Bible - Versions & Translations

The Dangers of So-Called Chronological Bibles

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
While they may seem to be useful tools, so-called chronological Bibles actually destroy the fabric of the inspired Word of God.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

While they may seem to be useful tools, so-called chronological Bibles actually destroy the fabric of the inspired Word of God.

Readers and listeners have written to ask our opinion of so-called chronological Bibles, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. A chronological Bible divides up the chapters and verses of Scripture and places them in what is alleged to be a chronological order, according to the judgment of the editors. Chronological Bibles have serious problems, as we can illustrate by describing three of them.

Three Examples - And Their Problems

One such version, The Reese Chronological Bible, is advertised thus: "Now you can put together the giant puzzle of biblical people, places, and dates because the text has been printed in chronological order." Extensive notations overshadow the text of Scripture, which is presented in an extremely fragmented fashion. For example, the account of the birth and early life of Moses sequences Scripture as follows: Numbers 26:59, Exodus 6:20, Exodus 1:15-20, 1 Chronicles 23:13, Exodus 1:21-22, and so on. Between each of these passages are notations set in much larger type than the text of Scripture itself. The Reese Bible, the work of one man associated with Hyles-Anderson College in Indiana, organizes the text of the Bible according to an artificial Dispensationalist matrix. (For more information on the serious problems with this approach, see our article, Dispensations: How Many?)

The NIV Narrated Bible overshadows the Bible text with "an insightful descriptive narrative [that] ties events together and draws you irresistibly into the center of action." The entire book of Psalms is artificially arranged, as the back cover puts it, "by sentiment." The editor, F. LaGard Smith, was a scholar in residence at Lipscomb University in Tennessee, a school affiliated with the Churches of Christ, a denomination that teaches the heresy of salvation by water baptism.

The Thomas Nelson NKJV Chronological Study Bible was compiled and edited by a committee of "Bible scholars" - most of them from liberal universities and seminaries - who are strongly influenced by the corrupt philosophy of higher criticism. Higher criticism treats the Bible as a fallible text created by human beings for their own motives, rather than as the inspired, inerrant, supernatural Word of God. The editors of the Thomas Nelson NKJV Chronological Study Bible do not uphold the Bible as the God-breathed Word, inspired in every detail by the Holy Spirit. They believe, for example, in what is called the "synoptic problem" - that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar to one another in content and expression, not because they are divinely inspired, but because, they allege, all three writers used yet another source document the scholars refer to as the "Q document" - for which there is absolutely no evidence.

It is also noteworthy that each of these works presents a significantly different alleged chronology.

Dangerous Ground

Study tools such as Alfred Edersheim's Bible History: Old Testament and Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah are helpful references for understanding the basic chronology of the historical events recorded in Scripture and the cultural/historical background reflected in the text. But so-called chronological Bibles, by their massive rearrangement of the inspired text and heavy intrusion of human opinions, facilitate violation of God's commands concerning the proper handling of Scripture - exceedingly dangerous territory for men to tread!

You shall not add to the Word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)

Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32)

Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6)

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

We Need the Word as Given by God

The Bible is not, as the promoters of these works allege, a "giant puzzle" to be solved. On the contrary,

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

We must not lay an artificial matrix over Scripture, chronological or otherwise, that is based upon the calculations of fallible (and often unsaved) men. We need to read the Word in the ordered and connected manner in which God the Holy Spirit has given it to us, book by book, chapter by chapter. Scripture's orderliness and connectedness are integral elements of its Divine inspiration.

As we read the Word as given by the Spirit, we must seek the work of Divine Author of Scripture to illuminate it for us. Our prayer must ever be, "Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your Word. Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law" (Psalm 119:17-18). God will reveal far more of benefit to the open-hearted, regenerated student of Scripture who reads the Word systematically as given, than any artificial construct of man possibly can.


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