The historical books are a division of Christian Bibles, grouping 12 (or in some denominations more) books of the Old Testament.[1][page needed] It includes the Former Prophets from the Nevi'im and two of the ungrouped books of Ketuvim of the Hebrew Bible together with the Book of Ruth and the Book of Esther which in the Hebrew are both found in the Five Megillot.[1][page needed] These 12 books make up the historical books in the Protestant Bible, but several other books not found in the Hebrew Bible are also included in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles (see the list below for details).


The sequence of books that have been categorised by Christians as "the historical books" is based on the Septuagint (LXX, also known as "Greek Old Testament") rather than on the Hebrew Bible, which has a different order.[1]: ix  Branick (2011) stated: 'The grouping seems to be based on the narrative character of all the books, some describing the major events in the history of Israel, others describing characters set in that history. This is the sequence more or less found in Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Bibles.'[1]: ix 

The 4th-century Christian bishop Athanasius of Alexandria was the first to label this collection of biblical books as "histories".[2] This term is misleading for three reasons:

  1. The books are not 'historical' in the modern sense of the word, namely attempting to describe events "as they really were". In pre-modern times, 'histories' were generally written for didactic purposes (teaching readers how to live good lives), to justify a king's actions or to prove he fulfilled his royal duties (official histories/biographies), or written with various religious or ideological goals in mind.[2]
  2. The books cover a wide range of genres beyond just 'history' (in its pre-modern sense).[2]
  3. There are several books (such as parts of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, the opening of Deuteronomy, and some Psalms including 78, 105, 106, 107) similar to some in this grouping of "Historical Books" in the sense that they contain narratives about the past, but they are found in different sections of the Bible.[2]

The books provide a collection of stories about the Israelites spanning nearly a millennium, from their conquest of Canaan until the return to Zion in 539 BCE. The historical books tell of the entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land after The Exodus, the leadership of the biblical judges, the establishment of the United Monarchy and its subsequent division into the northern Kingdom of Israel and southern Kingdom of Judah, and the Babylonian captivity.[3][4] Modern scholars think that what reliable material can be found in these books of the Bible describes a period from the late second millennium to the 4th century BCE, often written down long after the alleged events, and edited several times. In addition, they warn that it is important to try to distinguish fact from fiction and that the term 'historical books' should be taken with a grain of salt.[2]: 313 


The historical books of the main Christian canons are as follows:[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Vincent P. Branick (2011). Understanding the Historical Books of the Old Testament. Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0809147281.
  2. ^ a b c d e Coogan, Michael D., ed. (2007). The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books: New Revised Standard Version. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 309, 455. ISBN 9780195288803. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  3. ^ - 4. The Historical Books
  4. ^ Learn Religions - Historical Books
  5. ^ Introduction to the Historical Books: Strategies for Reading - In Search of the Historical Books