Have you ever noticed that the Bible seems like it’s out of order? Sure, the story begins with Genesis 1 and ends with Revelation 22, but many of the books don’t follow the chronological sequence. King David wrote many of the Psalms, but readers don’t find Psalms in 1 Samuel or 2 Samuel, the books that tell the story of David. The prophets spoke to Israel and Judah at various times during the Divided Kingdom, but all the prophets are stacked together at the end of the Old Testament.
My intention here is not to criticize the organization of the Bible. The books seem out of order because those who compiled the Old Testament put the books together according to their genre — the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets. My purpose here is merely to suggest that a different organization would shed important light on how the Bible holds together.
What would the Old Testament look like if publishers rearranged the books in chronological order? Wouldn’t Christians — and critics who read the Bible in order to poke it full of holes — understand the Old Testament and the New Testament better if the books were reorganized according to chronological order?
Luckily, this is not just a hypothetical question. Tyndale Publishers actually compiled The One Year Chronological Bible in 2013 — and they published it in multiple translations.
I know how transformative this new version of the Bible is — I’ve read it myself! I am currently working through the last few weeks of December, on track to finish the book on December 31, 2020 (I started on January 1, 2019, so this isn’t exactly an accomplishment). It will take a few more run-throughs for me to fully digest the chronological order, but I appreciated it immensely even on the first reading.
I had only read through the entire Bible once before reading the chronological version, but I had read many books numerous times. It was extremely helpful to find Isaiah right where it fit in the chronological history of Israel — to finally understand what was happening while the Prophet Isaiah delivered prophecies that foretold the birth of Jesus Christ.
The One Year Chronological Bible also helps readers piece together when and why the Apostle Paul encouraged the Church at Ephesus in the way he did, and at what point in Paul’s ministry he wrote the other letters that make up much of the New Testament.
While I did not finish the chronological Bible in one year, I can vouch for the helpful way in which it reorganizes scripture to make the story more accessible — and to make it more interesting for Christians who may have read many of these books out of their historical context.
Whether you’re a Christian or a skeptic, the One Year Chronological Bible is a must on your Christmas wish-list. If you have family members or friends who are interested in a fresh take on the Bible’s arrangement, this version is a great find.
I highly recommend it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.