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Welcome to the first installment of PBTB, “Pete’s Bible Trivia Bonanza.” For no other reason than just because.

And with that, prepare to have your life changed.

Did you know the longest book of the Old Testament is Jeremiah?

Yes indeed—if you’re counting words (not verses or chapters), namely Hebrew words. Jeremiah has 33,002 words, with Genesis coming a close second with 32,046.

If you had guessed Psalms you would have opened yourself up for public shaming for not being a “serious Bible student.” Though having the most number of chapters (150), Psalms is third with 30,147. Isaiah, though 66 chapters long, is a distant sixth (25,608).

The medieval Jewish scribes (Masoretes) who copied the biblical manuscripts were kind enough to give us a total verse count at the very end for each book of the Old Testament (called masorah finalis). According to these ancient scribes, Psalms is way out in front (2,527), with Genesis in second place (1,533) and Jeremiah third (1,364)—not that it’s a competition. But true length is really judged by the number of words, so Jeremiah (which also happens to be one of the more non-uplifting books of the Old Testament) is our winner.

Now that we’re all caught up in the excitement . . .

Did you know the shortest book of the Old Testament is Obadiah?

This little guy has 440 words and a mere 21 verses.

And Pete, how about the longest and shortest New Testament books?

Here again we go by word count in the original language (Greek), and Luke is the winner with 19,482 with his second volume, the book of Acts, following close behind with 18,450. That total (37,932) is more than all of Paul’s letters combined (32,408)—and I even counted the disputed letters (letters he probably didn’t write).

Moral of the story: if you want to read a Gospel, read Mark (11,304). (FYI, John comes in at 15,635 and Matthew at a lumpy 18,346.)

The three shortest books of the New Testament are Philemon (335), 2 John (245), and 3 John (219). Something to think about if you want to brag in church about “reading a whole book of the Bible this morning.”

The next installment of PBTB will be—if this is even possible—more exciting than this one. (For the time being, look for PBTB every week or so.)

[My source for word count statistics is Overview Bible, which lays it all out for you. I got the Old Testament verse counts from either the masorah finalis.]

This blog was first posted in October 2016.

***If you want to read books of mine that contain no trivia whatsoever, here are some: How the Bible Actually Works (HarperOne, 2019), The Bible Tells Me So (HarperOne, 2014),  Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker 2005/2015), The Sin of Certainty (HarperOne, 2016), and The Evolution of Adam (Baker, 2012).***

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.