Knowing How The Bible Is Arranged Will Increase Your Understanding
If you have recently started a study of the Bible or you are thinking about doing so, this guide about how the Bible is arranged will aid you in understanding and retaining what you read.
The General Arrangement
The Bible can seem confusing and unwieldy if you don't know why it is arranged the way it is. The word "Bible" actually comes from a Greek word that means "books." The holy books of scriptures are not arranged in precise chronological order, but are ordered in subject matter, and this is an important distinction to keep in mind. The Bible has two sections.
The Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures
The first section of books (originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic languages) are commonly called the "Old Testament," and they are about God's dealings with the Israelites. There are 39 books in the Hebrew-Aramaic section, or Old Testament, and it is set up like this:
- The Pentateuch (means: five books) and the Histories. This begins with the creation of all that is, and then gives the history of the of the ancient nation of Israel. It includes The Law given to Moses for the governance of the people (starting within Exodus through to the book of Deuteronomy), and the lineages and histories of the Israelite Kings.
- The Books of Poetry and Wisdom. There are five of these, from Psalms to the Song of Solomon.
- The Books of Prophecy. These books contain prophecies and predictions about the Israelite people (and possibly world events that have come to pass or will in the future, depending on interpretation).
The Christian Greek Scriptures
The second section contains the books (originally written in Greek) known as the "New Testament," which are about the establishment of Christianity. Some Christian denominations primarily use this section and discount the other, while others study the entire Bible extensively. The 27 books in the Greek section, or New Testament, of the Bible are arranged like this:
- The Four Gospels, which preserve the life history and words of Jesus while he was on earth until his ascension to heaven, following his crucifixion.
- The Acts of the Apostles, which is the record of the organization of early Christianity for missionary work.
- The Letters from the early church founders to the congregations. The last book of the Bible, Revelation (or The Apocalypse), can be included under this designation because it was a letter and contained warnings to the seven primary Christian congregations of the time. It also contains the visions of the apostle John concerning world events that would follow in the future.
To aid you in further Bible study, many versions or translations of the Bible have appendices in the back.These might contain maps, a table of the books of the Bible with their authors and time written, a concordance, which is a listing of words and where they are found in scripture, and more.
An exhaustive concordance of the Bible, such as Strong's, is a great reference to have, as well as a comparative version, such as the Amplified Bible, because if you compare the way various verses are translated, this can deepen your understanding of them. An online source can be found here. A printable plan to read the Bible by genre within a year can be found here.
You can also sign up for Bible study classes, through organizations like Church of Christ, for additional learning and study helps and tips.