Those of you who read my books are aware that I’ve written a good bit about the importance of narrative theology and understanding the NT in its socio-historical-chronological sequence.
In Chapter 11 of Pagan Christianity, George Barna and I deal with this. And I’ve written an entire book that presents the NT narrative in its chronological order, filling in the historical gaps between Acts and the Epistles. It’s called The Untold Story of the New Testament Church.
In recent years, three chronological Bibles have been published.
The first is called The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order by F. LaGard Smith. I’ve had extensive conversations with LaGard and its uncanny to see how the Lord has led us into so many of the same insights and burdens.
LaGard put The Narrated Bible together to fulfill a wish of his father, who said to him before he passed, “Somebody ought to put the Bible in the right order.” Well, he did. And The Narrated Bible was the result.
Based on the NIV, The Narrated Bible puts the books of the entire Bible in their chronological sequence. And LaGard gives his own narration along the way. It took him only 5 years to put this massive work together. Impressive!
The other attempt at chronology was put together by Dr. Christopher Smith. His work is called The Books of the Bible and it’s based on the TNIV. Chris and I have talked quite a bit and he understands the importance of knowing “the story” as he calls it and the problem of approaching the Bible in its present fragmented state. THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE takes out chapters and verses. The only beef I have with it is that Chris and I disagree on Paul’s first letter. I believe it was clearly Galatians and he affirms Thessalonians. I’ve yet to persuade him on this, but I’m hopeful J
It’s called The Chronological Study Bible and it’s based on the NKJV.
This is an incredible work. What gives it particular appeal is that it has colorful maps, diagrams, photos, etc. all throughout. Cosmetically speaking, it’s a masterpiece.
Here’s an excerpt of a recent review of this Bible written by a reader.
In college the bible was studied as literature, language, exegesis, theology and each verse was parsed into little pieces of truth. We did study through the bible more than once, but we never wavered from the canonical flow of the books.
Can you imagine reading through a book of American History that was out of order? Let’s say the narrative started with man stepping on the moon, then moved to the war of 1812, then to the Great Depression, then the signing of The Declaration of Independence and next to the War Between the States, finally ending with the Golden Era of Industry beginning in the 1900′s. You would indeed have individual stories of historical fact about America and Americans, but it would be difficult to fully see the grand picture of the historical timeline of the USA. The bible most of us read and study from everyday is much the same way. Each book is truth and points to The Truth but, many times the narrative timeline is out of order.
The Chronological Bible does much to alleviate the problem. The editors carefully attempt to move books, chapters and verses of scripture from their canonical location to a location in the narrative that best reflects the historical order of the story of the bible, God and Jesus.
You will see and experience the beauty of the bible narrative in a new way. Freed from the canonical order, the bible becomes a giant story novel of God and His relationship with His planet and creation.
For those of you who are people of Christian faith, the NT will bring a new clarity of the Life of Jesus and the first 100 years of the church. The four gospels and Acts are no longer five separate books, but a written story of the life and incarnation of Jesus and the founding of the Christian Church. The voices of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are clear, but they are interwoven into a chorus of story tellers. As you move through the founding of the church, the Epistles of the church leaders of Paul, Peter, John and the rest are read as they would have been written. I Corinthians is placed after Acts 19:22, the place in the narrative of Acts where Paul might have written and sent the letter from his time in Ephesus. The entire NT flows in this manner until you end with the book of Revelation.
The publishers have not only provided a new view of an age old text, but they have included tools in the text to help the reader along the way. By glancing at the top of each page the reader will find out what scriptures are included as well as the approximate dates of the writing. At each book change or mashup, the editors include transitional explanations as to why the passage was placed in that spot. Notes are included to explain important archeological finds and information as well as secular and biblical historical details. Maps and geographic information are printed on the page as it coincides with the story, making it easier to visualize the physical placement of the narrative details. Illustrations are ghosted unto the pages at intervals to give visual interest to the text. The opening pages of the book have a comprehensive introduction that explains each tool and even suggestions for their use.
I like this bible. As a matter of fact, I wish I had owned one many years ago. This presentation allows the story of the bible to flow in a narrative form that will remind you of a novel. During my time of reviewing a copy, I took the Chronological Bible with me almost everywhere and showed it to many people. Each one that looked at the book and allowed me to show them “how” it worked had one statement, “I gotta have one.”