I recently wrote about why Obadiah is the least popular book of the Bible, but you guys deserve more than that. You’ve seen the 10 most popular books of the Bible, now let’s look at the 10 least popular books of the Bible.
(For the purposes of this post, “least popular” = “least-read book of the Bible on BibleGateway.com”.)
Before I get into that, I think BibleGateway.com deserves a huge shoutout. Jonathan and the BibleGateway.com team have been super helpful to me. Without their data on popular books and verses, I wouldn’t have these kinds of posts.
OK: let’s get into this. Infographic first, and a little commentary afterward.
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<p><a href="http://overviewbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/least-popular-books-of-the-bible.infographic.png"><img src="http://overviewbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/least-popular-books-of-the-bible.infographic.png" alt="Infographic: least popular books of the Bible" target="_blank" /></a></p>
Surprise, right? I thought this one would get a lot more attention. We’ve all heard the story of Jonah before. But it turns out Jonah is the 10th least popular book of the Bible.
God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah takes a boat ride in the opposite direction, and ends up in the belly of a great fish.
When the fish spits Jonah up, Jonah goes to Nineveh, but his heart still isn’t in the right place.
OK, now we’re into the more obscure territory. Joel is the 9th least popular book of the Bible.
The prophet Joel spends a good amount of his time talking about a recent plague of locusts. The bugs have wiped out all Judah’s crops.
So Joel explains that the day of the Lord is upon Judah: God is judging His people. Oh, and He’s got a lot more in mind for the world, including judging the nations, restoring Jerusalem, and pouring out the Holy Spirit on people.
The epistle of Jude is the 8th least popular book of the Bible. This punchy, one-chapter letter comes right before the book of Revelation in your Bible.
Jude (whose brother wrote the book of James) wanted to write about salvation, but there’s something more pressing to deal with.
Unbelievers have crept into the church, spreading false teaching about Jesus and the grace of God (Jud 3–4). Jude describes the threat, and then encourages the church to contend earnestly for the faith.
This might just be the hardest book of the Bible to remember. As a kid, I remembered it as that other “Z book” (the one that isn’t Zechariah). No surprise that it’s the 7th least popular book of the Bible, right?
The prophet Zephaniah starts his message with a bang: God says He will “remove everything from the face of the earth” (Zep 1:2). But there’s more to this book than the end of the world. God also promises to restore all things, too.
Philemon is the only Pauline epistle on this list. It’s a shame more people aren’t reading this letter: it shines a rather convicting light on relationship conflict between believers.
Here’s the back story. A Christian leader named Philemon owns a non-Christian slave named Onesimus. Onesimus runs away (and presumably harms Philemon in the process). Onesimus somehow meets Paul, becomes a Christian, and helps Paul with his ministry.
But when Paul learns Onesimus’ story, Paul sends him back to Philemon with a letter urging the former slave owner to accept Onesimus—not as a slave, but as a brother.
The book of Philemon is that letter. It’s a powerful story, which is why I was surprised to learn it is the 5th least popular book of the Bible.
After 70 years in captivity, the Jews were sent back home to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. They laid a new foundation, but when the other nations raised a fuss, the Jews quit construction and focused on building their own houses.
That was a dumb move—and God isn’t happy with them about it. So the prophet Haggai rallies the Jews to finish the temple. His story is the 4th least popular book of the Bible.
A rogue church leader is condemning Christians who show hospitality to the saints. John writes a quick note to Gaius, a man in that church, encouraging him to continue in what is good.
John writes a quick note to a “chosen lady and her children,” encouraging them to walk in truth, love, and obedience. He also promises to make a visit soon.
This book is intense: God pretty much tells Nineveh that it’s all over. They’ve harmed Israel enough, and now He’s going to punish the Assyrian city.
It’s a pretty brutal book, which is probably why it’s the second least popular book of the Bible.
A one-chapter discourse against the little nation of Edom. The Edomites of Mt. Seir sided against Judah (probably when the Babylonians invaded), and they should have known better. God warns them that Edom’s judgment is coming. He also promises to restore Mt. Zion and institute a righteous kingdom.
You might want to check out the full post on why Obadiah is the least popular book of the Bible.
A few observations
When I went through the 10 least popular books of the Bible, I kept an eye out for any common threads. I’m sure there are more than these, but here are a few that really stand out.
#1 They’re all short
Jonah is the longest of these books. And all five of the shortest books of the Bible made this list. That’s no coincidence.
I touched on this in my write-up on Obadiah. The shorter a book is, the less there is for people to read, the less there is for people to reference, and the less there is for people to remember.
Of course, this data isn’t perfect. If we divided the number of hits by number of words in each book of the Bible, our results might end up a little differently. But then we’d probably still have some skews.
Maybe someday I’ll partner with a few organizations to do a survey, then update the results!
#2 Minor prophets
Six of these books are in the Minor Prophets section of the Old Testament. There are a few reasons people don’t turn here very often:
- The context is difficult for some: these make a lot more sense if you’re at least mildly familiar with the divided kingdom, the captivity periods, and all that ancient Israel history stuff.
- Some of the passages dealing with God’s wrath are understandably difficult. God gets straight up mad in some of these books, and that doesn’t make for easy devotional reading.
- These books are tough to pronounce and spell.
#3 Lack of narratives
With the exceptions of Jonah and Haggai, these books are either prophetic oracles or letters. People tend to like stories, and that makes reading John’s pep talk to Gaius a little less drawing than, say, the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew.
So I guess it’s understandable that these books don’t get as much love. But if you’re still reading this, there’s a good chance you’re the kind of person who will check these out.
Go for it!
Also, it should go without saying that you should get to know all 66 books of the Bible, too. =)
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