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The Bible and chronology (1)

One of the biggest challenges people face in getting a grip on the Scripture has to do with understanding its chronology.  For better or for worse, the books in the Bible are arranged only in a general way by the history they contain.  This means that if you started in Genesis and read all of the way through to Revelation, you would for the most part be moving from earlier to later, but not always –-- and that’s what makes it challenging. 


For example, the book of Daniel comes after the book of Ezra in the Bible, but what you read about in the first chapter of Daniel happened before the events recorded in Ezra 1.  Then to further complicate matters, the contents of some of the individual books are not in chronological order (Jeremiah or Psalms would be examples).  Needless to say, all of this can be a little confusing and overwhelming for the person who sits down to study the Bible with the expectation that the sixty-six books of the Bible are arranged in the nice, neat order in which the events within them occurred. 


F. LaGard Smith and others have helped us by organizing the Bible chronologically (Smith’s work is The Narrated Bible).  But for most of us, it’s still quite helpful if we can learn how to relate to the Bible in its traditional arrangement.


I’ve adapted the following outline quite a bit from something I came across years ago by Ray Baughman called Bible History Visualized.  Like all outlines, you’ll find that it omits some things and perhaps gives too much emphasis to other things.  Still, it's a start in helping us to get a handle on the chronology of the books of the Bible.


There are two things we need to lock down in order to move in and out of the Scriptures with ease in this area.


1)  We need to understand the span of history itself that is covered in the Bible (which is from creation until about 100 AD).  The outline below divides this time into 13 periods and discusses their key events.


2)  We need to understand where the books of the Bible belong in relationship to these different historical eras.


Here’s a breakdown of the history covered in the Bible and the corresponding sections of Scripture.


Creation (Genesis 1-5)

Cleansing (Genesis 6-10)

Calling (Genesis 11-50; Job)

Chains (Exodus 1-13)

Crossings (Exodus 14-Deuteronomy)

Conquering (Joshua)

Crown (Judges-1 Kings 11; 1 Chronicles 1-2 Chronicles 9; Psalms-Song of Solomon)

Crisis (1 Kings 12-2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 10-35; Isaiah; Hosea; Joel; Amos; Jonah; Micah)

Captivities (2 Kings 17-25; 2 Chronicles 36; Jeremiah; Lamentations; Ezekiel; Daniel; Obadiah; Nahum; Habakkuk; Zephaniah)

Construction (Ezra-Esther; Haggai-Malachi)

Coming (Matthew-John)

Church (Acts)

Correspondence (Romans-Revelation)


In the next two posts, there's a brief summary of what happens in each of these periods to help us see the flow of biblical history and understand how it all comes together to form a single story.  You can link it here:


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