (1 and 2)

Later Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Twelve (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)

The Writings (Kethubim)

Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles (1 and 2)

In Protestant Bibles the books in the Prophets and Writings are rearranged so that the Old Testament concludes with the Prophets. In addition, several books in the Hebrew Bible are divided in the Protestant Bible, which is why there are thirty-nine books in the Protestant Bible but only twenty-four in the Hebrew Bible.

In Roman Catholic Bibles seven additional books are added to the thirty-nine, but the placement of these seven books has varied greatly during the history of the church. Today Tobit and Judith are after Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Maccabees are after Esther (except in the Douay Version, in which these books conclude the Old Testament), Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus are after the Song of Solomon, and Baruch (with the Letter of Jeremiah as chapter 6) is after Lamentations. In addition, the books of Esther and Daniel are expanded by several chapters and parts of chapters.

The Greek Orthodox Church has generally followed the longer Roman Catholic version of the Old Testament, but it also includes four books that are considered apocryphal by the Roman Catholics as well as the Protestants. These are: 1 and 2 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, and Psalm 151. It is curious that the Geneva Bible of 1560, which was widely used by the Puritans, includes the Prayer of Manasseh in the Old Testament between 2 Chronicles and Ezra, although in the table of contents it is designated as apocrypha.


In the New Testament the number and sequence of the twenty-seven books are the same in Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles. 

In the early church the books of the New Testament were arranged in four groups: 

1) the gospels.

2) Acts and the general (or Catholic) letters (the seven letters which bear the names of James, Peter, John, and Jude). 

3) Paul's letters.

4) the Apocalypse.

Sometimes, however, the letters of Paul preceded Acts and the general letters, because this was the order in which these books had obtained canonical authority.

Within each of these four groups there was a great variety of order. In the early Western church the most common gospel sequence was Matthew, John, Luke, Mark, because the gospels of Matthew and John were attributed to apostles. The letter to the Hebrews had no fixed place in the New Testament, but the letters of Peter were often placed first among the general letters. The current order of Paul's letters and the general letters seems to follow length, beginning with the longest in each group (Paul to churches, Paul to individuals, and the general letters).

The Abyssinian canon (Semanya Ahadu) consists of 46 Old Testament and 35 New Testament books. Besides the usually accepted books, they count Shepherd of Hermas, Synodos (Canons), Epistles of Clement, Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 4 Ezra, Ascension of Isaiah, Book of Adam, Joseph ben Gorion, Enoch and Jubilees.

The early canon of the Armenian Bible included a third letter to Corinthians, but this is no longer included in the Armenian New Testament.Revelation was not accepted into the Armenian Bible until c. 1200 CE. As late as 1290 there were attempts to include in the Armenian canon several apocryphal books: Advice of the Mother of God to the Apostles, the Books of Criapos, and the ever-popular Epistle of Barnabas.

Around 400 CE the Syrian Church canon included: the Gospel (meaning the Diatessaron of Tatian), the Epistles of Paul (which are said to have been sent by Peter, from Rome), and the Book of Acts (which is said to have been sent by John the son of Zebedee, from Ephesus), and nothing else. For centuries the Diatessaron, along with Acts and the Pauline Epistles (except Philemon), comprised the only accepted books in the Syrian churches. By the 5th century, however, the four gospels replaced the Diatessaron and the Syrian Bible, called the Peshitta, included: Philemon, James, 1 Peter and 1 John. Excluded from the Peshitta are: 2 John, 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation.The Syrian Orthodox Church uses this text as well (known in the West Syriac dialect as the Peshitto), but with the addition of the other books normally present in the New Testament cannon.

To read more about Christian scripture see the Old Testament or the New Testament.

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1 in Faith: A Christian Bible Study Copyright 2000 by Robert Traer