Order of New Testament Books

This is just a page on the order of the books of the New Testament. It's really just for my own amusement.

I've chopped out some bits here and there recently (March 2012). There are now wikis that have greatly expanded my understanding of the development of the New Testament. I haven't yet had a chance to read them all. This is a new development at Wikipedia. There wasn't much at Wikipedia when I started this page. Start with this page for a much, much better explanation than what is here. Also, closer to what I was attempting to do is here. There are links to other useful wikis on these pages too.

The current 27 books of the New Testament have been more less set (canonical) since the early centuries (the 4th and 5th) of the church. Truly official canonicity came later. According to The Lost Books of Eden, the following writers (writing from the years 210 to 390) accepted the same 27 books we have today. (They left lists of the books they accepted or that early churches accepted.) The writers are: Eusebius Pamphilus, Athanasius (Bishop of Alexandria), Epiphanius (Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus), Jerome, Ruffin (Presbyter of Aquilegium), Austin (Bishop of Hippo in Africa), Third Council of Carthage (Austin was at this council of 44 bishops), "Dionysius of Areopagite" (a pseudonym). BUT, Eusebius Pamphilus mentions that, although he personally accepted the 27 we have today, some churches did not accept James, Jude, 2 Peter, 3 John, and Revelation. Jerome had doubts about Hebrews, though he ultimately leaves it in.

The next set of writers had problems with various books. These books are in parentheses: Origen (James and Jude), Cyril (Bishop of Jerusalem) (Revelation), Bishops at the Council of Laodicea (Revelation), Gregory Nazianzen (Bishop of Constantinople) (Revelation), Philastrius (Bishop of Brixia in Venice) (Hebrews and Revelation).

As you can see, some books have become the usual suspects: James, Jude, Hebrews, Revelation.


How the Bible came about is a ridiculously broad subject. I am in no way, shape, or form qualified to deal with this subject and yet here I go. On this page I'm going to limit myself to the order of books of the New Testament for the most part. This page is really more a reference for myself than for anyone else. If you want to amuse yourself then continue on.

Below is the usual order found in all Catholic and Protestant New Testaments published today. I call this the "Western" order. The Oriental Orthodox churches do some unusual things (below), but there is quite a bit of uniformity, surprisingly. (Over the centuries some sects or denominations have accepted or rejected various books or parts of books long after the councils of the early Church. For a time, the Quakers accepted the Gospel of the Laodiceans, for example.)

The Gospels—

Before the Latin Vulgate they were this apparently: Matthew, John, Luke, Mark!

Then you have Acts. Acts and Luke are referred to by more scholarly types as Luke-Acts because Acts is kind of a continuation of Luke. So anyway—

Then you have the Pauline Letters/Epistles. These were put together longest to shortest, like the suras in the Koran! Of course, the Koran, written some 600 years after, may have borrowed this from the New Testament or maybe this was just the way it was done then. In any case, neither what's in the New Testament or in the Koran is arranged chronologically unfortunately— After this we have the General Epistles— And last we have that mess that was seemingly written by someone on LSD,crack, or something (early Church leaders and even Luther thought it a mess)—

And speaking of Luther...
Luther didn't think much of four books in the New Testament: Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation (some of the "usual suspects" above). He didn't like them mostly because they didn't seem to support the Protestant ideas of sola fide and sola gratia. These were his αντιλεγόμενα—those things that were spoken against. Luther wasn't alone in having problems with these books. Other issues concerning them went back to the early Church. Although he ultimately kept them in, he put them at the end. All my German Bibles have this Lutheran order, except most of the bilingual ones (they follow the English order) and one in Modern German. (Lutherans also have issues with 2 Peter,2 John, and 3 John, according to something I found buried in a wiki.)

The Upper Sorbian Bible I have has the book order found at the top of the page (the Western order). Most of the few speakers of this language (all in Germany) are Catholic now.

Here is the German Lutheran order in a more Modern German (still a Lutherbibel) and in 19th century German. The differences have to do with not using old Latin case forms anymore and the spelling changes. The ones on the right of the slash are in the genitive because they modify Epistel, which isn't always written out. I'm surprised that the Modern German one didn't make changes like Petrus>Peter. What's more, even my Pennsylvania German Bible kept the names of the books as shown on the left below:

Beside the German variation, there is the Swedish one. The Swedes split the difference! From a New Testament printed in Chicago in 1883 (or a little after), an English-Swedish bilingual one (also 1883), and two at Cleveland Public Library (1902 and 1917), there is the regular Western order and then:

The Swedes must have had a spelling reform. Sadly, Swedish Bibles from 1990 and 1993 have the regular Western order.

Two Danish (from 1992 and 1913) and two Norwegian (1995 and 1973) New Testaments have the Western order.

The Slavs (at least the Orthodox ones) have their own order (Slavonic order). They switch around the General Epistles with the Pauline Epistles. I haven't learned the reason yet, but I'm working on it. Protestants trying to proselytize in Slavic Orthodox countries apparently use this order, too. Below is from a Russian New Testament I have:

A Bulgarian New Testament that I have has the same. A Romanian New Testament from 2000 has the Western order. And so does a Ukrainian from the United Bible Societies. But one published by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has the Slavonic order. A recent (year?) Serbian New Testament has the Western order.

The Oriental Orthodox Churches

The 'narrow canon' of the Ethiopian (and Eritrean) Orthodox Church includes the same 27 books as other churches'. Oddly, though, the broad Ethiopian version with 35 books is not printed. A reference in a wiki says the extra books—Sinodos (four books), 1 and 2 Book of the Covenant, (Ethiopian) Clement, and (Ethiopian) Didascalia—are not published and are not widely studied. Note that the line between what is canonical or not in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is not so sharply drawn as it is in the West. And the terms 'narrow' and 'broad' are something of an invention by Biblical scholars. The Ge'ez version of the whole Bible has 81 books. It includes some deuterocanonical books that the Catholic version doesn't have. There is now a wiki explaining more. This is new.

The Coptic Orthodox New Testament apparently only has the usual 27 books. I know nothing about the order of these books. They do not include 1 and 2 Clement though some earlier source said the Coptic New Testament did include it.

The Syriac Church today uses the same 27 books as almost everyone else. Earlier it had only 22. Even today, the lectionary only uses references in these 22 books. There was a harmony of the gospels called the Diatessaron that the Syriac church also used, but the original is now lost. Here are the 22 books:

The Armenians have added or removed various books over the centuries. They use the usual 27 books today but have in the past added Testaments of the Twelve Patriachs and 3 Corinthians. Revelations wasn't included until about the year 1200.