While there are many versions and variations of the Bible, the original King James version contains 783,137 words. In a standard print format, the Bible is well over 1,000 pages.
The Bible is essentially made up of smaller books, written by a number of different authors. Depending on the version, there are somewhere between 66 and 81 books contained in the Bible.
Of those books, some are very small. If you ask “what is the shortest book in the bible”? The answer is Third John. In this article, we’ll take a look at Third John as well as some of the other books that make the short list.
1. Third John – 219 words
In Third John, the apostle identifies as “the elder.” He does not tell us his name and he does the same in Second John as well.
In this book, he is nearing the end of his life when Jesus calls him and his brothers from the fishing boat. According to Matthew 4:21-22 the younger boys had left their life and father to follow Jesus.
A little farther up the shore, he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Even though James was the first of the disciples to die for his faith, John referred to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”
2. Second John – 245 words
In this book, John again identifies himself as “elder” rather than by name.
Much debate surrounds who the author of this book might be due to the debate over John the Elder being a different individual than the apostle John. Many also ponder whether or not John referred to himself as an apostle.
Church tradition follows the belief that John 2 and 3 were written by the apostle and not the mysterious elder.
John begins the book by proclaiming his love for the chosen lady and her children. He finds joy in seeing the believers of Christ following His teachings and he speaks of their love for one another as a reference to Jesus’s commandment to love God and your neighbor.
In other words, this book teaches us that we need to love one another but also be cautious about who we love because we cannot love deceivers and false prophets.
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-39
3. Philemon – 335 words
In the third shortest book of the Bible, Paul was on his third successful mission in Asia to the people of Ephesus.
One of the many people Paul taught was Philemon. Philemon was a slave owner from the nearby city and he converted through Paul’s teaching. Paul addresses Philemon as his “beloved brother.”
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker — also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philemon 1:1-3
Paul’s message was based on work, love, and forgiveness because that is what he has been shown by God. His message hit Philemon especially hard when he requested that Philemon forgive Onesimus and accept the slave as a brother in Christ. Onesimus committed a grave sin but Philemon was still required to forgive him.
I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul! – Philemon 1:19
The message of this book is that forgiveness does not come easily but the saving act of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross shows that we must forgive even when it seems impossible.
4. Obadiah – 440 words
This is the shortest book of the Old Testament, but no less rich in valuable content. Though the name Obadiah appears in scripture a dozen times or more, it is unclear if he is the author of this book.
The majority of this book discusses judgment on Edom which makes this one of the three books pronouncing judgment on other nations.
The book helps us realize a harsh truth, one that is about our relationship with God. It teaches us that when we remove ourselves from God’s presence, it’s the end of our life with Him. We lose out on that eternal grace and come to a point of eternal damnation.
You have been deceived by your own pride because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’ you ask boastfully. – Obadiah 1:3
We cannot live in a self-serving manner but should instead focus on the needs of others and the needs of God.
5. Jude – 461 words
This book takes its name from its author, Jude, who is identified as the brother of the more readily recognized Biblical figure, James.
Jude did not put faith in Jesus while the Lord was living, instead, the crucifixion and resurrection led him to become a follower of his half-brother.
His book, consisting of 25 verses, is a letter to the churches of the time warning them about following false teachers.
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. – Jude 1:3-4
Though short on words, these five shortest books of the Bible are no less significant in their contribution. Within these brief books we can find a lot of valuable information and lessons that are applicable to our lives.