The Best Bible I Ever Read

Sitting in that dark sanctuary four years ago, I felt a fire rising in my belly. On any other Sunday, I might have attributed it to bad pizza. But not that day.

The preacher issued a challenge, and the Spirit stirred up something within me. It was like he was talking directly to me.


You see, thanks to the faithfulness of my parents, we kids had been in church our whole lives. I was a grown man now (at least physically), and I still attended church—even though the choice was now mine.

But despite this fact, I never read the Scripture on a consistent basis. And being a Christian for almost two decades at that point, I had never read through the entire Bible.

So the preacher or the Spirit or both called out the congregation that day.

The challenge? Read through the Bible—start to finish—in ninety days.

It didn’t make sense to accept the challenge. Katie and I had just received two foster boys into our home after six years of kid-free marriage. And in addition, Katie was pregnant with our first child.

So time, which was once abundant in our house, suddenly was scarce. Why would God challenge me to read through the Holy Scriptures at such a breakneck pace?

It would have been easy to dismiss the charge. But one thing you must know about me: I’m a competitive guy. On the Clifton StrengthsFinder scale, Competition is my number one strength.

So I signed up.

That’s a nice little story, right?

I’d love to say it was all roses and peaches. I’d love to say that I understood every single word, that I never once nodded off, that I enjoyed every word of Obadiah.

But the truth is I struggled at times.

Jeremiah killed me. So did Psalms. And Isaiah. And 2 Chronicles (do we really need two chronicles?).

But even if it meant losing my religion I was going to finish in ninety days. And finish I did.

Since that day, I’ve never stopped reading the Word.



This Bible Can Take Your Understanding of the Scriptures to a New Level


But why should you care about my cute little story? How is it relevant to you?

Since that time I’ve read through many other versions of the Bible:

The NIV
The NASB
The KJV

But most recently I read through the best Bible I’ve ever read.

I know that sounds weird, or sacrilegious, or like I’m about to sell you something.

And while the below link is an affiliate link, I’m not sharing this primarily for gain. I’m sharing it because of how much it has helped me.

This Bible’s uniqueness isn’t its version or the provocative questions in the sidebar. It isn’t about the size of the print, the red letters, the gold tinged pages.

So what is it about?

The order.

The Bible I’m writing to you about is a chronological Bible. Specifically:

The Chronological Study Bible

Before we go any further, know this:

I respect and value the order of the canon of Holy Scripture. I think it’s important to understand which books go where and why. And I think it’s important to read them that way.

But reading through this chronological Bible has taken my understanding of the scripture and its context to new levels.

And that’s why I wanted to share it, because I believe it can do the same for you.



"A fallible human effort."


As the introduction to this Bible states, “Rearranging the Bible is, of course, a fallible human effort” (p. xi).

Many times, the editors simply have to guess which passage goes where, but they acknowledge when they do so.

And despite the limitations of attempting to place every verse in chronological order, reading the prophets in context of the narratives of Israel and Judah makes the Old Testament much more palatable. And reading the Psalms at the very points of David’s life in which they were probably written is a delight.

The Chronological Study Bible is filled with copious sidebars giving cultural background, cross referencing the events of the Bible with other ancient texts, discussing authorship, and providing probable dates for each period.

Each time there is a departure from the canonical order, the editors provide a “Transition” sidebar explaining the shift.

The first five books, the Pentateuch, remain intact as they follow a logical progression from creation to the edge of the Promised Land. Although Deuteronomy recaps much of the first four books, it is still appropriate to place it after Numbers since the book is essentially one long sermon by Moses reminding Israel of their identity in Yahweh.

After Deuteronomy is Psalm 90, a psalm commonly attributed to Moses. From there things really start to get interesting. (Did you know that the book of Jeremiah isn't even chronologically consistent within itself?)



Criticisms and Limitations


The Chronological Study Bible does have its flaws.


In an attempt to be impartial, it is almost too accepting of any argument against assumed authorship, and often it seems dismissive of events as depicted in the Bible if there exists no archaeological or extra-biblical accounts. Yet we must accept the Holy Word of God as infallible and reliable.

(Take for instance the introduction to the book of Jonah on page 576:

... scholars have noted that Assyrian records do not mention a mass repentance in Ninevah at this time. Also the title "king of Ninevah" (Jon. 3:6) seems rather small for the ruler of an empire. For these reasons, many have treated the book as an extended parable, not intended to be read as history.)

Nevertheless it is good to encounter these arguments so that you can prepare yourself against attacks on the authority of scripture.

Another aspect that might trip some people up is the translation. This Bible uses the New King James Version—not a problem for me, as I enjoy getting different perspectives. I always glean something new from each different translation. But I know that some people swear by the NIV, ESV, NASB or other versions.

The last thing to be aware of is that you won't quickly find a specific passage in the Chronological Study Bible. Don't bring it to church expecting to keep up with the preacher.

Despite these limitations, I still highly recommend you read this Bible. I plan on reading it every other year indefinitely.

And I also recommend you sign up for my monthly email article. It's like a bonus blog post, but you have to be a subscriber to get it. It's totally free: sign up here.

10 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You've got a pretty good chance so far. :)

      Delete
  2. I've never read a chronological version before. You have me thoroughly intrigued.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Pick me! I've never read a chronological bible, though it's been on my to-do list for some time now.

    My current physical bible (for church/bible study/etc) is NKJV, but I've been working through a 90-day reading plan on my phone, and that's ESV. (Come to think of it, I think I tried the 90-day thing at your suggestion, and was keeping up with it until my daughter was born.) The bulk of my memorization as an adult has been NASB, but I'm most familiar with NIV. So all this to say ... I guess I like lots of versions :).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, and hard passages ... there are lots of them for me, but I guess that's part of the beauty and the wonder of scripture. Romans 9 stands out. I really wrestle with that one. So much so that other members of my small group still give me a hard time about it because of the questions I raised when we studied it a few years back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suppose you're referring specifically to "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy"? or possibly verse 21?

      Good luck on your 90-day challenge. It was grueling for me, but totally worth it.

      Delete
    2. I have read the Bible through using NCV, NASB, NIV, KJV and NKJV. I think I prefer NKJV because it preserves the poetry of KJV but eliminates the archaic words with obscure meanings. It would be interesting to read through chronologically. It would certainly put things in historical perspective.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, those two in particular, but pretty much all of v13-24 can be hard to accept.

      Delete
  5. I've never read the chronological Bible, but when I worked at Mardels I would flip through it and loved it. I can navigate my way through the Bible pretty well, since being raised in church. But I've never read the Bible completely through....my hubby accepted Jesus in his heart in 2007. He always asks me questions about the history/land/ times, and always likes a complete explanation about everything. Lol I am not a history expert. I can't believe you and Katie accepted the challenge with the challenges you were already facing! Actually I can. Even if we don't get it, I'm inspired. I want to make a plan to have Bible time every night with our family. Thanks for sharing your story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! Thanks for sharing. I didn't know you used to work at Mardel!

      Delete