An Open Notebook

The Order of Biblical Books

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The way the Bible has been printed has affected the way we look at its contents. Even the way in which books are ordered affects the way they are read.

For a long time, we have taught people the order reflected in most printings (which, inherently is a practical skill, to find what you’re looking for). But, it might be better theologically to think in terms of canonical function, rather than ‘list.’

Yet, of course, so much of life involves ‘lists,’ linearity. So, we don’t abandoned the practice altogether. But, it might be better to think of the Bible ordered as follows (accounting for the fact this novelty might be entirely idiosyncratic).

Four Groups (Five if Including Apocrypha)

  1. Torah (The Story-Law of God)
  2. Prophets (Those Who Speak for God)
  3. Writings (Literature About God)
  4. New Covenant (The Revelation of God’s Son)

The first of these is the Torah, story-law (which is not just ‘law,’ but narrative-law, case-law, and law-law). 

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy

The second grouping involves the former and latter prophets, the earlier ones (Joshua, Elijah, etc.), and the writing prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.)

  • Former Prophets
  1. Joshua
  2. Judges
  3. Samuel (both volumes)
  4. Kings (both volumes)
  • Latter Prophets
  1. Isaiah
  2. Jeremiah
  3. Ezekiel
  4. The Twelve (Minor Prophets)

The third is the Writings, and is composed of twelve books that are fairly eclectic.

  • The Songbooks
  1. Psalms
  2. Lamentations
  3. Song of Songs
  • Classic Wisdom
  1. Proverbs
  2. Ecclesiastes
  3. Job
  • Story Wisdom
  1. Daniel
  2. Esther
  3. Ruth

Narratives

  1. Ezra
  2. Nehemiah
  3. Chronicles

And, the fourth of these is the New Testament, which we usually think of in terms of genre: Gospels, Letters, Apocalyptic. But, we could consider it in terms of text-communities, what we might callĀ literary constellations.

Judeo-Christian Writings

  • Matthew
  • James
  • Hebrew

Petrine-Literature

  • Mark
  • Letters of Peter
  • Letter of Jude

Pauline Literature

  • Luke
  • Acts
  • Paul’s Letters

Johannine Literature

  • John
  • John’s Letters
  • Revelation

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By Ryan
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