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The Scourge of Chronological Bibles?

I am quite surprised to read the complaining of some about the rise of chronological Bibles. For those who do not know, a chronological Bible simply puts the books of the Bible in order they were written or occurred. For example, the New Testament books are placed in order in which they were written. Typically, the Old Testament is sorted based upon when the events actually took place chronologically. Therefore, the Psalms are broken up and placed with books associated with the author. For example, Davidic psalms are placed with 2 Samuel. Other chronological Bibles leave the Psalms together and place it toward the end of the Old Testament, since that is when the collection of the Psalms was completed.

So why get upset about such an arrangement? I believe it is quite useful to the student to recognize that the scriptures are not placed in chronological order. I think most Bible readers think the Old Testament is in chronological sequence because the books begin with such an arrangement. From Genesis to 2 Kings the books are listed in historical order. But then the chronology falls apart, especially when one comes to the prophets. It is a help to students to see that Esther took place before Nehemiah, not after. It can assist understanding when the prophecy of Micah is placed next to the prophecy of Isaiah.

I personally own two of these kinds of chronological Bibles. The first one I purchased was The Daily Bible In Chronological Order which was edited by F. LaGard Smith. This is an excellent Bible to use for daily reading. Each day is marked off and you will go through the scriptures in chronological order. If you would like to read through the Bible in one year chronologically, this is an easy way to do it. F. LaGard Smith does a nice job with the additional notes about the chronology of certain events. I especially appreciate his work on the final week of Jesus’ life, powerfully arguing that Jesus died on a Thursday, not Friday. The harmony of the gospels is well done and parallel texts are noted. It is not a Bible that you can take to church and quickly find scripture because the scriptures are not in their “usual” order. But this is very useful for personal reading and study.

The second chronological Bible I own is simply called The Books of the Bible. It is produced by the International Bible Society. This Bible also reorders the books in chronology of when they were written, but does not divide any books (the Psalms remain whole and are not interspersed throughout the Old Testament). One feature that I particularly like is each book is formatted in single column with no chapter or verse numbers. Instead, the scripture range is stated at the bottom of the page (e.g. Daniel 2:22-43). When you read the scriptures with the chapters and verses removed, it does not take long to realize how those numbers really get in the way of reading. It is nice to have those numbers removed and have a clean text to read. At first, the lack of chapter and verse numbers may be jarring. But the reader ought to remember that chapter and verse numbers are not original to the manuscripts. In fact, chapter divisions did not occur until the 1200’s and verse divisions did not occur until the 1500’s. It is nice to remove the clutter and simply read a book of the Bible. Such a format does make it difficult to find a particular passage, but this is not the purpose of the publication. Instead, this format encourages the reader to just read the whole book, not merely portions of books.

A new study Bible will arrive in September called the Chronological Study Bible. It will be in the NKJV and is published by Thomas Nelson. I don’t know if I will purchase this one also, but I would like to see how it lays out the scriptures in chronological sequence.

Should we be concerned or upset about these Bibles placing the scriptures in chronological order? I don’t see why. It is not like God gave us the books in the order that we have them today. During the first four centuries we see the scriptures placed in a number of different orders. What matters is that we have all of the inspired books and that not one word is left out.