Reading the Bible Chronologicaly


I’ve done something on and off for the last year that has fascinated me about a topic I thought I understood: I’m reading the Hebrew and Christian scriptures chronologically. 

In the Hebrew scriptures, a chronological reading gives books like Psalms and Ecclesiastes a deeper meaning. Unlike the poems I wrote in Mrs. Haft’s class, I see the Psalms now as pouring from the soul of a man scared for his life. These aren’t just stanzas from a middle-school poetry primer, but deep and real groaning from someone in the middle of it. Who maybe deserves it. I am enjoying this so much that I’ve noted at the head of each Psalm where it fits into the chronology of the other books.  

The Christian Scriptures take on new life, too, when read chronologically. Obviously, the New Testament is the story of Jesus, but it’s also the story of the birth of the church. Dozens of questions arise as it emerges from Judaism. It’s fascinating to watch Paul and Peter answer these questions as part of the bigger picture of Christianity.

If you are wanting something new to open up the Scriptures to you, why not try a chronological reading? 

For the Hebrew Scriptures, I like the Blue Letter Bible website. Here is a link to their year of chronological reads. If you want to read the New Testament according to the order of the events, this is a good place to go for a reading list.

There are a few things to remember as you go through any Bible reading program, but seem especially important here:

  • All the books of the New Testament were written as letters and not as a book or as a chapter in a book. They were simply stories or answers to questions. 
  • Most people during early church days didn’t read and a meeting of local Christians would include someone reading or reciting an entire book. Teaching, reading, and preaching were more organic then compared to the prepackaged lesson we have now, massaged for maximum effectiveness. 
  • Writing was a big deal in Jesus’ day. Paul didn’t just sit and grab a parchment to jot down a grocery list. Writing was expensive, and usually a group activity where people wrangled about words until they were just right and then a scribe would record them. So the letters we have by Paul were very likely written by a group of like-minded Christian thinkers.

On the left is a list of New Testament books in the order they were written: the middle column shows their putative dates. It gets messy, but, on the right, is a list of first-century events as they are recorded in the New Testament books.

Book

James
Galatians
Mark
Matthew
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Romans
Luke
Ephesians
Philippians
Philemon
Colossians
Acts
1 Timothy
Titus
1 Peter
2 Timothy
2 Peter
Hebrews
Jude
John
1 John
2 John
3 John
Revelation

Dates

44-49
49-50
50-60
50-60
51
51-52
55
55-56
56
60-61
60-62
60-62
60-62
60-62
62
62-64
62-64
64-65
66-67
67-68
67-69
68-70
80-90
90-95
90-95
90-95
94-96

Order of Events

Luke
Matthew
Mark
John
Acts
James
Galatians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Romans
Colossians
Philemon
Ephesians
Philippians
1 Timothy
Titus
1 Peter
Hebrews
2 Timothy
2 Peter
Jude
1 John
2 John
2 John
Revelation

One thought on “Reading the Bible Chronologicaly

Add yours

  1. I have never read the Bible chronologically before. I think I have to give it a try this year. I am currently in the book of Matthew, reading from Genesis to Revelations.

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