Memorizing the Bible Canon
EACH Bible lover and, in particular, each Christian minister will save much time by memorizing the order in which the Bible books appear. Noting the natural divisions of the canon as well as the contents and time of writing of the various books will doubtless help in memorizing this list.
Of the sixty-six books, thirty-nine comprise the Hebrew Scriptures and twenty-seven the Christian Greek Scriptures.
In the Hebrew Scripture canon the five books of Moses come first: GENESIS begins with creation and takes in the history of mankind from Adam to the death of Joseph. Then come EXODUS, LEVITICUS, NUMBERS and DEUTERONOMY, which give Israel’s history from their bondage in Egypt to the death of Moses. These five books are also known as the Pentateuch, meaning “five books.” In some translations, such as Luther’s, these are simply known as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Moses. Next, just as Joshua succeeded Moses, so the book of JOSHUA succeeds the books of Moses. And even as Joshua was followed by other judges who ruled Israel, so his book is followed by the book of JUDGES, which tells of their rule. RUTH relates certain events of the time of the judges and so logically follows.
Then come three sets of two books: 1 and 2 SAMUEL, which complete the period of the judges and introduce the period of the kings; 1 and 2 KINGS, which complete the history of the kings; and 1 and 2 CHRONICLES, which give a parallel history of the kings beginning with David’s rule, as well as a resume of Bible genealogy from Adam to the time of its writing. Next come EZRA, NEHEMIAH and ESTHER, which deal with events that occurred in Jerusalem and Medo-Persia within a century after the Jews’ return from Babylon in 537 B.C. This completes the seventeen so-called “historical” books.
After these come five books containing wise sayings and superb poetry: JOB, PSALMS (about one-half of which are credited to David), PROVERBS, ECCLESIASTES and THE SONG OF SOLOMON. The last three were written by Solomon with the exception of the last two chapters of Proverbs.
The remaining seventeen books of the Hebrew Scriptures are primarily prophetic. ISAIAH, whose writer prophesied in the eighth century B.C.; JEREMIAH, whose writer began prophesying in the next century, forty years before Jerusalem’s downfall in 607 B.C.; LAMENTATIONS, in which Jeremiah mourns Jerusalem’s desolation; EZEKIEL, whose writer prophesied in Babylon during Jerusalem’s desolation, and DANIEL, whose writer served as Jehovah’s prophet, before, during and even after the seventy-year desolation.
The rest of the prophetic books are called the “minor” prophets by reason of their length, although these twelve prophecies are neither minor in import nor in time, several coming ahead of the “major” prophets. These twelve do not follow a strict time pattern. They begin with HOSEA (pronounced Ho·seeʹa), JOEL (actually the first of the seventeen to be written), AMOS and OBADIAH; JONAH, MICAH, NAHUM and HA·BAKʹKUK (accent on the second syllable); ZEPHANIAH, HAGGAI, ZECHARIAH and MALACHI. Thus we have three sets of four books; Jonah begins the second set of four, and Zephaniah, not to be confused with Zechariah, which follows Haggai, the third set.
Now to the Christian Greek Scriptures. First we have five books mostly historical, the four Gospels, MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE and JOHN, and ACTS OF APOSTLES. Next come twenty-one letters, fourteen by Paul, which as a memory aid may be divided as follows: three of his longest letters: ROMANS. 1 and 2 CORINTHIANS; then four quite similar in size, style and content: GALATIANS, EPHESIANS, PHILIPPIANS and COLOSSIANS. Then follow five beginning with the letter “T”: 1 and 2 THESSALONIANS, 1 and 2 TIMOTHY and TITUS. PHILEMON and HEBREWS complete Paul’s letters. So we have in Paul’s letters, nine to congregations, four to individuals, and one to a group of Christians, those of Hebrew birth. This leaves seven more letters: JAMES, 1 and 2 PETER, 1, 2 and 3 JOHN and JUDE. And in conclusion is the prophecy in symbols, REVELATION, last book of the Bible but not the last one written, it being written A.D. 96, whereas the rest of John’s writings appear to have been written A.D. 98.
With a little effort this list of books can be memorized. Doing so will not only prove very useful in one’s Bible studies but also help to recommend one as a Christian minister.