Spoiler alert: the shortest book of the Bible is 3 John, just about 200 words long in its original Greek language.
But good news! Not every book of the Bible is so long. It has some tiny documents in it. In fact, the shortest books of the Bible are shorter than this blog post.
The shortest books of the Bible
Here are the five shortest books of the Bible, beginning with the very shortest. These measurements are by words in the original languages. Each of these books is only one chapter long, and would take you a few minutes to read, tops:
- Third John (219 words)
- Second John (245 words)
- Philemon (335 words)
- Obadiah (440 words)
- Jude (461 words)
I got these word counts using Word Lists in Logos Bible Software. Again, these aren’t listed by English word count: this is from the underlying Greek and Hebrew.
“That’s a lot of work, dude! Why not just count the verses?”
Because verses vary in length, and with such brief books, it’s best not to risk it. And if we were going by verse count, we’d be dealing with a different ordered list. Philemon has more verses than Obadiah (the shortest book in the Old Testament), but fewer words. Second John has fewer verses than Third John, but more words. If we were going by verse count, we’d still know the shortest books of the Bible, but we’d have them out of order.
The Beginner’s Guide to the Bible gives you an overview of what the Bible is, what it’s for, and what it’s all about. It explores how each of the Bible’s 66 books fit into the big picture, and you’ll walk away with enough knowledge to have a thoughtful conversation about the Bible with a pastor, an atheist, or anyone else.
Contrast that with the longest books
Here’s an infographic comparing the shortest books of the Bible to the longest books of the Bible.
Read these books front-to-back
One of the best habits to form when studying the Bible is to read the entire book you’re working through within one sitting. It’s certainly helped me with this project.
Andy Naselli wrote a nice bit on this at the Desiring God blog:
He’s right. The Bible’s made up of letters and stories and oracles, but we tend to treat it more like a reference guide. Maybe that’s because the Bible’s so big—really, where are you going to find the time to read 150 Psalms?
Reading entire books of the Bible at once can be a tough habit to get into, but starting with some of the shortest books of the Bible might help you get the hang of it.
In fact, here’s a challenge: set a timer for 15 minutes and read all five of these books. Not only will you have read five books in one sitting, but you’ll be able to say you read Obadiah—how many people do you know who can say that? (Probably not many … it’s the least popular book of the Bible.)
Get the infographic
Here’s a link to the printable PDF. You can save it for future reference or send it straight to the printer.
What about the other books of the Bible?
So you know the shortest five books of the Bible (and the longest five, from that infographic). But what about the other 59 books in the middle? How do they line up?
Well, here’s every book of the Bible, lined up from shortest to longest, with word counts. I’ve linked each book to a brief summary that I’ve written.
|23||Song of Solomon||2,020|