The Books of the Bible

The Books of the Bible

February is Bible shopping month at Living in the Word! This year, I have been shopping by mail and I have an intriguing and important Bible to share with you.

It’s called The Books of the Bible and is an updated NIV-version Bible with no study notes and, picture this–no chapter or verse numbers. With this Bible, it feels like I’m reading a book! Before I say any more, read this description from Glenn Paauw of Biblica.

A strange thing has happened to the way we engage the Bible. We’ve grown accustomed to reading the Bible mostly in small fragments. We receive our verse-of-the-day, or maybe a few sentences in our devotionals—often separating the words and ideas of Scripture from their original context. We’ve moved away from experiencing the Bible on its own terms. And the format of our modern Bible doesn’t help us. The natural form of the Bible is buried in a sea of numbers, notes, headings, and cross-references, all added long after the books were written.


The Bible was inspired as whole books—stories, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, letters—meant to be read at length and in depth. What if we had a Bible designed for this kind of reading? What if we unmessed with the Bible? Introducing a no-chapter, no verse, single-column, whole-book, all natural, new kind of Bible. We call it The Books of the Bible, because that’s what it is, simply the books of the Bible presented in natural ways so you can experience them the way their authors intended. We invite you to do what we were always meant to do with the Bible—dive in.

Now, your first reaction may be similar to what mine was: “Sounds fine and nice. But I don’t need another Bible.” Let me tell you a bit more after I’ve spent some time in this Bible version.

The first several pages of the book are filled with my underlining. They present the Bible as one great narrative, a drama we are invited to enter and live within. The Bible is a beginning story and we read to receive cues on how to live out our own roles as God’s story of redemption and new creation continues to play out.

We are on stage every single day. What will we say? What will we do? According to which story will we live? If we are not answering these questions with the biblical script, we will follow another.

Those at Biblica have described the contents of the Bible in six acts, beginning with Act 1: God’s Intention, where God creates the world, and ending with Act 6: God Comes Home, where God moves toward returning and making his home with us in a new heaven and a new earth.

And then comes the Table of Contents, although Biblica doesn’t title the pages this way. I must say that I have never had a thing to say about a TOC page before, but the New Testament page here is almost frame-worthy. The order of the books of the Bible in this volume are quite jumbled. As they explain, the book order in the current Bible canon was set later at the time of Greek translation. This book, instead, places the books of the Old Testament in an order much closer to the way Hebrew tradition arranged them. And we don’t have an Old Testament, rather we have a First Testament, because Old can carry the connotation that these books no longer speak to us today.

The First Testament books are arranged much nearer to their historical order and are divided into Covenant History, Prophets, and Writings.

Then, and you will have to use some imagination here to catch the beauty of this New Testament TOC page, we have an ancient cross in the center of the page and an arrangement of New Testament books surrounding the four points of the cross. A Gospel book (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) heads each of the four lists, and the NT books related to this Gospel follow. So, Luke-Acts stands at the top with Romans through Philemon of the traditional canon listed next, but in the order in which Paul wrote these letters. Luke and Acts flow together because of their common authorship.

Next, on the left of the cross stand Matthew first, then Hebrews and James. To the right of the cross stand Mark and then 1-2 Peter and Jude. And at the bottom stands John, then 1, 2,3 John and Revelation, all of common authorship.

“This edition seeks to express the ancient concept of the fourfold gospel in a fresh way. … The presentation of the four witnesses to the one gospel of Jesus the Messiah is enhanced by a fuller arrangement that will help readers better appreciate why the books of the New Testament were written and what kind of literature they represent. The four sets of books, each headed by a Gospel, form a cross, as it were, around the central figure of Jesus. Each sheds light on his story in a new way.”

This makes so much sense! I look forward to doing more reading using this invaluable resource. I highly recommend The Books of the Bible (http://zondervan I hope many Bible readers will use it and will give it to their pastors and friends. It’s available in both print and Ebook versions, both full Bible and New Testament only. Prices range from $4.99-39. 99.

“Only when we read both deeply and widely in the Bible, marinating in it and letting it soak into our lives, will we be prepared to effectively take up our roles [in God’s drama]. The more we read the Bible, the better readers we will become. Rather than skimming the surface, we will become skilled at interpreting and practicing what we read.”

Read deep and wide in the Word, friends!

What do you think? How would you like to try reading the Bible this way?

Giveaway! Biblica has graciously offered to send one copy of The Books of the Bible to a winner in a random drawing. To enter, become a new subscriber to this Living in the Word blog (free, see sidebar on homepage) or leave a comment here before Friday, March 1st at midnight!

[I went Bible shopping last year, for a teen Bible for my son. I wrote about what I found and also about other Bibles for younger kids and some for adults. Find the post here. ]

*Special thanks to Glenn Paauw for your help with this post. May God bless your work and all those at Biblica who are listening to God’s heart in bringing his Word to many.

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  1. Valerie Hess (http://Website)
    Feb 26, 2013

    Eugene Peterson has called the chapters and verse numberings a tool of the devil to get us to forget that the Bible is a long story with overarching narratives that are often falsely broken up by the chapter/number/heading system. We view the Bible as a textbook to study instead of a story to live into.

  2. Leslie (http://Website)
    Feb 26, 2013

    This sounds like an amazing way to read the Bible! I think that it would really enhance the experience of reading the Word!

    • Brenda
      Feb 26, 2013

      I love that, Valerie, and had not heard it before. I am guessing he is also a fan of this volume. Thank you for sharing!

    • Brenda
      Feb 26, 2013

      I agree, Leslie. After looking through The Books of the Bible and reading some, I’m impressed with how much even a few important words and arrangement of books and page appearance can matter.

  3. Valerie Hess (http://Website)
    Feb 26, 2013

    It isn’t an exact quote, Brenda, but he takes a very dim view of chapter and verse numbers because it destroys the flow of the story and STORY is a big theme for him.

    • Brenda
      Feb 26, 2013

      I think Petersen is right, about story. And Biblica, too. After all, God calls Jesus the Word! And the Bible is full of stories. I think about that as a parent. What would we do without Bible stories to teach our kids? And the stories (the Story) couldn’t be more captivating.

  4. Brenda
    Feb 26, 2013

    I wanted to add one more quote from the beginning pages of The Books of the Bible, because I think it’s an important encouragement: “We encourage readers to study the Bible in community. We believe that if they do, they and their teachers, leaders and peers will provide one another with much more information and many more insights than could ever be included in notes by publishers.”

  5. Nicole Johnosn (http://Website)
    Feb 26, 2013

    I would love to read the bible in this way.

    • Brenda
      Feb 26, 2013

      Love hearing from you. Thanks for writing, Nicole! You will be entered!

  6. Lane (http://lanearnold
    Feb 27, 2013

    The Bible you mention seems like it may be a repackaged edition of one that the International Bible Society came out with in 2007. Do you know if that’s the case?

    There are advantages and disadvantages to having chapters/verses. Some of it depends on if I want a narrative story-telling read, like when using the Message, or if I am in study mode, where being able to track different portions is vital.

    I also like having several versions of the Bible around as it helps me catch a “fresh read” of familiar territory from time to time. I find it helpful to read the Scripture aloud (or even listen to it being read) for my prayer and devotional time, as well as when memorizing. I think that reading and speaking engage us differently, don’t you?

    Thanks for this intriguing article, Brenda.

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