What is the shortest book in the Bible? 5 contenders by word count

What is the shortest book in the Bible? 5 contenders by word count

The Bible is the main book of the Christian faith, a collection of several books with Christian teachings, stories, and history. Although many people are conversant with several books of the Bible, most do not know which is the shortest among them. The books have varied lengths, and perhaps you might have wondered: what is the shortest book in the Bible?

A black Holy Bible on a white surface (L). A collection of Bibles on a bookshelf (R)
A black Holy Bible on a white surface (L). A collection of Bibles on a bookshelf (R). Photo: Peter Dazeley, Fred de Noyelle (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

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The Bible has different books depending on the canon you are focusing on. For instance, the Catholic Church canon has 73 books, Protestant denominations have 66 books, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church canon has 81 books. The books have varying lengths and volumes determined by number of words, verses, and chapters. So, what is the shortest book in the Bible?

What is the shortest book in the Bible?

You have probably read several books of the Bible, but have you ever wondered which is the shortest? Knowing the shortest can be challenging because you may have to consider the word count, verses, or chapters. It can further be complicated since the Bible has been translated into several languages, significantly altering the word count.

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However, to determine the shortest book, the word count should be determined using the original languages of the Bible. The original language of the Old Testament is Hebrew, while the original language of the New Testament is Greek. Here are the five shortest books of the Bible based on the word count in their original language.

3 John

This book was originally written in Greek and is the shortest in the Bible, at approximately 219 words. It is in the New Testament.

2 John

This is the second-shortest among the Bible books. It was originally written in Greek and has approximately 245 words. It is a book of the New Testament.

Philemon

Philemon comes third at approximately 335 words. This New Testament book was originally written in Greek.

Obadiah

Obadiah is the fourth shortest book of the Bible. It is found in the Old Testament and was originally written in Hebrew. It has approximately 440 words.

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Jude

The Book of Jude is the fifth shortest, with an estimated word count of 461. It was written in Greek and is from the New Testament.

Shortest book in the Bible by verses

A man reading the Bible
A young man reading the Bible in his home. Photo: Andreswd
Source: Getty Images

Each book of the Bible is divided into chapters, which are made of verses. If you consider verses in determining the shortest book of the Bible, the arrangement per word count is different. Therefore, it does not necessarily mean that the book with the least words is the shortest regarding verses. Here are the five shortest Bible books by verses.

  1. 2 John: It has 13 verses. It is an epistle dedicated to the elect lady and her children. It discusses the importance of truth and love and warns against false teaching.
  2. 3 John: It has 15 verses. It is a personal letter from Apostle John to Gaius acknowledging and applauding his hospitality while warning against Diotrephes's adverse influences.
  3. Obadiah: It has 21 verses. It is one of the prophetic books of the Old Testament, and it discusses the judgment of Edom and the restoration of Israel.
  4. Philemon: It has 25 verses. This epistle from Paul to Philemon urges him to forgive and have mercy on Onesimus, his brother in Christ and his runaway slave.
  5. Jude: It has 25 verses. The Book of Jude cautions against false teachers, encourages Christians to contend for the faith, and emphasises perseverance and holiness.

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Shortest book in the Bible by chapters

While most books of the Bible have multiple chapters, only five have single chapters, making them the shortest books by chapters. The single-chapter books of the Bible are 2 John, 3 John, Obadiah, Philemon, and Jude.

What is the shortest gospel book?

A person reading the Bible while pointing to the text with their finger
A person reading the Bible while pointing the words with their finger. Photo: Manusapon Kasosod
Source: Getty Images

The Bible has four gospel books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are among the most holy texts for Christians because they detail the life and times of Jesus Christ. The gospel books vary in length by chapters and words. Here is their arrangement, starting with the shortest.

  1. Mark: It is the shortest gospel book, with approximately 16 chapters and 11,304 words in Greek. It is usually considered the earliest written gospel. It focuses on Jesus' actions, portraying his role as a servant and the urgency of his mission.
  2. John: It is the second-shortest book of the gospel, with 21 chapters and approximately 15,635 words. This book is quite different from other gospel books as it focuses on Jesus Christ's spiritual and theological aspects.
  3. Matthew: It is the third-shortest book of the gospel, with 28 chapters and about 18,345 words. The book portrays Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesies. It has several teachings, including the Sermon on the Mount.
  4. Luke: It is the longest book of the gospel, with 24 chapters and approximately 19,482 words. It delves into Jesus Christ’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection, emphasising love and outreach to gentiles and marginalised people.

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Is 3 John the shortest book in the Bible?

3 John is the shortest book in the Bible by words. It is a New Testament book originally written in Greek and has approximately 219 words. However, it is the second-shortest book by verses. It has 15 verses, coming second after 2 John, with 13 verses.

Is Obadiah the shortest book in the Bible?

Obadiah is among the shortest books in the Bible, but not the shortest. It is the fourth-shortest book, with approximately 440 words, and the third-shortest by verses, with 21 verses.

Is Ruth the shortest book in the Bible?

Ruth is the eighth book in the Old Testament and one of the shortest, but not the shortest. It has four chapters with approximately 2,039 words.

What is the shortest verse in the Bible?

The shortest Bible verse is found in the New Testament in the Book of John, chapter 11, verse 35. It has two words: Jesus wept.

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What is the shortest book in the Bible? 3 John is the shortest book in the Bible by words, with about 219 words, but 2 John is the shortest book by verses, with 13 verses. They are also the shortest books of the New Testament written in Greek. The Book of Obadiah, with 21 chapters and 440 words, is the shortest book of the Old Testament, written in Hebrew.

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Muhunya Muhonji (Lifestyle writer) Muhunya has been a writer for more than three years. He graduated from Egerton University in 2014 with a degree in Agricultural Economics. He is also a certified public accountant and tax expert. Muhunya joined Legit.ng in July 2021 and writes about various topics such as entertainment, technology, business, and biographies. In 2023, Muhunya finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. In March 2024, he completed the Google News Initiative course. Email: muhunyah@gmail.com