Bible Book Order?
The Graphic below shows the original order of the books of the Bible prior to Jerome’s reorganization of them. History records show that “Church Fathers” in the fourth century re-arranged the books of both the Old Testament and New Testament from their original first century order.. Since this graphic is hardly readable I suggest that you either download a copy of this graphic or go to the original website and download a copy for yourself. Personally, I do not believe that the order of the books of the Bible as we now have them makes all that much difference. However, the author of the next article below definitely believes that there is a divine message in the original order of the Bible.
The Original Order of the Old & New Testament Books
[Excerpted from an article written by Dr. T.V. Oomen, based on the book, ‘Restoring the Original Bible’ by Dr. Ernest L. Martin, Portland, Oregon, 1994]
Our Bibles Are Different
You may be not be surprised to learn that the Bibles that the Christians use today (also in the past centuries) are not the same as the original Bible known to the Jewish world and to the early Christians. First, we use translations, not the original tongues (Hebrew and Greek); second, there are minor textual variations; and third, we do not have the original autographs.
What should surprise you (unless you have read on Bible’s origin) is that the total number of books and the arrangement of books in our Bibles are different from those of the original autographs as judged by the earliest preserved copies. Actually we have not lost any Bible text, so don’t think that I am talking about the ‘Lost Books of the Bible’. These so-called lost books are apocryphal in nature and was never part of the Bible. However, a set of books properly called Apocrypha found its way to the Greek translation of the Old Testament and then into the Latin Vulgate and into some English Bibles.
Our Bibles (that do not include the Apocrypha) contain 66 books, distributed as 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. What I am about to reveal is that the Original Bible had contained 22 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. But that is not all. The arrangement of the 39 books in the OT is different from the arrangement in the 22 books, though the total text is the same.
I shall show how important the original arrangement was, and what we miss in our Bibles. I shall also show how and why the original arrangement was changed.
The Original Old Testament
If you have chance to examine a Jewish OT (translations would be sufficient), you will notice that it has only 22 or 24 books. Furthermore, the books after Judges are completely rearranged. There is much evidence for the original OT having only 22 books, but late first or early second century AD two of the books were split to give a total of 24. The reason for this can be guessed (I shall mention it later). The 22 books of the Original OT are divided into three groups: The Law (Torah), The Prophets, and The (Holy) Writings; this last group is sometimes referred to as the Psalms because the Psalms appear first.The division of the books are as follows:
THE LAW : The Pentateuch (Five Books of Moses)
(Note: The titles as found in our English Bibles, adapted from the Greek Septuagint (LXX); the Hebrew titles used the first word of each book (actually scroll). For example, Genesis would be called Bereshith which means (In) Beginning (of). The Septuagint titles emphasize the subject matter. Jewish Bibles also use now the subject titles.)
II. THE PROPHETS Six books are in this group:
– Joshua & Judges
– Samuel and Kings (‘Books of the Kingdom’)
– The Twelve (Minor Prophets)
We might wonder about the inclusion of the first two and the omission of the book of Daniel. The reason is that these books were written by the prophets who occupied the second highest rank after the Priests. The Law was written by Moses who belonged to the Priestly class. In the organization of Bible books, proper care was given to rank of the authors. Notice the Kings came third, hence their books are in the third group. The reason Daniel was not included was because he was ‘inferior’ in rank due to his being a eunuch, Dan. 1:3,7 (eunuchs were prohibited from entering the Temple) and his interpretation of dreams of pagan kings dominated his book. However, we shall not, of course, consider Daniel as an unholy person. He led a most holy life and was beloved of God, receiving visions of great importance.
III. THE WRITINGS
This group contained 11 books known also as the ‘Royal’ or ‘Government’ group because the authors are royalty or of royal lineage, or high government officials.
– Song of Songs
The Original New Testament
Here the difference is not in the number of books, but in the arrangement of books. After Acts the Original New Testament had three divisions as for the Old Testament:
I. THE ‘PENTATEUCH’ : The Gospels and Acts
What is the reason for the above order of books? Apostolic authority or connection and the eldership principle were followed. Matthew was a Jew, and his gospel was written under the supervision of James who was the Head of the Church (also the brother of Jesus). Mark was an assistant of Peter who was second to James in rank. Luke was an associate of Paul. John was the beloved apostle, third in rank after James and Peter in the early Church. The reason for his book appearing after Luke is perhaps due to its compilation as the last book of the NT, and also because of its philosophical theme. The first three Gospels are called Synoptic because of similar coverage (of the life of Jesus).
The Book of Acts covers the early history of the Church, and was written by Luke. In terms of content and appeal, the five books may be classified as Jewish, Jewish.Gentile, Gentile, Universal and Universal respectively. Note that Luke wrote his gospel to a Gentile ruler, Theophilus (Acts 1:1).
II THE CATHOLIC EPISTLES
The term ‘Catholic’ means ‘universal’, applicable for general readership. There are seven of them:
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter
- 1 John
- 2 John
- 3 John
These books appear after the Pauline epistles in our NT, but the original NT had them following the Book of Acts. Apostolic authority and eldership were the governing rules for this placement. Among the apostles, the ranking followed the placement: James, Peter, John and Jude (last). We read in the book of Acts of the two leading Pillars of the Church, James and Peter in that order (Acts 3:1). The order here is of special importance, as Peter cautions the reader about balance & understanding when reading Paul’s letters, which originally came AFTER his instructions to heed Paul’s words carefully in 2 Peter 3:15-17:
2Pe 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
III. THE PAULINE EPISTLES
This group has 14 books including Hebrews which is somewhat linked to Paul (my study has shown that Hebrews was written by Timothy, Paul’s close associate, except for the last paragraph which was written by Paul who endorsed the epistle with his apostolic authority. Timothy was in prison as he was finishing his epistle, but when Paul got the manuscript, he was released). In our Bibles, these books appear before the Catholic epistles. The 14 books are:
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- 1 Thessalonians
- 2 Thessalonians
- 1 Timothy
- 2 Timothy
The first nine are addressed to churches; the last four are addressed to ministerial/ professional leaders.
This final book covers future events and completes the story of mankind that started in Genesis.
Significance of Numbers
Biblical numbers are not there by chance. The numbers we have seen associated with the books of the Bible have special significance. Let us first look at the number 22 which denotes the OT books.
The Number 22
The Jewish people attached great importance to this number for the following reasons:
· Adam, the last of God’s Creation, was the 22nd creation in the Six Day Creation. The number 22 signified completion and perfection.
· Jacob (Israel) was the 22nd generation from Adam.
· The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters
· Some of the OT authors used the acrostic of the 22 letter names. Examples:
Psalm 119 has 22 sections, each with a title of the Hebrew letter in succession;
The first section of 8 verses all start with the first letter, aleph; the second section of 8 verses all start with the second letter beth, and so on.
Proverbs 31: 10-31 describes a virtuous woman. Each verse starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order. We may note that the above passages describe a perfect God and a perfect woman!
There are other places also where the acrostic is used. When imperfection is implied, as in Psalms 9 and 10 which describe chaotic conditions, the acrostic is also imperfect.
The Number 7
Throughout the Bible 7 is a sacred number and it also signifies completion. The repetition of 7s in Revelation is very obvious. Multiples of 7 such as 14 are also sacred, and imply completion.
The Number 49
49 is 7 x 7, and signifies ultimate completion and perfection. If the Original Bible arrangement had been kept, we would have 49 books, and the Bible would be easily identified as God’s Book.
The Number 66
6 is man’s number (Adam was created on the 6th day). Multiples of 6 such as 60, 600 and 666 are found in the Bible, all associated with man. The last one, 666, is the Mark of the Beast (Rev. 13).
Our present Bibles have 66 books, and would give the impression it is a human Book, not divine. This is exactly what the devil wants the world to believe. The attackers of the Bible are secular humanists!
More about numbers will be given in another article in this section. Suffice it to say that the reorganization of the Bible in the 4th century by Jerome (who translated the Bible into Latin Vulgate) was an unholy step! Later on, the Church tried to rectify this by adding 11 apocryphal books to make the total number 77, but later this number has been reduced to 66 books as we find in present day Bibles that contain the Apocrypha. These added books are not as divinely inspired as the canonized books, hence should not be added to the Bible to make it look divine.
Jesus, the Central Theme of the Bible
If the book order had been preserved, we should get the following array:
In other words, the central part of the Bible would be the books covering the life of Jesus Christ and his activity in the early Church. We have lost this obvious marker as a result of the reorganization in our Bibles. The Gospel of Luke which deals with the Incarnation occupies the central position (the 25th book). The five books on Jesus may be called the New Testament Pentateuch!
I must point out that the Temple layout and its contents have a Messianic message because Jesus Christ is symbolized everywhere – as our sacrifice, atonement, and High Priest who has made it possible for all believers to approach God the Holy Father. Of course, the Temple furniture have more profound meanings attached to them, especially in relation to the Messiah, which we shall not cover here.
Reasons for Changing the Original Bible
The following reasons can be given for the arrangement of books in our Bibles.
1. Pagan influence in the Greek Translation: It was a King of Egypt of the Ptolemy period that ordered the translation known as the Septuagint. In the third century B.C. The Greek mind preferred subject-wise division and therefore abandoned the divine order.
2. The Influence of Rome: by the fourth century AD, Rome had become the center of Christianity; it was also the emperor’s capital city. The Jewish epistles took a second place, and the gentile epistles (written by Paul) took the first place; the Book of Romans was the first of these Pauline epistles. Is it any wonder why the book of Romans appear after the Book of Acts? Jerome, who knew the Original Bible, boldly changed the order of NT books by order of Pope Damases. Our present day Bible publishers do not want to change the order because they find no support from the Church for it. The Church does not want to return to the biblical order of ‘Jew first, Gentile second’.
The condition of our present Bible is the result of deliberate alteration by people with special interests. As a result of the changes they made, we have lost the divine message transmitted through the order and number of books in the Original Bible. It is unlikely that Bible publishers will go back to the original format because such a change could be quite confusing to most Bible readers.