What is the Bible: one BIG book? or a LIBRARY of books?

When you first pick up a Bible you might be impressed by its size, by its weight, or by its design. While maybe impressed by the cover, you might also be asking yourself “What kind of book is this?” In reality, you are not alone. Many ask themselves this very question: “What is the Bible?”

The Bible is a library

The Bible as we know it in book form has been around since it’s first printing in about 1454 AD. The actual writing of the Bible was completed likely by the year 100 AD. The Bible consists of 66 books, written by some 40 different authors, over the span of around 1500 years, It has also been translated into over 600 languages from around the world. When thinking about these details, it is not very difficult to visualize the Bible as a small library. Next time someone asks you about the book you are carrying under your arm, or holding in your hands, you can answer them “Oh, it’s not a book, it’s a library”.

Two areas in the library

To take the analogy a little further, the Bible can be thought of as two separate areas in a library. One area is called the Old Testament (OT for short) and the other area is called the New Testament (NT for short). What you find when entering each area of the library, is a set of bookshelves each one identified by a specific theme.

The two Testaments are quite different the one from the other, and even though they tell of two very distinct ages, there is one common theme. The Bible is a message from the Creator to humanity and speaks of hope and of salvation.

It has often been stated that the two Testaments are linked; “The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed” and “The Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed”. The two Testaments actually compliment each other as they reveal the story of its central figure, Jesus Christ the Saviour.

OT Bookshelf: themes of the Old Testament

The Old Testament tells of events from the creation of the heavens and the earth until some time before the birth of Jesus Christ. It can be divided into four sections depicted as four bookshelves in this area of the library.

  • Books of the Law: Genesis to Deuteronomy
    • Theme: knowledge of sin
  • Books of History: Joshua to Esther
    • Theme: evidence of sin
  • Books of Poetry: Job to Song of Solomon
    • Theme: lift up your eyes to see the Creator
  • Books of Prophecy: Isaiah to Malachi
    • Theme: warning of judgment and the promise of coming salvation

NT Bookshelf: themes of the New Testament

The New Testament tells of events from the birth of Jesus Christ until some time near the end of the first century AD. It can be divided into four sections depicted as four bookshelves in this area of the library.

  • The Gospels: Matthew to John
    • Theme: Christ the Saviour
  • History: Acts
    • Theme: evidence of changed lives by the gospel
  • The Epistles: Romans to Jude
    • Theme: living the new life
  • Prophecy: Revelation
    • Theme: warning of judgment and the promise of completed salvation

When looking at the Bible as one BIG book, it may seem like an overwhelming task to read it all. But, if you look at the Bible as a LIBRARY with two areas of bookshelves (the O T bookshelves stocked with 39 different books and the N T bookshelves stocked with 27 different books) the task seems more manageable. Think of it as a library where you can go in and pick up a book, read it and then return it. The bonus with this library is that you don’t need a library card to sign out the book and you don’t have to leave your house to get there.

Book Bonanza

We often get excited when we find a good 2 for 1 special. When you get a Bible you are getting much more than that. When you purchase a Bible or someone gives you a Bible as a gift, think of it as a 66 for 1 special. We also get excited when we make a purchase and find out that there is a complimentary gift included.  If you consider that some the books are actually letters, you can even think of the Bible as buying a bunch of books and getting a bunch of letters as a bonus. Regardless of how you think about it, the reality is, that the Bible is a good deal and well worth your time.

Here are the books you hold in the Bible:

  • Old Testament
    • Genesis
    • Exodus
    • Leviticus
    • Numbers
    • Deuteronomy
    • Joshua
    • Judges
    • Ruth
    • 1 Samuel
    • 2 Samuel
    • 1 Kings
    • 2 Kings
    • 1 Chronicles
    • 2 Chronicles
    • Ezra
    • Nehemiah
    • Esther
    • Job
    • Psalms
    • Proverbs
    • Ecclesiastes
    • Song of Solomon
    • Isaiah
    • Jeremiah
    • Lamentations
    • Ezequiel
    • Daniel
    • Hosea
    • Joel
    • Amos
    • Obadiah
    • Jonah
    • Micah
    • Nahum
    • Habakkuk
    • Zephaniah
    • Haggai
    • Zechariah
    • Malachi
  • New Testament
    • Matthew
    • Mark
    • Luke
    • John
    • Acts
    • Romans
    • 1 Corinthians
    • 2 Corinthians
    • Galatians
    • Ephesians
    • Philippians
    • Colossians
    • 1 Thessalonians
    • 2 Thessalonians
    • 1 Timothy
    • 2 Timothy
    • Titus
    • Philemon
    • Hebrews
    • James
    • 1 Peter
    • 2 Peter
    • 1 John
    • 2 John
    • 3 John
    • Jude
    • Revelation

Action Points: Summarize the Bible

  1. Take a few minutes to watch this short video describing the general themes of the Bible. Watching the presentation will reinforce what you have read and help you to understand and process the information.
    1. Watch the short video here: What is the Bible: one BIG book? or a LIBRARY of books?
  2. Now take a few minute to review this printable bible study lesson. By filling in the chart with the information learned, you will reinforce the learning process. Feel free to read through the post and re-watch the video as often as you need to in order to properly fill in the chart.
    1. Download the PDF worksheet here
  3. Find out more about the Old Testament here.
  4. Find out more about the New Testament here.
  5. Start memorizing the books of the Bible by using a bookmark as a reference tool and encourage others to do the same.
  6. If you have not already done so, please establish a personal Bible Reading Plan. In order to benefit from the Bible Study Lessons you will need to keep reading the Bible even if it is only for a short time or a few chapters per day.
    1. Visit this post to select and download your Printable Bible Reading Plan.

As I guide you with short Bible Study Lessons, you will find out that reading and studying the Bible can be enjoyable and full of discoveries. Remember to always examine the Scriptures daily to find out of these things are so (Acts 17:11).

151716: God"s Direction is Always Best Mug God’s Direction is Always Best Mug

8 thoughts on “What is the Bible: one BIG book? or a LIBRARY of books?”

  1. Mitch,
    Trying to read and understand the whole Bible is very difficult. As you state, taking one book or time frame at a time will let you understand the people and things involved better.
    I have done several Bible related plays that helps also. Having a live performance of some of the Bible stories, most of what is written is just someones life story, gives a more visual meaning to me.
    I try to take in or be in at least one play a year, having a drama teacher for a pastor’s wife helps.
    What do you think about live performances of biblical stories.


    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for the comment. The message the Bible declares can certainly be presented in many different ways. In the Scriptures, we see the variety of methods used to convey a message. As long as the message is well presented and accurate to Scripture, to God be the glory.
      Your comment reminded me of something that happened during a Sunday School session years ago. The preacher was telling the story of Moses crossing the Red Sea. When he asked the children a question, one boy jumped up and excitedly answered him. The preacher stood in silence for a second, then tactfully tried to correct the boy. But the boy would have none of it. Instead he kept saying, “but that’s not what happened in the movie”. I always have a chuckle when i remember the preachers expression.

  2. Hmm… I have never looked at the Bible at the library before. But now that you mention it I have a new way of looking at it. It actually is a library of books. Yet there’s sold much knowledge in this library which is available to me at the tip of my hands. Thank you for the link that you provided below as I’m always looking for ways to bring new knowledge of how to learn the Bible. I like the lessons. I am a person who learns by taking lessons. You’re right people are always after a deal of getting two and one, but this 66 and one sounds so much better. Not only is it better, but the learning that comes from it offers so much insight into living a good righteous life.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the analogy. As I was growing up, I always wondered why we called the Bible a book, when we also called what was inside, books. I guess it I just figured it was books within a book. As I grew up and started teaching the Bible to kids, I thought it would be clearer for the kids to see it as a library. I’ve enjoyed thinking about it that way and I hope it helps people see the Bible in a bit of a different light.

      Feel free to come back as we plan on adding more study helps over the coming weeks and months.

      Happy studying.

  3. I really enjoyed your post. I have tried to read the bible more than once but it has been difficult for me. I would get overwhelmed with the different “books” in the bible and also by the language used. But my desire to read and understand it better is still there. I really like the analogy of the bible being a library because it’s so true. I really appreciate the PDFs you include, I will be using them to read the bible so thank you. 

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It is an encouragement knowing that the PDF’s will be used by someone in their Discover the Bible journey. I hope I can keep ahead of you. Please feel free to come back and see what else we have for you. All the best, if you have any questions related to the reading and study of the Bible, please feel free to ask / comment any time.

  4. Hi Mitchguy, that’s a nice explanation about how the Bible is composed. A big library of 66 books. Nice of you to create this PDF worksheet for a personal reading plan with the time schedule. Reading the Bible in One Year (about 15 – 20 minutes per day). When I was young, my Dad used the one year schedule, every evening after dinner about 15 minutes.


    1. A wise man, your Dad, to read the Bible with the family on a daily basis. That is a great comment about using the One Year Bible. I’ll have to take a look into that one. I totally forgot that it existed. Now that you mention it, when I was a teenager, I had a friend who used one of those for their daily reading.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.