Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Chronological Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson

The Chronological Study Bible

The sights, sounds, smells and feelings are tangible to me even after over forty years of life. I remember the nursery, with caring smiling faces, a sense of comfort and love and of course Nilla Wafers and Ritz crackers. The vestibule was full of friendly faces, pats on the head and warm conversations. Many of the faces in my mind have long since exited this planet, but their love for Jesus, the local community and their church lingers on in my memory. From there, years of Sunday school, Children's Church, Awana Clubs, sword drills and the like filled my mind and heart with the stories of the bible. From large flannel graph boards to story books, the narrative of the bible, God and Jesus were permanently carved into my person. In college the bible was studied as literature, language, exegesis, theology and each verse was parsed into little pieces of truth. We did study through the bible more than once, but we never wavered from the canonical flow of the books.

Can you imagine reading through a book of American History that was out of order? Let's say the narrative started with man stepping on the moon, then moved to the war of 1812, then to the Great Depression, then the signing of The Declaration of Independence and next to the War Between the States, finally ending with the Golden Era of Industry beginning in the 1900's. You would indeed have individual stories of historical fact about America and Americans, but it would be difficult to fully see the grand picture of the historical timeline of the USA. The bible most of us read and study from everyday is much the same way. Each book is truth and points to The Truth but, many times the narrative timeline is out of order.

The Chronological Bible does much to alleviate the problem. The editors carefully attempt at move books, chapters and verses of scripture from their canonical location to a location in the narrative that best reflects the historical order of the story of the bible, God and Jesus.

You will not notice much difference in order from Genesis to Ruth, but moving through the story on Israel’s first monarch Saul and picking up the life of a future king David, you will see a surprising and remarkable change. The editors become concerned with placing scripture in an historical order of timeline. The publisher makes it clear in the introduction that the order as chosen by the editors is not without mistakes, but in my view, the scholars did a pretty good job.

As I read I found Psalm 23 in the place where David may have penned this most beloved scripture/song, between I Sam 16 and 17. Just a few pages later, Psalm 59 appears in the story as Saul is attempting to kill David. Throughout the narrative of David’s life the Psalms he wrote appear in the story in their approximate historical order. The same will be found with the life of Solomon and his writings. The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon appear in his life when they may have been penned, or when they address the time of Solomon’s life. The entire OT is placed in historical order. The king’s are placed in historical time along with the voices and writings of the Prophets. Their words of warning, blessing and cursing are linked together with the life and reign of each king of Israel, Judah and the kings and leaders of the Jewish exiles and oppression. I read the text seeing the entire story placed on the giant time line of world history, not a disjointed and separated revelation of God, his people and His life.

You will see and experience the beauty of the bible narrative in a new way. Freed from the canonical order, the bible becomes a giant story novel of God and His relationship with His planet and creation.

For those of you who are people of Christian faith, the NT will bring a new clarity of the Life of Jesus and the first 100 years of the church. The four gospels and Acts are no longer five separate books, but a written story of the life and incarnation of Jesus and the founding of the Christian Church. The voices of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are clear, but they are interwoven into a chorus of story tellers. As you move through the founding of the church, the Epistles of the church leaders of Paul, Peter, John and the rest are read as they would have been written. I Corinthians is placed after Acts 19:22, the place in the narrative of Acts where Paul might have written and sent the letter from his time in Ephesus. The entire NT flows in this manner until you end with the book of Revelation.

The publishers have not only provided a new view of an age old text, but they have included tools in the text to help the reader along the way. By glancing at the top of each page the reader will find out what scriptures are included as well as the approximate dates of the writing. At each book change or mashup, the editors include transitional explanations as to why the passage was placed in that spot. Notes are included to explain important archeological finds and information as well as secular and biblical historical details. Maps and geographic information are printed on the page as it coincides with the story, making it easier to visualize the physical placement of the narrative details. Illustrations are ghosted unto the pages at intervals to give visual interest to the text. The opening pages of the book have a comprehensive introduction that explains each tool and even suggestions for their use.

I like this bible. As a matter of fact, I wish I had owned one many years ago. This presentation allows the story of the bible to flow in a narrative form that will remind you of a novel. During my time of reviewing a copy, I took the Chronological Bible with me almost everywhere and showed it to many people. Each one that looked at the book and allowed me to show them “how” it worked had one statement, “I gotta have one”.

With the positives I found, I do want to point out a few weaknesses the format has. I do not like the onion skin thin paper the book is printed on. I know this is normal paper for the bible industry, but it is too thin to take the abuse I give to my study bibles. I want thick paper that can stand a hand written note with a colored Sharpie, but alas, this may be a dream I will never experience in any bible. I liked the ghosted illustrations in the text, but the illustrations themselves reminded me of the flannel graph figures of my childhood-cheesy vs realistic. The binding is hardcover, but I don’t know if it can hold up to traveling in my backpack from bedside, to car floor, to coffee shop, to computer bag, to airport, to office desk and back again.

It is a bible I believe all readers of The Book will enjoy. I also feel you will see and experience the greatness of the story in a new and maybe even miraculous way.

1 comment:

  1. I ordered one from Amazon for under $27(plus s/h). The list price is $45, probably too pricey for the casual reader. Amazon makes it affordable. I'm looking forward to receiving my copy.

    Thanks Jimmy!