Reading the Bible Chronologically

This month we are highlighting Bible reading, and today’s post is about reading the Bible chronologically. What does that mean? Good question!

One great way to read the Bible is from cover-to-cover just as it’s written (i.e. Genesis to Revelation), but another popular strategy is to read the events of the Bible in the order in which they occured throughout history.

The main thing to keep in mind there is that the Bible isn’t written as a modern history textbook, which usually covers events chronologically–from oldest to newest. Instead, the Bible groups things together by genre (i.e. history, law, poetry, prophecy). Reading the Old Testament all the way through would involve reading what took place (history books), followed by the prayers and poems that were written during that time (e.g. Psalms, Proverbs), and then the prophetic messages God sent throughout their history (e.g. Isaiah, Jeremiah, minor prophets).

A chronological reading of the Bible involves jumping around a little bit by rearranging all of that into one story as it occured in history. That sounds like a lot of work, but it is definitely worth it!

For example, have you ever read through the book of Acts, but stopped to read Paul’s epistles to each church (Ephesians, Philippians, etc.) at the proper place in the story? Knowing the context of those letters from Acts gives them much more depth and meaning. The same can be said about reading the prophetic books of the Old Testament as you read through the historical books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.

Helpful Resources:

  1. This blog post from the editors of the NIV Bible post talks a lot more about the value of reading the Bible in chronological order, and it links to some amazing resources (charts, Bible timelines, chronological reading plans) that can help you do just that.
  2. They even have Bibles that are rearranged in chronological order so you can read through it in a year as the events would have really happened. Incredible!
  3. Here is one version of a chronological reading plan from the good folks at Blue Letter Bible. Notice how the prophetic books are interspersed throughout the historical books of the Old Testament, and Paul’s letters are interspersed with the historical book of Acts.
  4. Here is an Old Testament timeline published on BibleGateway that shows where the Old Testament prophets fit into the history of Israel.
  5. Lastly, this is a timeline of the New Testament that shows where Paul’s letters fit into the rest of the story (among other things):