How is the Old Testament organized?
In modern English translations of the Old Testament, the 39 books fall into five main divisions: Books of Moses, History, Poetry, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. The number of books in each division turns out to be rather easy to remember: 5-12-5-5-12:
- Books of Moses “ Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
- History “ Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
- Poetry “ Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
- Major Prophets “ Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
- Minor Prophets “ Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Memorize the books in each division, because it will greatly aid you when you are trying to look up a reference. (See resource available below under “Want to go deeper?”)
Want to go a little deeper? The Jews count 24 books, not 39, for they combine the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah and the Minor Prophets into one book each. The Jews call the Hebrew Scriptures the “TaNaKh,” an acrostic of the initial letters of terms designating its three parts: Torah (the Law of Moses), Nebiim (the Prophets), and Khethubim (the Writings). The first two of these correspond to what Jesus calls “The Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12) or “Moses and the Prophets” (Luke 16:29, 31; 24:27). On at least one occasion, in referring to “The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44), Jesus may have lumped all of the writings in the third category under “Psalms,” the Writings’ largest book.
The Jewish division of books is as follows:
- The Law (of Moses) “ Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
- The Prophets
- The Former Prophets “ Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings
- The Latter Prophets “ Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets
- The Writings “ Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles
Want to go deeper? The following are recommended to help you learn the books of the Bible and know the content of each
Intro. to each book of the Bible (from The NIV Study Bible)
Many thanks to brother Steve Singleton, for allowing me to post from his website, deeperstudy.com.