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Question

Why isn’t the Bible in chronological order?

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Answer


The books of the Bible are not in chronological order; rather, they are primarily arranged according to type of literature. For example, Genesis through Esther are historical and are grouped together, Job through Song of Solomon form another group of mainly poetry, and Isaiah through Malachi are prophecy, with some historical narrative. Similarly, Matthew through Acts are historical, Romans through Jude are letters to churches or individuals, and Revelation is prophecy. Within the type of literature, the books of the Bible are sometimes arranged in a basic chronological order. For example, Isaiah’s prophecies occurred before Jeremiah’s prophecies. In other cases, the books are arranged longest to shortest, such as for Paul’s epistles.

To arrange the Bible’s content in chronological order, some books would have to be split up and inserted into other books. For example, 1 and 2 Chronicles would have to be parceled out into 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. There might be some benefit in grouping historical narratives that cover the same event, but the overarching theme of 1 and 2 Chronicles would be lost in the process. That theme with its related purpose, to encourage exiles returning to Jerusalem of their spiritual heritage concerning the priesthood and the temple, can only be followed by reading 1 and 2 Chronicles as a unit.

Additionally, some books of the Bible are hard to place chronologically, because we aren’t sure exactly when they were written or when the events they record took place. For example, no one is sure when the book of Job was written, although there are hints within the book that Job himself lived early in human history. Chronologically, the book of Job would probably fall within the book of Genesis. Some lists place it between Genesis 11 and Genesis 12.

The fact that the Bible isn’t in chronological order can sometimes make studying the Bible difficult, especially for the student who wants to keep various passages from multiple books in their historical context. That is where chronological Bibles come in. A chronological Bible puts the content of the Bible in chronological order. As an example, Isaiah ministered during the times of the kings. So a chronological Bible puts Isaiah’s prophecies in the appropriate places in the books of 1 and 2 Kings. A detailed chronological Bible, as well as many study Bibles, will also harmonize the four gospels, putting all the events in the life of Christ in chronological order.

Bibles International provides a basic chronology of the books of the Bible, placing them in the following order, according to the time of the events described in the books (https://biblesint.org/images/pages/PDFs/Chronological-Order.pdf, accessed 2/28/22):
Genesis
Job
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Chronicles
Psalms
Song of Solomon
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
1 Kings
2 Kings
2 Chronicles
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Ezekiel
Daniel
Ezra
Esther
Nehemiah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
Matthew
Mark
Luke
John
Acts
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Galatians
Romans
James
Colossians
Philemon
Ephesians
Philippians
1 Peter
2 Peter
Hebrews
1 Timothy
Titus
2 Timothy
Jude
1 John
2 John
3 John
Revelation

Other chronologies place the epistles of Galatians and James earlier in the list. A detailed list of biblical content in chronological order, broken into chapter and verse divisions, is available from Walk Thru the Bible (www.walkthru.org/wp-content/uploads/bible-reading-plans/Chronological-Bible-Reading-Plan.pdf, accessed 2/28/22).

The order of the books in the Bible is not inspired. One way to organize the books of the Bible is chronologically. That, for the most part, is a simple process of finding internal cues and following the history of the people and events described. No list will be absolutely definite, but Bible students can have a good idea of the order of the events in Scripture.

Here is a link to where chronological Bibles can be purchased through Christianbook.com - Chronological Bibles.

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Why isn’t the Bible in chronological order?
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This page last updated: February 28, 2022