Reading through the Bible together… join us!
Though the Bible is the foundation of our faith and loved by all of us, it is a challenging book to read. Because we have favorite passages we often return to, many of us find it difficult to read the whole book, especially some parts of the Old Testament. This year many of us are reading it together in chronological order. This means that we’ll read the prophets and poets where they fit into the historical books; we read Job in the early part of Genesis; we’ll read the letters of Paul as he wrote them on his journeys.
You can join this rewarding growth experience at any time during the year. For example, starting June 1, we will read a few Psalms, plus Song of Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and some of the triumphs and defeats of Solomon and his successors. To help you participate in this plan, we have prepared a reading chart that is available by clicking the Bible Reading Plan link above.
Why read through the Bible in Chronological Order?
Why read any story in the order that the events happened?
The answers are obvious. With the exception of the use of flashbacks or other literary devices, we need to read and experience events and character development for the story to make sense, for us to know the characters, and to care about what happens to them. In a non-fiction book we have to know the premise, the background, the arguments for the practical recommendations for us to have a reason to follow them. Take any popular novel or nonfiction work and ask yourself how much sense would the book make if you:
Jump into the middle of a Harry Potter story with Muggles, Quidditch, Dumbledore, and Hogwarts or into one of the Hunger Game Trilogy and read about Katniess, Mockingjays, Panem, and the Twelve Districts, or what about something on the popular Paleo diet and its discussion of paleo/primal, autoimmune protocols, leaky guts, and ketogenic—again, how much sense do these people and terms make to you if you open a page here or there in a book?
They’ve be nothing more than a confusing list of names and terms if you hadn’t read the entire book but they would all make perfectly good sense if you read the entire book from start to finish and encountered each term in context.
It’s no different with the Bible
For someone who did not grow up listening to Bible stories or perhaps grew up in church and wasn’t paying much attention, how much sense does it make when you hear about Shem, Jeroboam, and Barnabas or about atonement, sanctification, and justification?
We wouldn’t claim to know the least bit about the Hunger Games or the Paleo diet if we only dipped into a few pages of each book here and there, even if we had favorite pages we went back to again and again, so why do we think we know the Bible when for many Christian they have:
- Never read it all the way through
- Or ever read it in Chronological Order
Though all Christians should read their Bibles regularly and many do, it’s easy to go back to the books and passages with which we are most familiar. In addition it isn’t easy to read the book of the Bible in chronological order because they aren’t listed that way in our Bibles today. In most Bibles, the books of the Bible are grouped by type: In the Old Testament: history, poetry, prophecy; the New Testament is similar: history, letters, prophecy.
Why are they in the order they are in today?
After researching many sources, the short answer seems to be “because they’ve always been arranged that way.” When I tried to find out why they’ve always been that way, I didn’t find a good answer, but I suspect that when the books were arranged this way, the scribes, from their great familiarity with the content of all the books, knew which prophetic writings were spoken during what king’s reign, which psalms David wrote at various times in his life, and what was happening in Acts to prompt Paul to write letters to various churches.
Sadly, that isn’t true of most of us today. We may love Jesus, our church, and Christian friends, but many of us don’t have any idea what Amos was preaching about or when or the setting of how Cyrus fulfilled a prophecy Isaiah spoke about him 150 years before he was born. We can’t appreciate how Jesus fulfilled many prophecies in the Old Testament or the depth of his life and sacrifice as Paul explains them because we have no idea of the Old Testament rituals and stories he refers to. We sometimes don’t understand the parts, promises, problems of individual passages because we don’t understand the big picture.
What reading through the Bible in Chronological order will do for us
We’ll understand the whole story of salvation as it unfolds: for many of us, we only have bits and pieces of the story, but when you read it in chronological order you’ll see God’s extraordinary planning and working out of every detail over the centuries.
We see how God is truly the author of the entire Bible: The Bible was written over 1600 years and yet it has one voice under all the voices and one clear theme—of God seeking, saving, and restoring his lost people.
It will help us understand the uniqueness of the Christian Bible: no other religion has Scriptures written over a similar time period that are as internally consistent as the Christian Bible is. There are no other Scriptures that have historically verifiable prophecies that were fulfilled in verifiable historical settings as there are in the Bible. These are bold statements and you have to read the Bible in chronological order to see them.
It will grow our trust and confidence in our God: the same God who mercifully clothed Adam and Eve after they sinned and promised them a Savior is the same God who formed Israel, guided, and disciplined it, and who from it brought his Son into the world and who lived, died, rose, and formed his church to carry his message of salvation and his return to restore all things. When you see that big picture and the sometimes difficult lives the Biblical characters lived in the midst of it, it can give you peace and trust to understand your part of the same great story, filled with hope and an assured glorious ending when daily trials threaten to undermine your faith.