I recently bought a copy of The Chronological Study Bible. According to the preface, the Bible takes all of the verses of the KJV bible and rearranges them (with some debates on certain verses) into chronological order.

I've read through the KJV Bible a couple times in years past, but have pretty much always gotten lost in terms of the time period (i.e reading was more mechanical than understanding.)

Clearly most study Bibles are not in chronological order. Why is this? What are the disadvantages of arranging a Bible in Chronological order?

  • 3
    This is purely subjective, but I've been trying a chronological (of sorts) reading plan, and what I found was that I got bogged down and confused a bit by the multiple accounts of the same stories. For example, when reading about David as king, the plan I've been using kept jumping between a couple of chapters of 2 Samuel then some Psalms and then 1 Chronicles in order to line up the sub-narrative timelines, but it ended up feeling disjointed and repetitious to me in a way that reading the full story of each particular book does not. – Steven Aug 10 '12 at 13:06

From my theological vantage-point, I always wish to emphasize that the Bible is not a single book, but a collection of many books written by different people, at different times, and with differing opinions. When you jumble all that together, you effectively uproot every verse of the Bible from its literary context and risk taking verses out of context. This is the same reason that I personally don't find "harmonization" (e.g. of the Gospels) very helpful, because each Gospel has its own particular emphases and literary style.

Moreover, these Bibles only consider the narrative chronology and don't pay heed to compositional chronology. For instance, much of Chronicles runs parallel to Samuel–Kings, but Chronicles hails from the Persian period, whereas Sam–Kngs hails from the Babylonian period—but both talk about events from the Monarchy. Likewise, the narratives of Daniel (Babylonian per.) and Jonah (Assyrian per.) were most likely written well into the Persian (Jonah) or Hellenistic (Daniel) periods.

That said, there are certainly advantages to getting a "birds-eye" view of the chronology of the Bible—and a chronological study Bible may be helpful in that respect. You may also consider buying a good single-volume commentary (Like this one) or an accessible introduction to each testament.

N.B. on Canonical Order

The New Testament Canon

The New Testament Canon follows this order: 1) Gospels (earliest-to-latest), 2) Acts, 3) The Letters of Paul to Churches (arranged longest-to-shortest), 4) Letters of Paul to individuals, 5) Catholic Epistles (longest-to-shortest), 6) the Apocalypse of John.

The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament:

The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament varies depending on the church/religious group. Jews follow their traditional order of 1) Torah, 2) Prophets, 3) 'Writings' (Where the Torah is the Pentateuch, the prophets are the 'historical books' [minus Chronicles] and the Major prophets, and the 'writings' are the Psalms, minor prophets and the rest [including Chronicles, which is at the end]). Protestants use the same books as the Jews, but put them in order by genre: 1) Pentateuch, 2) Historical Books, 3)Major Prophets, 4) Minor Prophets. Note that the Christian OT always ends with Malachi, because it dovetails so nicely with Matthew. Catholic and Orthodox Christians follow the same basic order that the Protestants do, but include books that the Protestants removed from their Bibles (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ben Sirah, etc.).