Before we look at the answer to this question, it’s worth remembering that the names of the books of the Bible  aren’t necessarily inspired, although they are convenient (like the addition of chapter and verse numbers1).

A lot of the books of the Bible are named after the person who wrote them, the recipients of them, the prophet who gives the main message of the book, or a main character(s) involved in the record; the names of these books don’t really have a “meaning” as such:

OT: Joshua; Judges; Ruth; 1&2 Samuel; 1&2 Kings; Ezra; Nehemiah; Esther; Job; Song of Solomon; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Hosea; Joel; Amos; Obadiah; Jonah; Micah; Nahum; Habakkuk; Zephaniah; Haggai; Zechariah; Malachi.

NT: Matthew; Mark; Luke; John; Acts of the Apostles (‘Acts’, for short); Romans; 1&2 Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; 1& Thessalonians; 1&2 Timothy; Titus; Philemon; Hebrews; James; 1&2 Peter; 1,2&3 John; Jude.

The other books of the Bible have the following English2 meanings:3

OT:

  • Genesis: Genesis means “the beginning” and it is a book of beginnings. It records the creation of the world and the beginning of the nation of Israel.
  • Exodus: The title “Exodus” means “going out” [part of this book records the Children of Israel going out of Egypt]
  • Leviticus: The third book of the Bible takes its name from one of the twelve sons of Jacob, Levi, whose family was ordained by God to minister to him as priests.
  • Numbers: Numbers is named for the numbering of the people of Israel.
  • Deuteronomy: This book has a Greek name meaning “second law” because the book contains a repetition of the law recorded in Leviticus.
  • 1&2 Chronicles: A chronicle is ‘A detailed narrative record or report’,4 and this is what 1&2 Chronicles are (records of events in the time of the kings of Israel).
  • Psalm: A psalm is a song, so the book of Psalms is a book of songs.
  • Proverbs: proverbs are a ‘short, well-known pithy saying, stating a general truth or piece of advice’;5 the book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings from several sources, including King Solomon.
  • Ecclesiastes: Ecclesiastes means “The book of the teacher”.
  • Lamentations: Lamentations means an expression of suffering”. In this book, Jeremiah expresses his sorrow regarding the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of the nation at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar’s army.

NT:

  • Revelation: When someone reveals something, they make something known that wasn’t known before. In the book of Revelation, God gives Jesus a message which Jesus shares with John via an angel (Rev. 1:1) — something is being revealed to John than he didn’t know before; hence the book is called Revelation.

Notes

  1. for more info, see the answer to ‘How many chapters and verses are in the Bible?‘.
  2. Some of the names of the books in the Hebrew version of the Old Testament (OT) may be different from those in English (they may also be different in other languages, too).
  3. Most of the meanings given here are taken from Rob Hyndman, The Bible Reader’s Handbook, p. 23ff. (the relevant section is available here: ‘Books of the Bible‘).
  4. Definition from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, available here.
  5. Definition from www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/proverb
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  • Jon Morgan

    Formatting on the name of Lamentations could do with being fixed.

    • Rob J Hyndman

      Thanks. Now fixed

  • cassandra solomon

    thank you for taking the time with this site it have been a blessing to me