Ranking the Old Testament!

The Bible is perhaps the most misunderstood book ever written. Perhaps. But don’t worry, I’ve slogged my way through it (took five years) and have decided to give you the Tim’s Notes version.* It will be clear, concise, and devoid of moral judgment; in other words, the exact opposite of the Bible.

*”Tim’s Notes” is a patent-pending title.

We’ll start by ranking books of the Old Testament, from 46* to 1, in terms of readability, inspiration, influence, and, most importantly, awesomeness.

*Apocrypha? What’s that?

46. 1 Chronicles

This is the easiest choice on the board: The first 11+ chapters are devoted to genealogy and basically recapping, in the least interesting way possible, what has already happened in the Old Testament. When people attempt to read the Bible, this is where they stop.

45. 2 Chronicles

Because it’s related to #46.

44. Leviticus

Because it’s so hypocritical to quote from: “I’m against gay marriage because of Leviticus!” the evangelical yells at the barbeque, while chomping on a pulled pork sandwich.

43. 2 Kings

This is like having to learn the Roman emperors who didn’t matter.

42. Habakkuk

41. Zechariah

40. Haggai

39. Nahum

38. Zephaniah

37. Judith

36. Ezra

35. Nehemiah

34. 1 Maccabees

33. 1 Samuel

You know who was a boring king: Saul.

32. 1 Kings

31. Esther

30. Tobit

29. Numbers

28. Ruth

27. Obadiah

It’s not that interesting, but it knows when to stop; it’s only one chapter.

26. 2 Maccabees

25. Amos

24. Daniel

This is the story Shirley Jackson would have written if she were inspired by God.

23. Judges

No, Samson, no! She’s a witch!

22. Malachi

Because it’s the end.

21. Joel

20. 2 Samuel

You know who was an awesome king: David.

19. Lamentations

18. Micah

Because it’s a prophecy that takes a few chapters off from damning and condemning and “You’re all going to burn in hell!” rhetoric.

17. Hosea

16. Baruch

15. Joshua

Joshua at a club: “What’s that, ladies? You wish this night could last forever? That can be arranged.”

14. Wisdom

13. Ezekiel

12. Jeremiah

11. Sirach

10. Jonah

Or as I call it, The Abridged Moby Dick.

9. Deuteronomy

8. Song of Songs

7. Isaiah

Everyone loves a good prophecy, and Isaiah’s is the best (if the longest). Want to understand Jesus at Gethsemane? Read the Suffering Servant.

6. Exodus

How many other books here could be turned into a compelling four-hour movie that stars Charlton Heston? Thought so.

5. Psalms

4. Job

I mean, you gotta feel for the guy. At some point, you’re waiting for his friends to say, “Hey Job, you know that God you’ve been all faithful to? Maybe you should give that up for awhile. Take a few plays off.” Instead, they said nothing for a week because his suffering was too traumatizing before going all, “Yo Job! WTF, man? What did you do to make God so mad?” And that’s the real tragedy.

3. Genesis

We’re faithful to our source material here at NPI.

2. Proverbs

As The Simpsons say, “Brevity is…wit.”

1. Ecclesiastes

Written by a man who calls himself “Qoheleth” (meaning roughly, “to assemble”), this is about so much more than a Byrds’ song (3:1-15, btw). It’s basically a refutation of the rest of the Old Testament, insisting on a transcendent God and a fatalist approach to the afterlife. It stresses that God’s only gift to mankind is life; there are no other promises. Anything we read into it is strictly vanity. Ecclesiastes, furthermore, is more philosophical treatise than religious revelation, and it represents the Old Testament’s only attempt at some sort of internal dialogue. Qoheleth doesn’t propagandize; instead, he challenges. And no other part of the Old Testament does.

Stay tuned for rankings of the New (or as I like to call it, “Better”)  Testament rankings.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Chris Russo on August 15, 2009 at 10:12 PM

    Tim, this blog is awesome. I saw it on Facebook the other day. Finally a blog by people who can write.


  2. Posted by Wey on August 16, 2009 at 12:40 AM

    I await your justification for Habakkuk’s low ranking…


  3. Posted by Wey on August 16, 2009 at 12:41 AM

    also, I’m pretty sure that about half of these “books” are entirely fictional


  4. Posted by Tim on August 17, 2009 at 7:48 PM

    After multiple criticisms, much soul-searching, and a careful re-reading of Habakkuk (which took 3-5 minutes), I do agree that I have misjudged it. I would slide Habakkuk in between Jeremiah and Ezekiel at 13. The rhetoric is well-done, even if I enjoy Job’s show-more-than-tell philosophy toward suffering. Also, it could have used more Nebuchadnezzar, but that’s true of every book in the Old Testament.


  5. […] 1 Comment Let’s be clear upfront: Religious biases aside, the New Testament is WAY cooler than the Old Testament. God’s a lot nicer, there’s a lot less holier-than-thou, you’re-all-goin’-to-hell stuff […]


  6. […] everything from deep dish pizza to the evolution of TV to Mariano Rivera, from The Sopranos to the Old Testament to the Food Network, from the 1999 NLCS to apologism to David Foster Wallace. We’ve ranked the […]


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