Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to common questions.

Why Isaiah?

While it's hard to know exactly why Isaiah sets the order for all the books, some interesting observations have been made about the importance of Isaiah to the rest of the Bible. What Bible commentators say

Various Bible commentators have called Isaiah a miniature Bible. The one-paragraph introduction to the book of Isaiah in the Reference Edition of the New King James Version, published by Thomas Nelson, begins by saying "Isaiah is like a miniature Bible." The notion is right even if shallow when one considers that Isaiah may well be the key for correctly structuring the Bible. The authorship debate

The authorship of Isaiah debate also points to the idea that Isaiah is somehow like a miniature Bible. To summarize the debate, one side says the prophet Isaiah wrote the whole book while the other side says there's a dramatic tone change from Isaiah 40 to the end of the book and therefore the book of Isaiah must be the work of at least two different authors with vastly different outlooks.

Aside from the question of how many people were employed to write the book of Isaiah, the observation that there's a radical tone change starting at Isaiah chapter 40 reinforces the idea that Isaiah relates to the whole of the Bible in a special way. In the Bible there's a radical tone change at book 40, concurrent with the start of the New Testament. The Dead Sea Scrolls discovery

Another witness of Isaiah's relationship to the rest of the Bible comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery in the middle of the 20th century. Of the 200 biblical manuscripts that came out of the caves at Qumran, only the Isaiah scroll was whole.

With the discovery of the Qumran Isaiah, scholars have been able to compare it's differences with the next oldest copies of the Hebrew scriptures, which are more than a thousand years newer. While this sort of textual comparison is important it doesn't explain why Isaiah was preserved intact instead of, say, Jeremiah, which is actually a longer book and might provide more fodder for textual and language studies.

The reason appears to be that Isaiah is the role call sheet for sacred writings and their arrangement. By preserving Isaiah Jesus is really pointing at the entire set of documents that matter, the 66 books of the modern Bible.

Are chapter numbers reliable for establishing the book order?

Yes and no.

The first clue that Isaiah might somehow be matching content from each book came as a result of knowing that Isaiah has 66 chapters and the Bible 66 books. Using the chapter breaks as given was also sufficient for the first pass through Isaiah and discovery of the new book order.

However, it's become increasingly clear that Isaiah's correlations with stories in the books do not always follow chapter breaks. As a result I've begun to refer to "passages" of Isaiah instead of "chapters" where the passages usually overlap the chapters. This allows me to live with badly placed chapter breaks, but still find the best correlations between Isaiah and the Bible. When I did finally allow myself to think outside the chapter divisions a number of problem spots at the beginning or end of chapters suddenly made sense one book away from where I had been looking. So the chapter breaks cannot be trusted if the work of understanding Isaiah to the bottom is to be accomplished.

Is this a chronological Bible?

Arranging the books of the Bible into Isaiah's book order does not make the resulting Bible a Chronological Bible anymore than the Tanak or Greek arrangement of the books makes those Bibles Chronological Bibles.

That said Isaiah's book order is as chronological or more so, than the traditional book order. Isaiah's arrangement of the Epistles follows Paul's travel itinerary in the book of Acts. That doesn't necessarily mean those books were written in that order in history (though it might unless we can disprove it), but it means they are to be thought through in that order when studying the New Testament, and because they follow the narrative in Acts it's easy to do some parallel reading, way easier than in traditional or Chronological Bible arrangements.

In the Old Testament one difference between Isaiah and the traditional book order is that Isaiah pulls Ruth from behind Judges and puts it behind Proverbs, which is itself a profound gain in understanding when you look at how Proverbs-Ruth work together. You'll not want Ruth following Judges when you've studied it relative to Proverbs. A strict time based arrangement like that used in Chronological Bibles would want Ruth following, or inside, the book of Judges, but that's clearly less valuable than placing it after Proverbs and reading those books sequentially.

What that tells me is that a strict linear arrangement of Bible content is not always the way to go. It's more or less the way the first eleven books work, but it's not the rule everywhere. In fact, it's not really possible everywhere because of the great amount of time overlap. For instance, where do the Psalms go relative to David's story. You can probably, mostly, splice David's stories from Samuel and Chronicles, but you simply cannot know when the Psalms were written, or always who they were written by for that matter.

Why are there numbers in front of the book names?

The addition of numbers to the books reinforces a sense of order. If there's no order to the books then there is no reason to number them sequentially, but with the books in order it makes perfect sense to number them.

Books are also easier to remember by their number since the human brain naturally works well with numbers. Have you ever memorized a short grocery list by first counting how many items are in the list? If so you understand the inherent value of numbering something you want to be able to remember. Sixty-six books may seem like a long list, but they have names, so think about each of them as a friend or acquaintance you want to know better.

Another practical advantage is that Bibles printed in this order, with the number and name of each book in the header, make it easy for people to turn to the same book, even short, lesser known, books. Imagine asking a room of fairly seasoned Bible readers to turn with you to the book of Nahum. Everyone will make it okay, but it might take a little while. Now imagine a room of Bible novices who have a book order Bible and are asked to turn to book 35. Without ever having been there before, they just flip to it using the numbers at the top of the page, and more than likely, do so faster than the first group.

Why is the book of James called Jacob?

Jacob is the correct name for the book and the several individuals in the New Testament commonly known as James. This fact is substantiated by simply consulting an original language concordance or interlinear or published text of the Greek or Aramaic New Testament. Both the Aramaic and Greek show the name Jacob, or more precisely, Yakob, exclusively.

Though switching James back to Jacob is the technically correct answer, one may wonder if this change is worthwhile given that Bible readers for the last few centuries are familiar with the name James. Many modern translations aimed at the masses did not make this fix, presumably to avoid confusing their readers or damaging anyone's trust of prior translations. The problem with just ignoring the correct answer because of tradition turns out not to be so much a problem of translation as a problem of broken algebra.

The Bible has many terms that work together to tell a story. Like algebra, if some of those terms are missing, or appear missing because they have been changed, the formula breaks and the story suddenly is not whole. Worse yet, the Bible is less coherent and more difficult to understand.

Defining "Jacob" as an algebraic term begins with the patriarch Jacob in Genesis. After having 12 sons God changes his name to Israel. In time those sons become the 12 tribes of Israel. This is the basic story and thus anywhere Jacob shows up in the algebra it should relate, in some way, to this basic narrative. So appearances of someone named Jacob in the New Testament should be seen through this lense. No where is this more obvious then at the beginning of the book of Jacob.

1Jacob, a servant of god FA and of our master Joshua the anointed, Jacob 1:1aTo the 12 tribes which are scattered among the peoples: H 2 Kings 18:11-12 Jacob 1:1bGreetings. Jacob 1:1c (Jacob 1:1 BRB)

The Jacob writing this letter is clearly not the Jacob of Genesis. This letter is written nearly 2000 years after the Jacob of Genesis. However, it is addressed to the 12 tribes, something that fits the algebra. The inference the reader naturally makes is that this Jacob is somehow like the Jacob of Genesis. They're both named Jacob and they both deal with the 12 sons/tribes.

The algebra goes further. The Jacob who writes can be shown via other Scripture to be the brother of Jesus. So Jesus' relationship to the 12 tribes is akin to Jacob's as a father because as brothers Jesus and Jacob are peers. Jacob is also a key leader in the early church. One might say, a father in the early church. So NT Jacob is to the church like OT Jacob is to the sons/tribes. There's a connection between the tribes and the church. The algebra continues, but the final answer is not as important as understanding that when the terms are changed solving the formula is somewhere between really hard and impossible.

To fix the algebra one of two paths are possible. Either finish changing occurrences of Jacob to James. This would mean the Jacob of Genesis and the Old Testament would now be James. It would mean outrage from some, understandably, but at least the Bible's algebra would be whole concerning this term. The alternative is to hit the UNDO button on the last few centuries and change James back to Jacob. This fixes the algebra and has less impact on the whole of the Bible since there are far fewer references to James then Jacob. This also pulls the English closer to the original languages, which really is important. If more care had been taken in previous centuries to translate as accurately as possible this fix would not be necessary.