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The Table of Contents: How St. Jerome Arranged the Books of the Bible

An online devotional for writers

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

A Word From The Word

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true. (2 Timothy 3:16, NLT)

A Word For Writers

A table of contents (TOC) lists sections and chapters at the beginning of a book or (other piece of writing) to guide the reader to where he needs to be.

The Table of Contents: a #devotional for writers based on 2 Tim 3:16 with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #WritingABook

Today, writers can use software to create a table of contents. But before technology came on the scene, someone had to create the first TOC for the Bible.

That assignment fell to Saint Jerome, a Latin priest and scholar, when Pope Damasus I asked him produce one standard text of the Bible.

The task of translating and organizing took 23 years (382-405 AD). In the process, Jerome arranged the Bible’s 66 books into the Old and New Testaments – a  chronological choice of “before Jesus” and “after Jesus.”

Then, Jerome organized those two sections by genre.

Old Testament

  • The Law
  • History (the story of the Jewish people)
  • Poetry/Wisdom
  • Prophecy (major prophets, minor prophets)

New Testament

  • History (the story of Jesus; the story of the early church)
  • Letters (Paul’s letters; other letters)
  • Prophecy

Within each of those genres, Jerome organized the content in different ways. For instance, the Old Testament books of history are arranged chronologically. The New Testament letters are arranged by author. The Old Testament prophets are arranged by length (major prophets, then minor prophets.)

Thanks to St. Jerome’s table of contents, we can learn a lesson about organizing content for our own TOCs. The method you use to organize your table of content matters less than the fact that you create one.

A Wise Word

A table of contents can be organized different ways, depending upon the project.

A Word To Pray

Gracious Father,

Thank you for organizing Your Word. It is arranged so that I can study it. As I write, give me wisdom to arrange my content in a way that guides the reader where he needs to be.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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