The Bible: Interesting Facts and Study Principles


Fun Quiz

(Answers are below.)

1. How many books are contained in the Bible?

A. 56 B. 66 C. 76 D. 86

2. How many books are in the Old Testament?

A. 27 B. 29 C. 37 D. 39

3. How many books are in the New Testament?

A. 21 B. 24 C. 27 D. 37

4. What is the only book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God?

A. Esther B. James C. Hezekiah D. Ecclesiastes

5. How many accounts of the gospel are in the Bible, and what are those books called?

6. What is the name of the last book of the Bible?

7. Which book of the Bible has the most chapters, and how many are there?

8. What book of the Bible has the shortest name (i.e. the least amount of letters)?

9. Which five books of the Bible contain only one chapter?

10. Can you name any secular historians who lived during the time when the New Testament was written, and whose writings back up many of the narratives written in the New Testament?

INTERESTING FACTS

There are many interesting facts about the Bible, which, according to Daniel Radosh of The New Yorker, is not only the best-selling book of all time, but also the best-selling book every year. The following are just a few of these facts:

  • Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, containing only two verses. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, containing 176 verses.
  • Psalm 118 is the middle chapter in the Bible (there are 594 chapters before Psalm 118, and 594 chapters after Psalm 118).
  • The middle verse in the Bible is Psalm 118:8, which reads, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
  • The book of Psalms, the longest book in the Bible, contains 150 chapters and 43,743 words. The book of 3 John is the shortest book, and contains only 299 words.
  • The longest verse in the Bible is Esther 8:9, with 90 words. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, with only two words (“Jesus wept“).
  • There are 31,102 verses in the Bible (more than 23,000 in the Old Testament, and almost 8,000 in the New Testament. That’s an average of 26 verses per chapter.
  • The Bible was only divided into chapters in the year 1228, by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The New Testament was only divided into verses in the year 1551, by Sir Robert Stephens.

PRINCIPLES FOR UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE


Distinguish Between Literary Forms and Genres

The Bible is made up of narratives (stories) more than any other type of literature (other genres include law, poetry, wisdom, prophecies, parables, and epistles). Narratives sometimes teach things indirectly, rather than directly. For example, in the story of David committing adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11), we’re not told directly that adultery is wrong. However, this was already taught directly in the law of Moses (e.g. Exodus 20:14). Still, II Samuel 11 illustrates how David’s adultery harmed his personal life and his ability to rule over Israel.

Note the Context

In the Bible, it’s rare that we seek to understand a single verse by itself, or isolated from all surrounding verses. There are exceptions to this, of course, in the book of Proverbs. Looking at a verse or a passage in context means considering a larger portion of the text as a whole.

The word “earth,” for example, is used many times in both the Old and New Testaments. In some places where it’s used, it’s not a reference to the entire globe. Instead, it’s a reference to the land of Israel (i.e. the Promised Land) only. In fact, some Bible translations will use “earth” in the same passages where other translations will use the word “land.” Luke 21:23 is one example of this pattern. Even if a translation uses the word “earth” in this verse, the context ought to clearly show that Jesus was speaking specifically about Israel. He predicted that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies (verse 20), and He warned “those living in Judea” to flee to the mountains (verse 21). He then spoke of “great distress in the earth” (or “land”) and “wrath against this people” (verse 23). The context shows that He didn’t speak of people in Chicago, or of people living in the 21st century, but of Jews living in his own generation.

Consider Audience Relevance

“Exegesis” is a literary interpretation method that involves determining what a text meant to those who first received it. This method should guide “hermeneutics,” the science of interpretation. So the first question to ask is, “What did the text mean to the original audience that first heard or read it?” Then, and only then, is it time to ask the second question: “What does this text mean to us now?”

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other Old Testament prophets often announced the future. However, were they speaking about our future, or were they speaking about the more immediate future of Israel, Judah, and other surrounding nations? Many today believe that Ezekiel 38-39 speaks of a future invasion of modern-day Israel by Russia, Ethiopia, and a few other countries. This is despite the fact that Ezekiel described ancient warfare (e.g. the use of horses) in his prophecy.

In II Thessalonians 2, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica about the man of sin and the Day of the Lord. Many today assume that what Paul told them will be revealed soon and will take place for our generation to see. Yet consider what Paul said to his first century readers: “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way” (verses 5-7).

Similarly, John told his first century readers in the book of Revelation that they were capable of calculating “the number of the beast”: “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Revelation 13:18). In other words, they could figure out who the beast was. Many have not considered the audience relevance when thinking of this text, and have insisted that the beast (or “Antichrist,” they might say) was Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Barack Obama, etc.

It’s also important to note that we don’t live under the Old Covenant, as ancient Israel once did. This covenant, through Jesus, has been made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). There are commands that were given to the ancient Israelites under the law, which are no longer instructive to God’s people on how to live. We can still derive principles from those laws, understand God better by reading those portions of Scripture, and understand how certain types and shadows are now fulfilled in Jesus, etc. Yet we are not bound by the Old Covenant laws which functioned as a national constitution for ancient Israelites who lived in the land of Israel. We are told in Hebrews 8, for example, that this first covenant was not faultless (verse 7), was made obsolete (verse 13), and has been replaced by a new covenant with better promises (verse 6).

Scripture Interprets Scripture

We are not the ultimate authority when it comes to interpreting Scripture. If we believe that the Biblical authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we can appreciate how they interpret older Scripture passages, even if it means setting aside our own preconceived notions. We see an interesting example of this principle very early in the New Testament when Matthew takes an Old Testament passage from Hosea 11:1 that clearly refers to ancient Israel (“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son“), and applies it to Jesus:

Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring your word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’ When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son’” (Matthew 2:13-15).

The implication is that Matthew viewed Israel, not as his own homeland, the political nation of Israel, but rather as Jesus.

In Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 we see a prophecy that a wolf will lay down with a lamb. Many today believe or teach that the animal kingdom will literally be transformed in this way in a future millennium, a period lasting 1000 years. However, Paul demonstrated in Romans 15 that Isaiah 11 was fulfilled through Jesus’ work on the cross, and His bringing together Jews and Gentiles in Himself. In other words, the wolf and the lamb represented Jews and Gentiles.

In Matthew 23 Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, the religious rulers of Israel, when He said:

“I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:35-36).

Who did Jesus say would be responsible for shedding the blood of all righteous people, and which generation would be held responsible? Clearly, it’s first century Israel. So what do we conclude then when we see these passages in the book of Revelation?

[1] “Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.'” (Revelation 16:4-6)

[2] “I saw the woman [Babylon the Great], drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” (Revelation 17:6)

[3] “Alas, alas, that great city… Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her! … And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:20, 24)

Not only do Jesus’ words in Matthew 23 tell us who shed this blood and when they did it, but the principle of “first mention” can help us here as well. “The great city” is first mentioned in Revelation 11:8. There it is described as “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” We know, of course, that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. The “great city” then is Jerusalem, which also happens to be the city Jesus said in Matthew 23 would be held responsible for the shed blood of all the saints. 

Types and Shadows Point Toward Fulfillment

The New Testament follows the Old Testament in the Bible. Within the Old Testament, there were many practices and laws which foreshadowed realities that have been fulfilled in Jesus. The book of Hebrews speaks much about the types and shadows (e.g. in the sacrificial system) which pointed toward Jesus. One form of eschatology, the study of last things, teaches that in a future millennium there will be renewed animal sacrifices and offerings in a rebuilt temple. Does this teaching not promote a return to types and shadows? One author, Kim Riddlebarger, calls this ” a redemptive-historical U-turn.” Perhaps this teaching persists because some view certain prophetic passages in the Old Testament through a lens that doesn’t recognize apocalyptic language, and assumptions are made that they haven’t yet been fulfilled.

ANSWERS TO THE QUIZ

1. B (66)

2. D (39)

3. C (27)

4. A (Esther); P.S. There is no book called “Hezekiah.”

5. Four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

6. Revelation

7. Psalms; 150

8. Job

9. Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, Jude

10. Josephus (a Jew); Tacitus (a Roman)

Sources:

1. Maarschalk, Adam. “Romans 15 Shows That Isaiah 11 Is Fulfilled.” Pursuing Truth Blog. January 29, 2012. http://kloposmasm.com/2012/01/29/romans-15-shows-that-isaiah-11-is-fulfilled/
2. Radosh, Daniel. “The Good Book Business.” The New Yorker. December 18, 2006. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/12/18/061218fa_fact1
3. Riddlebarger, Kim. “Jesus, The True Temple.” The Riddleblog. April 9, 2008. http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2008/4/9/jesus-the-true-temple.html

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This article first appeared on the Yahoo Contributor Network

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8 thoughts on “The Bible: Interesting Facts and Study Principles

  1. So Israel is back on the map, Jerusalem is the center of world troubles, Acts 3:21 is being brought to pass by a Sovereign God, and we are supposed to believe that “all things that the holy prophets spoke about” are done/restored/completed. Preterism worked until 1948, it was a good way to “get God off the hook” for the impossible task of putting Israel back on the map and making Jerusalem and the Jewish people the center of troubles, but now, in His sovereignty, He got Himself “off the hook” and we need to pray for our eyes to be open, to His moving toward the true, literal, restoration of all things.

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    • Hi Chuck,

      It sounds like you’re saying that preterism (the belief that prophecies have already been fulfilled) is false because a nation called “Israel” was founded in 1948. I disagree with you that the events of 1948 had anything to do with Bible prophecy. Nor have you demonstrated that they are related in any way. God also didn’t/doesn’t need to be “let off the hook” for anything. He is faithful and keeps His word.

      In any case, why did you post this comment here, and not elsewhere on this blog? What does your comment have to do with the content of the article above?

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      • The reference to 2nd Thes. is why I posted here. 2 Thes. 2:8 –“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” This is just one example of many of a verse that has not happened at any time in history. It is part of the end times events that are yet to occur. Only a person who has decided to look at the Bible through the distorted lens of preterism could misinterpret this.

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    • OK, I see. Thanks for responding. Why do you say that verse wasn’t fulfilled at any time in history? And what “end times” are you talking about – the end times of what? It’s one thing to simply make these statements, but it’s another to give a solid basis for what you’re saying and to demonstrate that you’ve diligently studied these matters.

      When I examine II Thessalonians 2, I see multiple clear indications that Paul was telling his first century readers about events which were to take place in their lifetime, and that he had given them specific information in private about what was about to occur. I’ve outlined all this and more in this study:

      http://kloposmasm.com/2011/12/20/a-study-of-ii-thessalonians-21-8/

      As you can also see in that post, there were plenty of church fathers and early church leaders who believed and taught that Nero was the man of sin spoken of by Paul, and that this passage was fulfilled in the first century. These leaders include Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), Tertullian (160-220 AD), Victorinus (martyred in 303 AD), Lactantius (260-330 AD), Chrysostom (347-407 AD), Jerome (347-420 AD), and Augustine (354-430 AD). Jerome even said, “There are MANY of our viewpoint who think that Domitius Nero was the Antichrist because of his outstanding savagery and depravity.”

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  2. I am not impressed by those church leaders who, seeing with their eyes, that Jews were banished from Jerusalem and scattered thought, ‘there is no way the promises of God to this people can be fulfilled, so lets use our brains to figure out a way that all this already happened’.
    I read your 2nd Thes. 2:1-8 study and have these comments. (quotes from your article are separated by a line space.)
    The only way that the Thes. people could have thought that the 2nd coming had already happened would be if somebody tried to spiritualize the 2nd coming and say that it did not come as and end of time event, but that it had occurred in some mystical way already, much like preterism does. If they had remembered Paul’s teaching that it would only come when the lawless one desecrated the temple as prophesied by Daniel, in the middle of a 7 year period of time that had started out with “peace.” they would not have fallen for the “its not literal” teaching. Preterism is the only ‘way of thinking’ that could cause someone to think that such a magnificent world wide, earth changing event as the ‘day of the Lord,’ had already occurred.
    So false teachers came in behind Paul and were leading people astray and Paul is seeking to return them to his clear, simple teaching.
    Paul saw the coming judgment on Jews clearly and he saw the coming blessing that must come because this is what God promised, after the judgment. God has specific promises for this people and this land, Romans 9-11 speaks clearly of this.

    “Why would the Holy Spirit then, speaking through Paul, refer to the Jerusalem temple as the “temple OF GOD”? “

    Because God’s promises do not change based on human actions. The ‘sinful kingdom’ is still the people of God’s own choosing. His sovereign choice, wins out in the end.
    In order to keep Nero as the anti-Christ, you have to make the temple a spiritual thing, a ‘church’ thing. Neither Nero nor, Titus was destroyed by the “breath of His mouth…by the appearance of His coming.”

    “Obviously, because it was not safe to be more explicit…”

    So here,and only here the Apostle Paul was concerned about his safety, I doubt that. His concern was the glory of God, not his own safety. Daniel was given truth that would have had ‘no relevance’ to his immediate readers, because he spoke of events hundreds of years ahead of time. Paul did not have to limit himself to truth that would be played out within a few years any more than any other man of God, communicating God’s truth would have.

    “This intense persecution only ended when Nero committed suicide in June 68 AD with the help of his personal secretary. Thus he made war on the saints for a period of exactly 42 months (in fulfillment of Revelation 13:5-7; Daniel 7:21, 25), until he himself came to an end.”

    Nero dies by his own hand two years before 70AD and to make it all fit, you call that the end of the troubles. Suicide is hardly the “breath of His mouth.”
    In Matthew 24, Jesus does not send us to “church fathers” for answers, He sends us to Daniel. Daniel 9:27 speaks of the marks of the anti-Christ and gives something specific that he does, “puts a stop to the sacrifice.” Daniel 11:21-45 gives amazing details about the ‘career’ of the anti-Chirst. Daniel 12:11 again speaks of the most notable sign that THE end times are upon us, when “the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up.” Nero was never there, so it could not have been him…unless… we can spiritualize a literal word.
    This is of course where we go in two very different directions and I don’t see us ever finding a “middle ground.” I appreciate that you have let me share here. To me, people like David Baron, who took God at His word, literally, and taught based on that, that the Jewish people would have to be in their land, in a state of unbelief again before the end times would come, are teachers who I want to learn from. Even though he was writing when such a thing seemed impossible, his words have proven to be true. The unbelief of the Jewish people currently, and when they build the temple, will not stop the plan of God, in fact it is a part of the plan of God. My unbelief in 1984, did not stop his plan for me in 1985. The same grace that changed me as an individual will change them as a nation and until it does the end has not come. Romans 11:25-36 Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah 14:16-21.
    Again I thank you for your time, and will let you have the last word, if you would like to end this exchange. I would appreciate knowing your understanding of the verses from Romans and Zechariah above. Peace.

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    • Chuck,

      I believe you’re making assumptions about the thought process of early church leaders with regard to II Thessalonians 2 and perhaps other passages as well. How do you know that they didn’t simply recognize the imminency in the words of Jesus and the apostles, and take them seriously? How do you know they didn’t carefully examine clues in the text indicating that Paul’s readers knew exactly who and what he was talking about, and that some of them – before they died – were to experience the events Paul was foretelling? Jews being banished from Jerusalem didn’t do anything to stop the promises of God from being fulfilled, or continuing to be fulfilled today in Christ.

      You referred to “the end of time,” but Scripture doesn’t use this phrase. It does, however, use the phrase, “the time of the end.” The key question is, “What was to come to an end?” I believe it was the old covenant system/world that was to end, but I suspect that your answer would be different.

      Paul also didn’t make a reference to Daniel, and he certainly didn’t reference a 7-year period. Daniel did (Daniel 9:27), but he didn’t use the word “peace” in relation to that time.

      I’m not 100% sure who you are indicating belongs to “the sinful kingdom,” or why you would say that God has chosen such a kingdom as His people. That’s a baffling statement, to be honest. If you’re referring to the political nation of Israel, or the Jewish people as an ethnic race, then please carefully consider what Jesus said in Matthew 8:10-12, in the Parable of the Tenants (Matt. 21:43, in particular), and elsewhere.

      You didn’t at all explain what’s wrong with making “the temple a spiritual thing, a ‘church’ thing” (in your words). God’s people, who abide in Christ, are His temple now. Isn’t that a key new covenant truth?

      I would say that Paul was just as concerned for the safety of his readers as for himself (perhaps even more so). There’s no doubt that Paul used veiled language about the things he had already shared in detail with the Thessalonian believers in person (II Thess. 2:5-7). John obviously spoke in code as well many times in the book of Revelation. Many futurists and preterists alike agree that this was done for the sake of wisdom as well as for the sake of safety. It doesn’t mean they weren’t concerned for the glory of God. Paul told the Thessalonians only in private exactly who/what was restraining the man of lawlessness at that very time. Both individuals and/or entities were alive at that time, and they’ve been dead a long, long time now.

      I beg to differ that Daniel 9:27 says anything about an “antichrist.” I realize that’s been a popular position since the dawning of dispensationalism in the 1830’s, but the tried and true position is that Jesus inaugurated the covenant (i.e. the new covenant “MADE WITH MANY for the forgiveness of sins” – see Matthew 26:28 and compare to the language used by Daniel). Jesus also is the One who brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings, for they were all types and shadows pointing forward to His most perfect sacrifice and offering…of Himself! The book of Hebrews outlines this so beautifully, and it’s nearly tragic that such a beautiful prophecy about Jesus is not only said to remain unfulfilled, but is also said to be about an evil “antichrist” figure.

      The word “antichrist” doesn’t appear in the book of Daniel, by the way. Nor is there any clear indication that the prophecies of Daniel 9 are in any way speaking of the same persons spoken of in Daniel 11:21-45. On what basis do you link Daniel 9 and Daniel 11 together in that way?

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts here as well. You’re more than welcome to continue, and it’s not at all important that I have the last word. I rejoice with you that God’s grace has changed you, as you shared in your testimony.

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  3. Before I get started I would still appreciate you taking time to explain how you view these verses. Romans 11:25-36 Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah 14:16-21.

    The “time of the end” ends with Daniel 11:40-45. This is not how Nero ended… agreed? So Nero was not the anti-Christ.
    Doesn’t making Jesus appear in Daniel 9:27, having a literal 3 1/2 year ministry, necessitate a literal “end” 3 1/2 years after His death and resurrection?

    Linking 9:27 and 11:21-45 based on the phrase the “time of the end” and the description of this 7 year period of time as being at the end according to the revelation of “weeks” given to Daniel.

    We are the temple but there is also a literal temple necessary for someone to stand in it. Obviously the literal, spiritual, thing is where we diverge.

    Matthew 8:10-12 is a very good passage because it shows how this is all one book with one message,( that man has thrown an old and new designation on.) When in history has a resurrected Abraham Isaac and Jacob sat at table with new believers in the kingdom of heaven??

    Romans 4:12,16 are two occurrences of the phrase, “not only” that to me would make clear that the promises to Israel, the Hebrew people are still in effect, and since there are many that have never been fulfilled, I must think that they are still to come.

    Thank you for continuing this discussion, to me these things matter a lot and are worth taking time for.

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    • “The word “antichrist” doesn’t appear in the book of Daniel, by the way. Nor is there any clear indication that the prophecies of Daniel 9 are in any way speaking of the same persons spoken of in Daniel 11:21-45. On what basis do you link Daniel 9 and Daniel 11 together in that way?”

      Paul seems to be talking about the antichrist in 2Thes. 2:3,4. The event Paul is speaking of here, seems to me to be the “abomination of desolation” so that is where I connect the antichrist to Daniel.

      This section of Daniel is all one answer of Gabriel, to Daniel’s questions about the end times, so I see a mention and then a more detailed mention in 9:27 and 11:21-45. 9:27 mentions the abomination of desolation and then in the middle of 11:21-45 is the specific mention again of the abomination of desolation, therefore the scripture (11:31,32) seems to link these two events and the man who is perpetrating them.

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