The (protestant) Bible is a library of 66 books divided into Old Testament and New Testament books. The Old Testament has a total of 39 books while the New Testament has a total of 27 books. These books have different themes, were written by different authors, and are therefore of different sizes. Some are so huge that they are subdivided into sections (e.g. the Book of Pslams), while others are just one chapter long.
Shortest Book of the Bible
The shortest book of the Bible is 3 John. This book has only 215 words that are contained in its 15 verses. The only other book that has fewer verses is 2 John but since it has a higher word count, 3 John still remains the shortest book of the Bible.
Two Approaches to Finding the Shortest Book
The Bible has a total of 5 books that have only 1 chapter. This makes them the shortest books in the Bible. To know which of these five is the shortest, we will have to take two approaches. The easier approach would be to count the number of verses of the 5 shortest books and then compare them to see how they stack up. This approach would yield the following results;
|Number of verses
So, assuming we are using the number of verses to judge the size of the book, then we can conclude that the shortest book in the Bible is 2 jhn which has 13 verses, followed by 3 John and 15 verses. Obadiah would then be the third largest at 21 verses while Philemon and Jude would tie at 25 verses each.
However, the problem with using this approach is that it does not consider the different lengths of the respective verses. It is possible that one book might have fewer verses and yet have more words and vice versa. So, a more accurate approach is to count the number of verses. However, this introduces another complexity – different Bible translations have different numbers of words for the same verse. For instance, the amplified and message translations are typically more words than other translations. To avoid these discrepancies, we will have to count the number of words used in the original language (Hebrew and Greek). By using this approach, the shortest books of the Bible in order are summarised below:
|Number of words
We can therefore authoritatively state that the shortest book in the Bible is 3 John. Let us take a close look at this book.
Just like the first two epistles, the 3rd epistle of John was written by the Apostle John, who was also described as the beloved disciple of Jesus. Even though he only identifies himself in the book as the elder (3 John 1), we know that he was one of the influential leaders of the early church and he also authored the gospel of John as well as the book of Revelation. Bible scholars believe that John wrote this epistle when he was nearing the end of his life. This epistle was therefore written when John was on Patmos Island where he was exiled (and also where he wrote the book of Revelation).
Apostle John wrote the book to Gaius, a leader of one of the churches in Asia Minor. John had just learned that the church was going through some tribulations that were caused by Diotrephes and so John wrote the book as a way of instructing Gaius and the church on how to deal with the challenge. It is worth noting that all three epistles of John have one overarching theme – fellowship. In the first epistle, he focuses on fellowship with God. In the second, he focuses on fellowship with enemies. However, in the third Epistle, John zeros down on fellowship with the proclaimers of the truth. For instance, John encourages Gaius to welcome missionaries who traveled around preaching the gospel. He encourages him to be hospitable to them when they come through his region and then to send them off in a worthy manner.
They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. 3 John 1:6
John was not oblivious of the troubles that had come to Asia Minor. Diotrephes had taken charge of one of the churches and he used his power to impose a ban on traveling missionaries. At some point, the Christians had noticed his leadership qualities and they therefore put him in charge. However, power quickly got into his head and he demonstrated it by refusing to welcome any traveling missionary to the church. John had tried correcting him but the correction had fallen on deaf ears.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 3 John 1:9
It was as a result of this troubling development that John was compelled to write his third epistle. In the epistle, John commended the disciples who were holding fast to the truth and he encouraged them to continue doing so with an attitude of love. John had received the good report that some of the believers were treating each other in love and he wrote the book to encourage them to keep on in the good spirit. He encouraged them to extend the same courtesy and love to the traveling ministers who were looking forward to visiting the region.
To wrap it up, the shortest book of the bible by number of words is 3 John. However, if you were to use the number of verses to calculate, then the shortest one would be 2 John. Even though the book is the shortest, it has a message that will transform anyone who studies it. In a nutshell, it teaches the importance of demonstrating God’s love, especially to those who proclaim the gospel.