“Old Testament in Verse (The Books of the Bible)”


"In Genesis the world was made, In Exodus the march is told, Leviticus contains the law, In Numbers are the tribes enrolled." And so on to "...And Malachi of John his sign, The Prophets number seventeen And all the books are thirty-nine."


In general the summaries in this song are accurate, though it is very clearly Protestant Christian -- the Catholics, e.g., add assorted deuterocanonical books to the Old Testament.

The Jewish canon contains the same books as the Protestant, but organize them differently. The number of books is not 39, but 24 (or 22): 5 books of the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy), eight of the Prophets (Former Prophets=Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings; Later Prophets=Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve), and the rest, with some reorganization, form the Writings (note that Daniel is not one of the Prophets).

The texts in Pankake are NOT the same song as in Randolph, but they are so thematically close (and so unlikely to be looked up separately) that I just decided to lump them in here. Their two texts simply list the books of the Bible in order -- both in the Protestant order of the King James Bible (a traditional Greek Bible would put the "Catholic Epistles" of James through Jude with Acts, and might place Hebrews after 2 Thessalonians rather than Philemon).

A third anonymous poem on this general theme, "Names and Orders of the Books of the Old Testament," is found on pp. 602-603 of Hazel Felleman's _The Best Loved Poems of the American People_.

The greatest myster of all may be the relationship between the Randolph text and the NLScotland broadside. They have very many common lyrics, but the Randolph text is in short lines and the Scottish version in long. A rewrite seems likely, but how it proceeded is unclear at best.- RBW


  • NLScotland, RB.m.143(073), "The Books of the Bible: A Literary Curiosity" ("In Genesis the world was made by God's creative hand"), Poet's Box (Dundee), n.d.


  1. Randolph 875, "The Books of the Bible" (1 fragment)
  2. Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 204, "Books of the Old Testament"; p. 205, "Books of the New Testament" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  3. Roud #7540
  4. BI, R875


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1923 (Randolph)
Keywords: Bible nonballad
Found in: US(So)