The Chronological Bible

The publishing house Thomas Nelson is coming out with The Chronological Study Bible, which not re-arranges not only the books but their passages (including the Psalms) to put everything in chronological order.

My impression is that even conservative Bible scholars are not fully agreed on when the different books of the Bible were written. In any event, looking at it from a literary perspective, this would seem to break up the unity of particular books. But do you see a value in this? And, theologically, is there a significance to the order of the canon?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Manxman

    If used in conjuction with a “normal” Bible, this could be a very helpful tool. Real understanding of a subject requires putting it into its proper context, and time is an important part of context. The events of the Bible did not occur in a vacuum – they were part of a chain of events in actual history, and a Bible like this would help the reader see this important truth.

  • Manxman

    If used in conjuction with a “normal” Bible, this could be a very helpful tool. Real understanding of a subject requires putting it into its proper context, and time is an important part of context. The events of the Bible did not occur in a vacuum – they were part of a chain of events in actual history, and a Bible like this would help the reader see this important truth.

  • EconJeff

    I recently downloaded a chronological listing of reading from an ESV web site. I plan to follow this ordering when I go through the history books and prophets.

    The prophets were prophesying about about events in their lifetimes, and to put them in context can be valuable for understanding the history of Israel. These writings actually appeared to the world in a certain order, and seeing them unfold in that order can help us understand them better. I don’t think this will detract from the larger Christological focus of the prophets.

    The order of the canon is not set in stone–or else every Sunday we are doing something wrong when we jump from Old Testament to Epistle to Gospel. If we can rearrange our readings thematically, a chronological order should be okay.

  • EconJeff

    I recently downloaded a chronological listing of reading from an ESV web site. I plan to follow this ordering when I go through the history books and prophets.

    The prophets were prophesying about about events in their lifetimes, and to put them in context can be valuable for understanding the history of Israel. These writings actually appeared to the world in a certain order, and seeing them unfold in that order can help us understand them better. I don’t think this will detract from the larger Christological focus of the prophets.

    The order of the canon is not set in stone–or else every Sunday we are doing something wrong when we jump from Old Testament to Epistle to Gospel. If we can rearrange our readings thematically, a chronological order should be okay.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    When I was a teenager, I enjoyed Pearl S. Buck’s The Story Bible. It helped me to see a continuity that I hadn’t yet seen in scripture. I am not arguing for the book’s theological accuracy.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    When I was a teenager, I enjoyed Pearl S. Buck’s The Story Bible. It helped me to see a continuity that I hadn’t yet seen in scripture. I am not arguing for the book’s theological accuracy.

  • Dave Sarafolean

    I’ve used similar tools in the past and found them very helpful. Prior to seminary I happened to read through the Bible chronologically for three to four years and it increased my knowledge of Scripture immensely.

    NOTE: I did not come to faith until I was in college and this method of reading Scripture closed the gap between myself and my peers who grew up in a Bible-believing church environment.

  • Dave Sarafolean

    I’ve used similar tools in the past and found them very helpful. Prior to seminary I happened to read through the Bible chronologically for three to four years and it increased my knowledge of Scripture immensely.

    NOTE: I did not come to faith until I was in college and this method of reading Scripture closed the gap between myself and my peers who grew up in a Bible-believing church environment.

  • http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/2008/06/to-live-with-christ-daily-devotions-by-bo-giertz.html Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I find this rather odd, to say the least. The fact is that we do have the Scriptures in the order and arrangement as it has been given. I think you put your finger, Dr. Veith, precisely on the problem. What chronology will be used? That of liberal higher criticism, which presumes that predictive prophecy is not possible, etc.

    I think this was more of a business move, to try to produce a new study bible to make it stand out in the very, very crowded fields of study bibles!

    I know of a study bible coming that is truly going to be unique: The Lutheran Study Bible, coming October 2009.

  • http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/2008/06/to-live-with-christ-daily-devotions-by-bo-giertz.html Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I find this rather odd, to say the least. The fact is that we do have the Scriptures in the order and arrangement as it has been given. I think you put your finger, Dr. Veith, precisely on the problem. What chronology will be used? That of liberal higher criticism, which presumes that predictive prophecy is not possible, etc.

    I think this was more of a business move, to try to produce a new study bible to make it stand out in the very, very crowded fields of study bibles!

    I know of a study bible coming that is truly going to be unique: The Lutheran Study Bible, coming October 2009.

  • http://chaz-lehmann@yahoo.com Pr. Lehmann

    I think my wife might have one of these. I can see going through such an arrangement once to be of some value.

    Example: Wouldn’t it be cool to read through David’s life with the Psalms place at the moment that he prayed them?

    There are some issues, of course, with picking the chronology, but I really can see value in seeing all the pieces in order. Though there is debate on some of it, I wouldn’t say there’s debate on most of it, so long is it is a generally conservative approach.

    As for the order of the canon, I don’t see a lot of significance. Our modern bibles follow the ordering of the LXX which was different than the Hebrew ordering. I think the old Hebrew categories are more helpful than our modern ordering is.

  • http://chaz-lehmann@yahoo.com Pr. Lehmann

    I think my wife might have one of these. I can see going through such an arrangement once to be of some value.

    Example: Wouldn’t it be cool to read through David’s life with the Psalms place at the moment that he prayed them?

    There are some issues, of course, with picking the chronology, but I really can see value in seeing all the pieces in order. Though there is debate on some of it, I wouldn’t say there’s debate on most of it, so long is it is a generally conservative approach.

    As for the order of the canon, I don’t see a lot of significance. Our modern bibles follow the ordering of the LXX which was different than the Hebrew ordering. I think the old Hebrew categories are more helpful than our modern ordering is.

  • jrr

    I have been reading through my Bible somewhat chronologically for over 15 years. I have developed my own personal thing (realizing there is some disagreement) but do not split it up as much as most chronological Bibles do. I decided to insert the prophets in history where they would have spoken to the people, not as most chronologies do with the passages describing a certain event going in the chronology where that event occurs in time. Thus I read my prophet books mostly as a whole rather than splitting them up into tiny readings, which is distracting. The other advantage for me is that as I read through the Bible I get a feel for what the people were going through and what they were hearing as they were going through it.

    Two things about doing it this way are beneficial for me. First, I can remember the history better. I can really enjoy reading through Kings and Chronicles this way. Secondly, what comes out the most when I do it this way is the warnings against pride. The nations of Israel and Judah were still doing well when their first warnings against following other gods were given. It shows me how many times God tried to warn them. It just points to my own pride more poignantly.

    So, I like the concept. I believe that it will help people with knowing their history better, which is a good thing. But if it follows the patterns of others, it’s reading will probably be somewhat disjointed.

  • jrr

    I have been reading through my Bible somewhat chronologically for over 15 years. I have developed my own personal thing (realizing there is some disagreement) but do not split it up as much as most chronological Bibles do. I decided to insert the prophets in history where they would have spoken to the people, not as most chronologies do with the passages describing a certain event going in the chronology where that event occurs in time. Thus I read my prophet books mostly as a whole rather than splitting them up into tiny readings, which is distracting. The other advantage for me is that as I read through the Bible I get a feel for what the people were going through and what they were hearing as they were going through it.

    Two things about doing it this way are beneficial for me. First, I can remember the history better. I can really enjoy reading through Kings and Chronicles this way. Secondly, what comes out the most when I do it this way is the warnings against pride. The nations of Israel and Judah were still doing well when their first warnings against following other gods were given. It shows me how many times God tried to warn them. It just points to my own pride more poignantly.

    So, I like the concept. I believe that it will help people with knowing their history better, which is a good thing. But if it follows the patterns of others, it’s reading will probably be somewhat disjointed.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    The use of the higher critical chronology settles the matter, as far as I’m concerned (negatively, in case there’s any doubt).

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    The use of the higher critical chronology settles the matter, as far as I’m concerned (negatively, in case there’s any doubt).

  • Jonathan

    I like the chronological arrangement. As some have noted, David’s life and the Psalms may be more easily read together and understood. And the prophets may not seem so unmoored from the history they were so much a part of.
    Frankly, it’s no more a business move in my eyes than is The Lutheran Study Bible.

  • Jonathan

    I like the chronological arrangement. As some have noted, David’s life and the Psalms may be more easily read together and understood. And the prophets may not seem so unmoored from the history they were so much a part of.
    Frankly, it’s no more a business move in my eyes than is The Lutheran Study Bible.

  • Anon

    The order of the canon has more to do with the physical size limits of scrolls, I think. And there are general classifications based upon literary type, not the chronology in which they were given, nor was the publication ordering divinely inspired.

    I don’t care for the literary break-up, though. I would more favor a time-line and maybe a cross-reference to historically contemporary passages, or passages referring to the same events or reigns. My congregation periodically reads through the whole Bible in a year (excellent), with a break up that has everything to do with getting done in one year, and not for comprehension of what is being read. (Blech).

    In’t the new LSB going to be a previous denominationally-generic commentary republished by Concordia with a Lutheran name? Or am I (hopefully) mistaken on that? I thought I had read that it was a known, existing commentary old enough to have lapsed into the common domain. Or was that a different project?

    I would love to see some of the following put together and published:

    A topically-organized Book of Concord. Where if you want to read on, say, baptism, you would find the section on baptism from each document, in chronological order.

    A study Bible with all the relevant archaeological material, but -not- the anti-Biblical comments that often get thrown in in such projects. Likewise with what we know about the history and culture. Such things are essential for proper use of the grammatical-historical exegetical method.

  • Anon

    The order of the canon has more to do with the physical size limits of scrolls, I think. And there are general classifications based upon literary type, not the chronology in which they were given, nor was the publication ordering divinely inspired.

    I don’t care for the literary break-up, though. I would more favor a time-line and maybe a cross-reference to historically contemporary passages, or passages referring to the same events or reigns. My congregation periodically reads through the whole Bible in a year (excellent), with a break up that has everything to do with getting done in one year, and not for comprehension of what is being read. (Blech).

    In’t the new LSB going to be a previous denominationally-generic commentary republished by Concordia with a Lutheran name? Or am I (hopefully) mistaken on that? I thought I had read that it was a known, existing commentary old enough to have lapsed into the common domain. Or was that a different project?

    I would love to see some of the following put together and published:

    A topically-organized Book of Concord. Where if you want to read on, say, baptism, you would find the section on baptism from each document, in chronological order.

    A study Bible with all the relevant archaeological material, but -not- the anti-Biblical comments that often get thrown in in such projects. Likewise with what we know about the history and culture. Such things are essential for proper use of the grammatical-historical exegetical method.

  • Bruce

    The Lutheran Study Bible, pastor McCain?
    Do tell more! Such as: what translation will be used?

  • Bruce

    The Lutheran Study Bible, pastor McCain?
    Do tell more! Such as: what translation will be used?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01763924682909630509 Orianna Laun

    It seemed strange when they put the Chronicles of Narnia in Chronological order; how much more so the Bible?
    I wonder too about how they will decide what goes where because of the question of dates. It seems hackneyed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01763924682909630509 Orianna Laun

    It seemed strange when they put the Chronicles of Narnia in Chronological order; how much more so the Bible?
    I wonder too about how they will decide what goes where because of the question of dates. It seems hackneyed.

  • http://www.myownthoughts.com Suzi

    There would be a multiplicity of possibilities, so if the move is simply a consumerist foray into publication, the publisher could release the high critic’s guide and the conservative critic’s and the …. You get the picture.

    I think that many people, especially those new to the Bible, could benefit tremendously from this. It is hard for people, even people who grew up in church, to be able to fit a chronology together when they do skip around so much.

    I like the idea. But then I taught my children a chronology of the Bible and did the same when I was teaching Bible class for little kids.

    It’s a matter of perspective and our gleaning the richness of the meanings.

    Full disclosure: In literary analysis I follow the biographical or historical (both old and new) critical approaches.

  • http://www.myownthoughts.com Suzi

    There would be a multiplicity of possibilities, so if the move is simply a consumerist foray into publication, the publisher could release the high critic’s guide and the conservative critic’s and the …. You get the picture.

    I think that many people, especially those new to the Bible, could benefit tremendously from this. It is hard for people, even people who grew up in church, to be able to fit a chronology together when they do skip around so much.

    I like the idea. But then I taught my children a chronology of the Bible and did the same when I was teaching Bible class for little kids.

    It’s a matter of perspective and our gleaning the richness of the meanings.

    Full disclosure: In literary analysis I follow the biographical or historical (both old and new) critical approaches.

  • Anon

    If you do believe the Bible, the historical timings for most things are fairly well established.

    Job is uncertain whether he is pre-Abrahamic or simply pre-Mosaic.

    Then there is the questionable nature of Sothic dating and the distinct possibility that there was in fact, no bronze age dark age.

    But apart from that, if you believe the Bible, as for instance, the Missouri Synod does, things happened when they are written to have happened.

  • Anon

    If you do believe the Bible, the historical timings for most things are fairly well established.

    Job is uncertain whether he is pre-Abrahamic or simply pre-Mosaic.

    Then there is the questionable nature of Sothic dating and the distinct possibility that there was in fact, no bronze age dark age.

    But apart from that, if you believe the Bible, as for instance, the Missouri Synod does, things happened when they are written to have happened.

  • WebMonk

    Chronological Bibles can be done well or poorly, but the basic concept of having an organization that lets you easily associate historical happenings with the other books that were written at the same time is REALLY helpful.

    I can’t remember what book it was (and I really wish I could), but I read one in highschool that was sort of like a cross reference for chronologically putting the Bible together. It focused on explaining that Abithar in one place is the same as Abinethar in another (just making up names). It was several lightbulb moments to me to get some of the cross-connections.

    “things happened when they are written to have happened”

    Yes, but it’s not exactly that simple. The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles encompass hundreds of years and most all of the minor and major prophets. Figuring out what actions Ezekiel is talking about compared to what Amos was talking about isn’t blatantly obvious, especially when some of the names are the same, or different but refer to the same person.

  • WebMonk

    Chronological Bibles can be done well or poorly, but the basic concept of having an organization that lets you easily associate historical happenings with the other books that were written at the same time is REALLY helpful.

    I can’t remember what book it was (and I really wish I could), but I read one in highschool that was sort of like a cross reference for chronologically putting the Bible together. It focused on explaining that Abithar in one place is the same as Abinethar in another (just making up names). It was several lightbulb moments to me to get some of the cross-connections.

    “things happened when they are written to have happened”

    Yes, but it’s not exactly that simple. The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles encompass hundreds of years and most all of the minor and major prophets. Figuring out what actions Ezekiel is talking about compared to what Amos was talking about isn’t blatantly obvious, especially when some of the names are the same, or different but refer to the same person.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17639370291865261582 Cindy Ramos

    Bruce (#11), Pastor McCain has been telling more about the Lutheran Study Bible at his own blog. The translation will be English Standard Version. For more details, see this press release.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17639370291865261582 Cindy Ramos

    Bruce (#11), Pastor McCain has been telling more about the Lutheran Study Bible at his own blog. The translation will be English Standard Version. For more details, see this press release.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    The Lutheran Study Bible will feature all new commentary (though drawing on classic Lutheran scholarship, including Luther’s commentaries). It will apply the Law/Gospel hermeneutic, show how Christ is proclaimed throughout the Old Testament, pick up all the sacramental references, and more. I’m really excited about this project.

    OK, part of the reason I like it so much is that I worked on it. Literature professor that I am, I got to write notes for a good chunk of the Psalms and those great stories in Judges.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    The Lutheran Study Bible will feature all new commentary (though drawing on classic Lutheran scholarship, including Luther’s commentaries). It will apply the Law/Gospel hermeneutic, show how Christ is proclaimed throughout the Old Testament, pick up all the sacramental references, and more. I’m really excited about this project.

    OK, part of the reason I like it so much is that I worked on it. Literature professor that I am, I got to write notes for a good chunk of the Psalms and those great stories in Judges.

  • Anon

    Dr. Veith, that is good to hear. I look forward to it.

  • Anon

    Dr. Veith, that is good to hear. I look forward to it.


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