On this page we will think about what kind of book the Bible is. We will find out how the Bible is divided into sections. We will learn how to read the different parts of the Bible.
You can read the whole page, or you can click one of these links to jump to the part you want to read.
2 big sections of the Bible: The Old Testament and the New Testament
7 smaller sections of the Bible: Different kinds of writing
Very small sections of the Bible: Books, chapters and verses
The library that tells God’s story
The Bible is a library
The Bible is one big book made up of lots of smaller books. In this way the Bible is a library.
A library has lots of different books. They are written by different people, at different times and in different places. And they have different kinds of writing in them, like poems and stories and letters.
It is the same with the Bible. The Bible is made up of 66 books. They were written by different people, at different times and in different places. And they have different kinds of writing in them too. The people who wrote the 66 books all people believed in God. They wrote these books to tell other people all about God and what he had done. So the Bible is a library that tells us all about God’s work in the world and his friendship with people.
About 1600 years ago the 66 books were put together into one big book which we call ‘The Bible’. The 66 books were already special for Christians. But this was the first time they were put together in one big book.
So this is why the Bible is called a library. And because the Bible is a library, it can be confusing to just pick it up and read it. It is helpful to break the Bible down into sections. This will help us to read and understand each part better. So how is the Bible broken down into sections?
2 big sections of the Bible:
The Old Testament and the New Testament
First, the Bible is divided into two big sections. These are called the Old Testament and the New Testament. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. These make up the 66 books of the Bible.
The Old Testament
The books in the Old Testament were written before Jesus’s life on earth. They tell us that God made the world and wants us to be his friends. And they tell us about the people of Israel, who are also called Jews. They were God’s special people. God chose them to follow him and help the rest of the world get to know him. The Old Testament is special to Jews as well as Christians.
The New Testament
7 smaller sections of the Bible:
Different kinds of writing
There are different kinds of writing in the world. We cannot read all these kinds of writing the same way. Or we might end up reading a funny story and thinking it was the news! There are different kinds of writing in the Bible too. When we read the Bible we need to know what kind of writing we are reading. Then we can understand it better.
The Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible are broken down into smaller sections. They group different kinds of writing together. So what are these sections of the Bible called?
Section 1: Old Testament history
The first section of the Bible is called Old Testament history. This section is 17 books from Genesis to Esther. The books in this section tell us about things that happened. We can read these books a bit like we would read a newspaper or a history book.
Section 2: Wisdom books
The next section of the Bible is called the wisdom books. This section is 5 books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. The books in this section are all different. They use different kinds of writing to say big things about life and God. In these books we can find songs, poems, wise sayings and stories.
Section 3: Books of prophecy
The next section of the Bible is called the books of prophecy. This section is 17 books from Isaiah to Malachi. The books in this section make up the rest of the Old Testament. They are a kind of writing called prophecy. In the Old Testament, God gave messages to people called prophets. He told them to pass these messages on to everyone in Israel. In these messages, God warned Israel to stop doing bad things. And he promised that he would send a Saviour to help them.
Prophecy can be hard to understand because there are a lot of symbols and pictures in the words. In one place God says that the people of Israel are like his wife. In other places he says they are like sheep. The writers wanted us to see these pictures in our minds. They wanted us to think about what they might mean.
Section 4: Gospels
The next section of the Bible is called the Gospels. This section is the first 4 books in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These books tell us about Jesus’s life on earth. The word gospel means ‘good news’. These books are good news because Jesus is the Saviour who God promised in the books of prophecy. These books tell the same story, but they tell it in different ways. So they are a bit like reading about something that happened in 4 different newspapers.
Section 5: New Testament history
The next section of the Bible is called New Testament history. This section is only one book: Acts. Acts tells us what happened to the first Christians and how they told people about Jesus. It is another book that we can read like a newspaper.
Section 6: Letters
The sixth section of the Bible is called the letters. This section is 21 books from Romans to Jude. These books are letters written by some of the first Christians. They were sent to churches. The main kind of writing in these books is teaching. They explain how Jesus saved us by dying and taking away our sins. And they talk about how God wants us to live as Christians.
Section 7: Vision
The last section of the Bible is a vision. This section is just the last book of the Bible: Revelation. Revelation is a vision that God gave to one of Jesus’s followers. It is like a dream that he had while he was awake. Like prophecy, Revelation has a lot of symbols and pictures in the words. It is one of the hardest books of the Bible to understand, because it talks about things that haven’t happened yet. It is a vision of what will happen in the future, when God makes everything right.
Very small sections of the Bible:
Books, chapters and verses
Next the Bible is divided into books. You can find all 66 books in a list at the beginning of your Bible. But some of the books of the Bible are still quite big. This makes it hard to find the part you are looking for, even if you know which book it is in. So about 1000 years ago the books of the Bible were broken down even further into very small sections called chapters and verses. This makes it much easier to find what you are looking for. You just have to know the Bible reference. Click here to learn how to find a Bible verse.
You might have seen Bible references before. They are normally written like this:
In the easy read part of this website we write Bible verses like this:
Ephesians chapter 3 verses 17-18
The word at the beginning is the name of the book. The first number is the chapter. The second number is the verse or verses. So if you see Ephesians 3:17-18 you can work out that the verse you need to find is in the book of Ephesians, chapter 3 and verses 17-18.
The library that tells God’s story
So now you know why the Bible is called a library. It has 66 books and different kinds of writing. The Bible is broken down into 2 big sections, 7 smaller sections and lots of very small sections. That means you can find a very small part of the Bible really easily! Click here to find out about some Bibles that are easy to read and understand.
The Bible is very special to Christians. It tells us the story of God’s work in the world and his friendship with people. God’s Holy Spirit helped the people who wrote it to say what he wanted them to say. And he talks to us through the Bible today. When we read the Bible it is like having a conversation with God! Click here to learn more about why the Bible is special.
So the Bible is not just a library of old books. It is still important for us today. God speaks to us and teaches us through all the 66 books. By reading the Bible we can get to know him better.
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Valley of Springs is the online home of Dan and Jo Acharya.
We write devotional blogs to help you grow in your faith and trust God in difficult times.
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Jo is the author of ‘Refresh: a wellness devotional for the whole Christian life’ and ‘Living Well With God: easy read Bible lessons for people who find reading hard’.