A Chronological Approach to Bible Study: a Bible review

On the making of books there is no end and much study wearies the body  (Ecclesiaties 12:12).

When Qoheleth penned these words,  he could not have imagined how many times his own prose would be copied, translated, edited and bound. On the publishing of Bibles there is no end, and Study Bibles weary the Body.  There is an ever-growing number of translations to choose from (i.e. CEB, ESV, NASB, NAB, GNB, The Message,  KJV, NKJV, NIV, TNIV( now deceased), NIrV, Amplified Bible, Living Bible, NLV, ISV, NKOTB, Jerusalem Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, God’s Word Translation, RSV, NRSV, and more).  There are also devotional Bibles marketed to ever niche from teenage girls to used car salesman (I’m exaggerating, slightly).  Study Bible’s are no better. There is a constant deluge of new study Bibles, each boasting a unique lens, approach, or aimed at a particularly age group, denomination or theological camp. The Bible is inspired but the notes seldom are. Still there are some great resources for those seeking to go deeper into the Biblical text.

Here is a Bible I think will be a beneficial for those wanting to go deeper into biblical history. The NIV Integrated Study Bible (NIVISB) presents the entire Bible in chronological order. When events are described by more than one biblical author, they appear in parallel columns (2-4). Geneologies are paralleled by then repeated later in their actual context. For example, Genesis 5, shows parallels in 1 Chronicles 1:1-4, and Luke 3:36b-38. But these also appear later in 1 Chronicles 1, and Luke 3, respectively. The effect is that the reader can see at a glance how events and people in biblical history relate to one another. This is particularly helpful in relating the history books and the prophets, or in illuminating gospel parallels. It is also helpful for navigating how some of Paul’s letters fit within Acts.

The NIVISB is edited by John R. Kohlenberger III and organized under six chronological categories: (1) Creation through the Patriarchs, (2) Conquest Through United Kingdom, (3) Divided Kingdom & Exile; (4) Return to the Land, (5) The Life of Jesus and (6) The Early Church. Additionally there are other helpful aids, like a timeline on the bottom of each page which locates the passages in the broad sweep of Biblical history, brief commentary linking transition between each era, and charts which illuminate each era. An index at the back of the Bible, aids in finding passages quickly.

Resources like this are helpful, because they do at a glance what cross references and commentaries do for us: they remind you of a passage’s place within the larger biblical story and show how different books relate together. I find this helpful. Nevertheless there are drawbacks to this format. First, it examines the Bible through a historical lens, but breaks up literary units. It is important to also read these passages in their own habitat. Second, this is the work of a New Testament scholar, giving his best guess on the chronology and timeline. Not every commentator would agree with all of Kohlenberger’s choices, though I think in the main, his timeline is quite reasonable. Third, on a practical level, those most at home in the traditional canon will have some difficulty in navigating to particular passages. But Kohlenberger doesn’t intend for this Bible to replace all others. His proposal is more modest. This is an aid for studying one aspect of scripture and helping readers grasp historical connections. He also suggests several other resources for digging into the text (conveniently all published by Zondervan).I give it four stars. ★★★★

Notice of material connection: I received this book for free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.