Basics About the Bible

Quick Facts

  • The Protestant Bible is a collection of 66 books.
  • Calling them “books” doesn’t mean they are long! Some are very short, less than 1,000 words.
  • Approximately 40 human authors were involved, each writing one or more books.
  • The books were written over more than 1600 years.
  • The Bible teaches that God supernaturally enabled its writing, making it God’s Word. See 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Peter 3:15-16; Romans 3:1-2; Galatians 1:11-12.
  • In spite of the number of books, the Bible has one theme: God’s work to have people who are His people.
  • The Bible has two divisions, the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Old Testament

  • The Old Testament contains 39 books related to the “old agreement” (also called testament or covenant.) God made the agreement with the ancient nation of Israel. The books are organized by type, not by chronological order. They are:
    • 5 books of Law
    • 12 books of history
    • 5 books of poetry
    • 5 books of prophecy, called “major prophets” because the books are longer.
    • 12 books of “minor” prophets
  • The Hebrew scriptures used in the Jewish religion contain the same books as the Old Testament. However, they are grouped as Law, Prophets and Writings. (Also which books are grouped as “prophets” varies with the Old Testament.)
  • The message of the Old Testament: God created people to know Him. However their disobedience broke the relationship. God’s Messiah will come to restore the relationship.

New Testament

  • The New Testament contains 27 books related to the “new agreement” that God makes with people through Jesus. The books are organized by type as well:
    • 4 “gospels,” which are biographies about Jesus
    • 1 book of history about the early church
    • 13 letters (also called “epistles”) written by the apostle Paul, primarily arranged from the longest to the shortest.
    • 8 letters (not written by Paul)
    • 1 book of prophecy
  • The message of the New Testament: Jesus came as the Messiah to restore people to God. Jesus will come again for the final judgement.

Other Facts

  • Chapters were added the Bible as a reference system in the 1200’s A.D. Verses were added in the 1500’s.
  • Other books were written claiming to be authoritative accounts of Jesus or his teachings. Early church leaders reviewed these books and their claims. The books of the New Testament in the Protestant Bible were those recognized as authoritative.
  • The Bible used by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches contains extra books, call the Apocrypha. These books never had widespread agreement in the early church on their source or whether they should be included in the Bible.