How Many Books are in the Bible?
The Bible is not just one long story. It does, in fact, contain many different stories written by different historic figures. There are a total of 66 books in the Bible, split into nine sections:
2. Old Testament Narrative
3. Wisdom Literature
4. Major Prophets
5. Minor Prophets
6. New Testament Narrative
7. Pauline Epistles
8. General Epistles
9. Apocalyptic Epistle
These are not the books of the bible in order, but simply the categories in which they can be split up. The “Books of the Bible” song is a great way for people, old and young, to remember the order in which they are placed.
Why 66 Books?
Over 1,500 years, stories were compiled to create the 66 books. There were 40 separate writers, and despite the many tales that are told in the book, each story was inspired by God.
The Bible is known by Christians as a book without error, meaning that the Holy Spirit oversaw the writing of every one of the Bible’s books. The collection of these 66 books is known as a “canon” of Scripture. The word “canon” derives from the Hebrew word “kaneh,” which translates to “a rod” in English. In Greek, it is “kanon,” which translates to “a reed” in English. The reference to a rod is used as to refer to the measuring rod used by carpenters, and the ruler used by the scribe. It is a word that is used generally to refer to the measurement of something which would later be judged by somebody.
Today, the word canon is used by leaders within the Church to refer to the wider body of doctrine in the Christian religion. There are 66 books within the canon of Scripture as a result of decisions made by Christians in the early centuries. There was very little debate about which books belonged in the Bible, and by the time of Athanasius in the 4th Century, the number of books in the Bible had been set to 66. The New Testament was introduced as we now know it, and the Bible was finalized with the following words:
“These are the fountains of salvation, that whoever thirsts may be satisfied by the eloquence which is in them. In them alone is set forth the doctrine of piety. Let no one add to them, nor take anything from them.”
How a Book Became Scripture
At first, the letters received from Paul or Peter were automatically considered scripture – however, letters and gospels were being written by others. At this point, Christian churches required a way of deciding which books were considered Scripture. During the first two centuries, five tests were put into place to decide what made a book Scripture. These tests were in the form of questions, and are as follows:
1. Does it come from an apostle?
Christians asked: “Was it written by an apostle or under the direction of an apostle?” This was expected in the same way as the Jews, who expected their scriptures to be underwritten by prophets.
2. Does it seem authentic?
Good evidence that the scripture is worthy was whether there was internal witness of the texts themselves.
3. Has it been used from the earliest of times?
Most texts that were rejected were considered too new in order to be apostolic.
4. Are most other churches using it?
At this time, the only way of sending texts was through circulating letters. It took quite some time for letters to be circulated, and so to decide whether a text is worthy of canonicity, the decision of other churches was taken into account.
5. Does it conform to the orthodox teaching of our churches?
Finally, Irenaeus asked whether a new piece of writing was consistent with the messages that the church taught. A lack of consistency was the cause for many rejections.