How many books are there?
What languages were they written in?

Why were the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures translated into Greek?
Why was the New Testament written in Greek?


by R.L.B.


Our modern English Bibles list 39 books in the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis and ending with Malachi, and 27 books in the New Testament, beginning with Matthew and ending with the Apocalypse (a Greek word meaning "unveiling" or "revelation").


One ancient traditional ordering of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures, (commonly referred to in Christian circles as the "Old Testament") differs somewhat from that found in familiar English Bibles.The ancient Jewish Rabbis divided the Hebrew Scriptures into three sections: The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (or Psalms). This threefold division of the Hebrew Scriptures is confirmed by the Lord Jesus Christ when "He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45):


"These [are] the words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all that is written concerning me in the law of Moses and prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." (Luke 24:44)


The three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures mentioned by the Lord Jesus are preserved today in modern Jewish versions of the Bible. Note the following order of the books as they appear in current Jewish editions.


Included in The Law (Torah) are the five books of Moses

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


Next, The Prophets (Nebi'im)

  1. Joshua
  2. Judges
  3. Samuel - considered one book
  4. Kings - considered one book
  5. Isaiah
  6. Jeremiah
  7. Ezekiel
  8. The Twelve (Minor Prophets) - considered one book

(1) - Hosea

(2) - Joel

(3) - Amos

(4) - Obadiah

(5) - Jonah

(6) - Micah

(7) - Naham

(8) - Habakkuk

(9) - Zephaniah

(10) - Haggai

(11) - Zechariah

(12) - Malachi


Finally The Writings (Kethubim), or Psalms

  1. Psalms
  2. Proverbs
  3. Job
  4. Song of Songs (Canticles)
  5. Ruth
  6. Lamentations
  7. Ecclesiastes
  8. Esther
  9. Daniel
  10. Ezra & Nehemiah - considered one book
  11. Chronicles - considered one book


In the above traditional Jewish arrangement that existed in the first century, First and Second Samuel are combined into one "book," as are First and Second Kings, First and Second Chronicles, also Ezra and Nehemiah. In addition, the twelve "minor prophets" are combined into one "book" making a total of 24 books, rather than 39. Let me be quick to point out that the entire text of the Holy Scriptures is equivalent in both the ancient Rabbinical arrangement and in our modern English Bibles. None of it is missing. Only the arrangement of the individual books differs.


The 24 books of Holy Scripture were written in the Hebrew language, with small portions of several books written in Aramaic. Between 300 and 200 BC a Greek translation (known as the Septuagint, or LXX) was made of the Scriptures supposedly by 70 Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt. It was produced because many Jews who had spread throughout the known world were no longer fluent in the Hebrew or Aramaic languages. Originally only the recognized "canonical" books of the Old Testament were translated into Greek, but eventually the 70 scholars translated several additional writings which, while they are historically important reference books, were never included in the canon of "Holy Scripture." These non-canonical books are sometimes referred to as the "Apocrypha," although most Orthodox Jewish and Protestant theologians reject their Divine authority.


It is also interesting to note that most of the numerous quotations of the Hebrew Scriptures by New Testament writers used the Septuagint translation, just as we today make use of various translations of the Scripture in our own familiar languages. However, the New Testament writers never quoted passages from the Apocrypha since they did not consider those writings to be "inspired."


In the years that transpired between the last written Hebrew Scripture and the Christian era, Biblical Hebrew had become a dead language, not understood by common people, and certainly not understood outside of Judaism. The new language understood throughout the world was Greek.For this reason all 27 books of the New Testament were written in "Koine" Greek, (the dialect of Greek spoken in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, from about 300 B.C. to A.D. 500). The order of these 27 books in our Bibles is not chronological, but is a sequence that came to be accepted in the early church. These New Testament writings were eventually translated into Latin, and this Latin translation was revised by Jerome. The modern order of the books is the same as given in Jerome's Latin Vulgate.


The books of the New Testament are:


The Gospels

  1. Matthew
  2. Mark
  3. Luke
  4. John


The Acts of the Apostles

  1. Acts (written by Luke the beloved physician)


The Letters (or Epistles) of Paul (those marked ** were written from prison)

  1. Romans
  2. 1 Corinthians
  3. 2 Corinthians
  4. Galatians
  5. Ephesians **
  6. Philippians **
  7. Colossians **
  8. 1 Thessalonians
  9. 2 Thessalonians
  10. 1 Timothy
  11. 2 Timothy **
  12. Titus **
  13. Philemon **
  14. Hebrews (likely written by Paul)


The General Letters (Epistles)

  1. James
  2. 1 Peter
  3. 2 Peter
  4. 1 John
  5. 2 John
  6. 3 John
  7. Jude


The Apocalypse (written by John)

  1. Revelation


Regardless of the order in which the various books of Scripture are arranged, the message conveyed through these inspired books remains unaffected. Hear the words of Paul the apostle regarding the importance of the Holy Scriptures in our daily lives (both Old and New Testaments).


     "All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)


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