Could you explain the correct original order and number of the books of the Bible?


Virtually all English Bibles, which we have today, do NOT accurately
set forth the order or divisions of the Biblical books, as originally
maintained and inspired by God.


The Hebrew Bible of the Old Testament consisted originally of 24 books. It is to be divided into three sections:

(1) The Law (5 books of Moses)

(2) The Prophets (8 books)

— The former prophets—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings (4 books)

— The latter prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 12 Minor Prophets (4 books)

(3) The Writings (11 books)

— Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs (4 books)

— Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther (4 books)

— Daniel, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Chronicles (3 books)

is fairly established today that the Hebrew Bible originally consisted
of 24 books (Compare, The Bible as Literature, The Barnes & Noble
Outline Series, p. 19; The Jerusalem Bible, p. xii: “The Jewish Bible
thus consists of ‘twenty-four books’”; Prof. Felix Just, of Loyola
Marymount University: “Jews count 24″; Encyclopedia Britannica,
copyright 1959, under “Bible”: “The 24 books of the Hebrew Canon have
become 39… in the English Bible, by treating each of the Minor
Prophets as a separate book, by separating Ezra from Nehemiah and
subdividing Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.”)

Some erroneously
claim that the Old Testament consisted originally of only 22 books.
They say that Joshua and Judges were originally only one book, and that
Samuel and Kings were originally only one book.

However, no
evidence has been found confirming that Joshua and Judges were ever
treated as one book. When considering the books of Samuel and Kings,
let us us take note of this quote from the Nelson Study Bible, on page
449: “First and Second Samuel were originally one book, ‘The book of
Samuel’ in the Hebrew Scriptures. When these Scriptures were translated
into Greek, around 150 B.C., Samuel and Kings were brought together
into a complete history of the Hebrew monarchy. This unit of Scripture
was divided into four sections: First, Second, Third, and Fourth
Kingdoms. Samuel and Kings were later separated again, but the
divisions of the Greek translation persisted. The result was a First
and Second Samuel and a First and Second Kings.”

We see then that originally, Samuel and Kings were TWO books, not just one.

Others refer to Josephus for their claim that the Old Testament consisted originally of only 22 books.

his work, “Flavius Josephus against Apion,” Josephus states, under
Section 8 (page 609): “For we have not an innumerable multitude of
books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, but
only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times…
and of them, five belong to Moses…, the prophets, who were after Moses,
wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The
remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct
of human life.”

We can see from this quote that Josephus’
numbering of 22 books, by speaking of 13 prophetic books [as
distinguished from 8] and 4 writings [as distinguished from 11], is
clearly different from the Hebrew Bible, as maintained by the Jews.

Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible, p. 71, points out:

is a strong Jewish tradition that it was Ezra the scribe who arranged
the canon, although collections of the Pentateuch and some of the
prophets existed long before his time. The books of the Hebrew canon
were arranged in three groups – the Law, the Prophets and the Writings
(which included the wisdom literature, some historical works such as
Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles, and one prophetic work, Daniel). The
prologue to the apocryphal Book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (about
130BC) contains evidence of this threefold grouping, but no indication
of the contents of each section… Josephus, the first-century AD
historian, acknowledged 22 books; the Apocalypse of Ezra (about AD 100)
acknowledged 24. If Josephus included Ruth with Judges and Lamentations
with Jeremiah the two agree.”

This suggests that Josephus was also referring to a different order of the books, not just a different number.

Bible Handbook confirms this conclusion, when stating: “The Hebrew Old
Testament contains exactly the same books as our English Old Testament,
but in different arrangement… these 24 books are the same as our 39.
Josephus further reduces the number to 22, to make it correspond to the
Hebrew alphabet by combining Ruth with Judges, and Lamentations with

Conclusion as to the Hebrew writings of the Old Testament:

as the numbering of 22 books corresponds with a change of the
established order of the Hebrew Scriptures, its evidentiary value
must be rejected. The available evidence strongly supports the
conclusion that the Hebrew Bible was arranged by Ezra and delivered to
us in the order as listed in the beginning of this Q&A, consisting
of 24 books.


The Greek
New Testament consisted originally of 27 books. They are to be divided
into five sections, i.e. the four gospel accounts, the book of Acts,
the general [a/k/a Catholic] epistles (James; 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2 and 3
John; Jude), the epistles of Paul, and the book of Revelation.

Note how the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament have maintained the order of the books.

The Codex Sinaiticus was copied about 330 AD. It is one of the oldest
copies of the New Testament. It was written in Greek and is now being
maintained in the British museum. It contains, in this order, the four
gospels, the Catholic [or general] epistles, the Pauline epistles (with
Hebrews following 2 Thessalonians and preceding 1 Timothy), Acts, and
Revelation. (It also includes the uninspired works of the epistle of
Barnabas and the shepherd of Hermas).

(2) The Codex Vaticanus
was copied in the middle of the fourth century. It is now being
maintained in Rome. It contains, in this order, the four gospels, Acts,
the Catholic [or general] epistles, and most of the Pauline epistles.
The last book is Hebrews, following 2 Thessalonians.

(3) The
Codex Alexandrinus was copied around 400 AD. It was written in
Byzantine and Alexandrian. It contains, in this order, the four
gospels, Acts, the Catholic [or general] epistles, the Pauline epistles
(Hebrews following 2 Thessalonians) and Revelation (It also includes
the uninspired works of 1 and 2 Clement).

(4) The Codex Ephraemi
was copied in the 400’s AD. It contains, in this order, the four
gospels, Acts, the Catholic [or general] epistles, the Pauline epistles
(Hebrews following 2 Thessalonians) and Revelation.

(5) The
Council of Laodicea (about AD 363) lists, in Canon 60, all of the New
Testament books (with the exception of the book of Revelation), in this

The four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John; the Acts of the Apostles; seven catholic epistles, namely, 1 of
James, 2 of Peter, 3 of John, 1 of Jude; and the fourteen epistles of
Paul, namely 1 to the Romans, 2 to the Corinthians, 1 to the Galatians,
1 to the Ephesians, 1 to the Philippians, 1 to the Colossians, 2 to the
Thessalonians, 1 to the Hebrews, 2 to Timothy, 1 to Titus, and 1 to

(6) E.W. Bullinger writes in “The Church Epistles,” under “Importance of their Order”:

all the hundreds of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the order
of these seven epistles addressed to churches is exactly the same
[i.e., Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians,
Colossians, and Thessalonians. We might add here that these are
actually nine epistles, not seven, but Bullinger counts 1 and 2
Corinthians as one epistle, as he does 1 and 2 Thessalonians, in order
to reach the number “seven.”]. We have examined the five most ancient
in existence, viz., the Codex Vaticanus (Cent. IV.), the Codex
Sinaiticus (Cent. IV.), the Codex Alexandrinus (Cent. V.), the Codex
Ephraemi (Cent. V.) and the Codex Bezae (Cent. V. or VI.) [We want to
note here that the Codex Bezae contains only a portion of the New
Testament Scriptures, i.e., the four gospels, the ending of 3 John, and
Acts]. The general order of the books of the New Testament takes the
form of groups, viz., (1) the Four Gospels, (2) the Acts, (3) the
General Epistles, (4) the Pauline Epistles, and (5) the Apocalypse…

while the Pauline Epistles themselves vary in their order (e.g.,
Hebrews in some cases following Thessalonians [Let us also note that in
one ancient manuscript, Hebrews follows Galatians. In another
manuscript from 200 AD, P 46, Hebrews follows Romans, preceding 1 and 2
Corinthians, but omitting Galatians]), yet the order of these seven
[correctly, nine; see our comment above] addressed to the churches
never varies…”

Conclusion as to the Greek writings of the New Testament:

It appears that the most likely order of the New Testament Scriptures, as originally inspired, is as follows:

(1) The four gospel accounts, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

(2) Book of Acts

(3) General or Catholic Epistles:

James; 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2 and 3 John; Jude

(4) Pauline Epistles:

Romans; 1 and 2 Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians;
Philippians; Colossians; 1 and 2 Thessalonians; Hebrews; 1 and
2 Timothy; Titus; Philemon

(5) Book of Revelation

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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