What is the Bible?

Perhaps science can answer this question… According to Doctor Schniffenhousen, the Bible is 3 things:

  1. Paper: made from wood.
  2. Ink: derived from black carbon and oil.
  3. Leather wrapper: made from a cow.

Tongue-in-cheek: Perhaps science cannot answer this question :).

“Never ask a scientist to do a Sunday school teacher’s job.”
(Sunday school lady)

The Bible is book and it isn’t a book. It has words and pages and chapters just like other books, but it’s actually a collection of books. There are 66 books in the Bible to be exact.

Bible Bookshelf

There are books of history, poetry, letters, and apocalyptic books about the end of the world. The Bible was written by more than 40 people and over the span of 1600 years.

How does one story, the story of God and what He’s done for us, play out across different books? (Buck Denver)

How is the Bible put together?

One can tell how the Bible is organized by looking at the table of contents. The Bible is divided into two sections:

OT and NT Bookshelf

  1. The Old Testament (OT), which has 39 books (in Protestant Bibles), 46 books (in Catholic Bibles), and 50 books (in Orthodox Bibles).
  2. The New Testament (NT), which has 27.

Why do different Bibles have different number of books? Shouldn’t they all be the same?

Pirate Pete rephrases the question:

“What happened in the middle (between Jesus and us)?”

In 400 AD, a man named Jerome tried to translate the OT from the original Hebrew language of the TaNaKH into Latin. The translation the church had used up to this point was from a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (OT) called the Septuagint. The Septuagint was the OT used by Jews and Christians who spoke Greek.


The Septuagint had about 15 extra books of Jewish history added to it that had also been translated from Hebrew to Greek. They were interesting books of Jewish history, but were not a part of the original Hebrew Bible.

When Jerome set out to write the Latin translation he only included a few of the extra books (with a note that said they weren’t as important as the official books of the Jewish Bible).

When Martin Luther and the other Reformers translated the Bible into the common language of the day (German and English), they put those extra books into a section called the Apocrypha. Eventually those books got dropped and weren’t included in Protestant Bibles, but were still included in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles. Hence the different numbers of books.


Are there different numbers of books in the New Testament? Nope. Everyone agrees on that number.

Each section is broken up into four sections.

The Old Testament has:

  1. Torah or the Pentateuch (five books): Genesis—Deuteronomy
  2. Historical books: Joshua—Esther
  3. Wisdom literature: Job—Song of Songs
  4. Prophets (Major and Minor): Isaiah—Malachi

The New Testament has:

  1. Gospels: Matthew—John (the story of Jesus)
  2. Acts of the Apostles (early days of the church and Paul’s missionary trips)
  3. Epistles (letters): Romans—Jude
  4. Revelation (apocalyptic book from John)

The word testament comes from the Latin word, testamentum, which means: oath or covenant (promise). So the Old and New Testaments can also be called the old and new promise.

Old Promise and New Promise Bookshelf

Who is making these big promises in the Bible and what are they promising?

The Bible is the story of God and what He’s done for us” (Brother Louie and Chuckwagon).


The Bible is a collection of books divided into two sections or promises that God made to humans, how He kept that promise, and what it means to us today (how it helps us understand our world.

Why did God have to make these promises?

And what did He promise?

And why should you care?

Tune in next week: Who wrote the Bible?

source What’s in the Bible? Curriculum Unit 1 Week 1