How Many Books are in the Old Testament?

There are 39 books within the Protestant Bible’s Old Testament, and 47 books within the Catholic Bible’s Old Testament. The New Testament is, however, identical in both Bibles. In the Catholic Bible, these extra books are known as either the Deuterocanonical or Apocryphal books, by Catholics and Protestants, respectively.

The term “Apocrypha” means “hidden,” whereas “Deuterocanonical” means “second canon.”

When Was the Old Testament Written?

Assuming that the words of the Bible are taken literally, God created the world approximately 6,000 years ago. It was around the year 4,000 BC that Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden. This is the origin of the Old Testament, but it is not the time in which it was first written.

To understand when the Old Testament was written, and who by, we must first look at the books of the Old Testament. The books of the Old Testament begin with Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus, but go on to include many other Scriptures, including the Song of Solomon, Proverbs, Psalm and more.

The first books of the Old Testament were written in an ancient form of Hebrew, and are thought to have originated in the 6th Century, B.C. The four books that follow Genesis – Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) are thought to have been written by Moses, and of course inspired by God. However, the author (or authors) of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, are unknown.

It is likely that Genesis was first written in sections, on clay tablets, by multiple witnesses of the actions described in the Scripture. Moses later took these writings to compose The Book of Genesis.

The Meanings of the Books of the Old Testament

Books of the Old TestamentThe books in the Old Testament can vary quite wildly, though they are united in being the words of God. Starting with Genesis – which is very much a historical account of events at the time – the Old Testament discusses everything from sexuality to indifference toward God.


The first book of the Old Testament, Genesis explains the creation of the world – along with Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. The book discusses how man was appointed as God’s regent, but after proving to be disobedient, God destroyed the world he created with a great flood.

After the world continued to be corrupt after the flood, God called upon Abraham to be the seed of salvation. God instructed Abraham to go to Canaan, a land bequeathed by Him.

The Book of Genesis ends with Abraham, who changed his name to Israel, in Egypt, awaiting Moses and the Exodus.


The third book in the Old Testament, Leviticus addresses the people of Israel. Some sections of the book also specifically address priests.

Primarily, the book recounts God’s words to Moses, before moving on to the story of the Exodus of Israelites to Mount Sinai, after escaping Egypt. It explains how the Israelites built the Tabernacle – a portable meeting place of the Israelites and God. Leviticus also outlines how God expected Israelites to make offerings to Him.


A later book in the Old Testament is Jonah. The story explains how God reached out to the Pagans of Nineveh, calling them to repent through Jonah. Nineveh repent after Jonah preaches, though Jonah remained angry at how the Ninevites had previously oppressed the Jews.

The story has a connection to Jesus. In the Old Testament book of Jonah, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, and Jesus compared his own pending burial to this.