Judging people that use the table of contents in their Bible.

Stop, just stop, it’s too late. I saw you. We were just told to turn to Nahum 2:4 by our pastor and out of the corner of my eye I saw you flip to the table of contents in your Bible.

Don’t, don’t try to explain yourself. I thought you loved God. I thought that when we weren’t at church together you were off somewhere reading your Bible, but clearly that was a mistake on my part. How long has this been going on, this, ugh, I don’t even like how the words feel in my mouth, this “using the table of contents to find books of the Bible?”

I felt like we had made so much progress. When we first met you had a Bible with those indents, those “dumb thumbs.” As in, “I’m dumb, I can’t find Titus, here is where I place my thumb.” But we got through that, we pushed through that and got you a grown up Bible without indents marking the different books.

And then today, today I catch you using the table of contents?

Who are you?

I don’t even know you any more.

Sure, you can find Psalms. Congratulations, you know where Psalms is. Everyone can find that book. It’s 60 pages long and in the middle. Yeah, that’s right, in addition to the location of the books of the Bible I know the length of each book.

Do you know what I did with my table of contents? I ripped it out and rolled it into a homemade shofar horn that I blow when it’s time for my family to come down and read our nightly Bible studies.

Go on, look up Nahum. It’s too late to save face now. You’ll find it on page 1466 and it’s only seven pages long. But what am I telling you for? You’ve probably confused Nahum with the Marvel comics anti-hero, Namor the Sub-Mariner, prince of Atlantis, grandson of the Atlantean Emperor Thakorr.

I’m so embarrassed for you.

(This is a Throwback Thursday post from deep within the archives of Stuff Christians Like!)


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  1. Amanda says

    It’s an old problem, as illustrated in this hilariously timeless exchange from J. M. Barrie’s 1891 “the little minister”:

    ‘You will find my text,’ he says, in his piercing voice, ‘in the eighth chapter of Ezra.'”

    “And at thae words,” said Waster Lunny, “my heart gae a loup, for
    Ezra is an unca ill book to find; ay, and so is Ruth.”
    “I kent the books o’ the Bible by heart,” said Elspeth, scornfully, “when I was a sax year auld.”

    “So did I,” said Waster Lunny, “and I ken them yet, except when I’m hurried. When Mr. Dishart gave out Ezra he a sort o’ keeked round the kirk to find out if he had puzzled onybody, and so there was a kind o’ a competition among the congregation wha would lay hand on it first. That was what doited me. Ay, there was Ruth when she wasna wanted, but Ezra, dagont, it looked as if Ezra had jumped clean out o’ the Bible.”

    “You wasna the only distressed crittur,” said his wife. “I was ashamed to see Eppie McLaren looking up the order o’ the books at the beginning o’ the Bible.”

    “Tibbie Birse was even mair brazen,” said the post, “for the sly cuttie opened at Kings and pretended it was Ezra.”

    “None o’ thae things would I do,” said Waster Lunny,” and sal, I dauredna, for Davit Lunan was glowering over my shuther. Ay, you may scrowl at me, Elspeth Proctor, but as far back as I can mind, Ezra has done me. Mony a time afore I start for the kirk I take my Bible to a quiet place and look Ezra up. In the very pew I says canny to mysel’, ‘Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job,’ the which should be a help, but the moment the minister gi’es out that awfu’ book, away goes Ezra like the Egyptian.”

  2. says

    A friend of mine actually wrote an indexing system on the edge of my Bible. I don’t use it all the time, but it does help if I’m trying to find something fast or struggling with one of the minor prophets.

  3. says


    Do you know what I did with my table of contents? I ripped it out and rolled it into a homemade shofar horn that I blow when it’s time for my family to come down and read our nightly Bible studies.

  4. Garrett says

    One of my favorite posts. Ever.

    I love the moment when some hapless dude is asked to read from Lamentations or Obadiah, then the entire church stares at him as he frantically tries to locate it. Normally, after several moments of glorious awkwardness, someone will quip: “Well, it’s in the Old Testament!” Fun times.

    And, personal opinion: Bible tabs are worse than using the table of contents. Much worse. (Maybe that’s just me.)

  5. The_Other_Tom says

    Minor Prophets Rap:
    (To the tune of “Baby got Back”

    A-mos O-ba-diah
    Jo-nah Mi-cah Na-hum
    Ha-bak-kuk Zeph-a-ni-ah

  6. Bro Pete says

    When ever I preach from hard to find books, I introduce the text by asking everyone to to turn to the front of their Bible.

  7. says

    I think Genesis is the hardest book to find! You’d think it’d be easy, being the first book and all, but there’s so much stuff in front of it, especially in a study Bible! And you wouldn’t want someone to think you had to look in the Table of Contents for GENESIS! Also, is it better or worse to be singing the books to yourself or to be looking in the TOC? Because I have to sing sometimes…

    Speaking of which, have you seen the video on YouTube where the little boy sings the books of the New Testament? And then breaks into “ALLLLL my exes live in Texas”? In this hilariously adorable accent? It’s the best. And now I cannot sing the New Testament books without ending with a little George Strait.

  8. Ramona in CO says

    At my church, whenever the pastor mentions a text, it’s on the screen, and on the right hand side of the screen is a section of a list of the books of the Bible (in order) with the book being discussed highlighted so no one has to use their table of contents, it’s up on the screen.

  9. says

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! Hysterical!!!!
    I learned them as a child, as part of the Awana program.
    That being said, sometimes I still draw a blank; I’ll either stop and quote them in order (in my head) or go to the index.
    It’s just life… we forget things now an again.

      • The_Other_Tom says

        Oh Great.
        Now I got that song running through my head.

        “…HAIL AWANA on the march for youth!
        Hail AWANA holding for the truth…”

        • says

          It’s “on the march for youth”???

          I literally always sang it, “On the march for you.”

          Having a little bit of a life crisis right now because I sang it wrong for all of my childhood. Perfect.

  10. says

    Did anyone else go to a church that promoted a particular Bible from the pulpit so that the Pastor could just tell you a page number??? The Old Scofield was our Bible of choice. Sometimes the Pastor would say, “Turn to Psalm 44. That’s page 366 in your Ollllld Scofield” and some of the men in the church would say “Aaaaaaaaa- men” in that sort of pensive, nostalgic way.

    Ah, the 1980’s in the IFB Church!!!

  11. says

    Just blogged about judging yesterday, but forgot all about Christians who use Thy Table of Contents (**raising hand**) If I can’t sing the Vacation Bible School Old and New Testament song out loud, and my head is too noisy, I sheepishly crack it open. Thanks for the laugh!

  12. says

    As a kid in church, we got up and recited the books of the Bible in front of the whole congregation. I never knew it then, but they were making sure we knew where each book was so we would never have to look in the Table of Contents!

    How glad am I they made us do that!

  13. Cindy says

    Haha – I just showed my brand-new Christian 12-yo nephew the table of contents last Sunday during service! You would have thought he found the Promised Land and the lost site of Noah’s Ark!!

  14. Kelly says

    I just read this to my husband, who said “1466 is too far in the bible for Nahum.” Then silently face palmed.

  15. Spirit mom says

    When I taught Sunday school I insisted my students turn to table of contents before I’d give them the reference to what we were studying that day. They had to point to the book with their finger, them turn to it. I hoped that would impress in them for life not to be embarrassed to use it. And I’ve gone to church with waaaaaay too many people who are so condescending about using the toc!!

  16. Aaron says

    Shared your post because I found it hysterical. Then a friend totally “Jesus Juked” me in the comments. Thought you’d enjoy!

    “Contrary to the blog, no matter how someone finds things in the Bible, I am just glad they are reading it.”

  17. Rosemary says

    I find this competitive sort of ego game so annoying, I won’t look up the verse when someone drops one into a conversation without any context. When they say something like, “But yes, I do agree with 1 Ephesians 6:4″ (or Psalm 137: 9, Song of Solomon 4:5, or whatever) — when the verse has not been specifically mentioned in the conversation, and mostly, without providing the text of the verse themselves. If they really had intended to communicate something, they would have included the text.

    It’s like a game of Bible Whiz Kid. The implication is, “Of course you should know this verse without having to look it up.”

  18. says

    In college out bible professor asked us to turn to Jonah Ch. 2 and I looked at all the books I bought for that class and couldnt find that one. Raised my hand and asked why it wasnt on the list of books to buy. He informed me that it was in the bible. Instead of being smart and just looking I argued with him about it. He asked me if I heard of the big fish story. I also mentioned i knew about moses but there wasnt a Moses book. As we were arguing he came and showed me where in the bible it was. THen he tells the class that my father was a pastor and on the board of trustees at the university.
    Yeah im that guy…

  19. says

    It’s funny – I recently realized that electronic Bible versions make knowing the order a lot less necessary. You basically have to look at the table of contents to tell it what book you want – or you just type it in. Knowing where to flip to will become a lost art.

  20. says

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