The shortest book in the Bible(Old and New Testaments)  is the third epistle of the Apostle John ( 3 John).

But there are a few issues that need to be considered. What criteria should we use to determine the length of the books of the Bible? Should we use the number of individual letters( characters) or the number of words as a whole? What versions should we use? Should we use our English versions in the first place?

Shortest book  in the bible showing two athletes

The criteria typically used to determine the length of the shortest book in the Bible is the number of words in the Book. Please keep in mind  the following caveats:

  1. The number of letters or characters can also be used as a measure of book length, but character count has been traditionally applied to the length of verses and not the length of entire Books. As such, though two books might have the same word count theoretically, they may well differ widely with respect to their character count. For the purpose of this discussion, we will use the word count only.
  2. The number of verses or chapters is not used as a criterion, for the same reason stated above as chapters and verses of the Bible vary greatly in length.
  3. What version should we use? The Bible was not originally written in English. The word count in our English versions will vary based on the English translation you use. This variability must be excluded by using the original Greek or Hebrew( and Aramaic for some parts of the Old Testament) for the sake of finding out the shortest of these books. There is still an issue left unresolved! There are different manuscripts for the original Greek or Hebrew! Well, the good news is that the variation in word count is negligible amongst the original manuscripts available.

Quick Bible Facts about 3 John


  • Chapters:  1
  • Verses: 14 verses
  • Number of words in the Original Greek language: 219.
  • Number of words in English: 299 words


The Apostle John, the “Beloved”

Central Theme

Christian hospitality

Key Verse

We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. (3 Jn. 1:8 KJV)

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. (3 Jn. 1:2 KJV)

5 Shortest Books in the Entire Bible

These are arranged in descending order using the KJV English Bible.

  1. 3 John noted above
  2. 2 John with one 1 chapter, 13 verses, and 303 words in English
  3. Philemon with 1 chapter, 25 verses and 303 words.
  4. Jude with 1 chapter, 25 verses, and 613 words.
  5. Obadiah with 1 chapter, 21 verses and 670 words.

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