When you read different books of the Bible, do you get confused about the order of events; for example, how the message of a prophet in one book fits into the timeline of activity recorded in another book? Or when and where the stories of Scripture took place and why it’s important to understand these details?
What does it mean to read the Bible chronologically?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: It means reading the Bible in the actual order of events as they transpired in Bible times. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, the book of Job is the 18th book in the Old Testament. However, most scholars agree that the events in the book of Job took place in close proximity to the patriarchs in the book of Genesis. Hence, in my book I address the book of Job right after dealing with Genesis.
We can make a similar point regarding the book of Acts and some of the short epistles in the New Testament—such as Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and James. Did you know that a number of the epistles were actually written during the historical timeframe covered by the book of Acts? So, for example, when Acts 15 discusses the Jerusalem Council which met in AD 49, it’s perfectly appropriate to address the book of James following Acts 15, since James was written the very same year. Addressing some of these short epistles within the broader context of the book of Acts flows quite smoothly.
What are the benefits of reading the Bible chronologically?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: The Bible is a divinely inspired book—or, more accurately, collection of books—that tells the true story of human redemption. Taking a chronological approach helps us to understand this redemption drama as it chronologically unfolded in ancient times. That helps us to understand the drama in context. It helps us to understand the drama in real history. And that’s a good thing! Everything just makes better sense when understood chronologically.
What are the challenges?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: There are definitely some challenges in taking a chronological approach to studying the Bible. To start, let’s recognize that the ancients were not as concerned about precise chronological order as we are today. Sometimes the ancients organized material in a book according to a particular purpose or theme, not according to a day-by-day calendar of events.
We must also admit that even though the Scriptures are inerrant, human attempts at Bible chronology are not! Some Bible scholars have different opinions on the precise order of events in the Bible. My personal view is that so much study has been done on all this through the years that it’s now possible to put together a chronology with a strong confidence that we’re “in the ballpark.” It seems to me that we’re all fairly certain on the “big picture” of Bible chronology. It’s primarily the finer details that generate the most debate. The chronology reflected in this book is, in my studied opinion, one that makes good sense of the biblical data.
Your book is organized by eras. Please explain.
Dr. Ron Rhodes: There are 365 days’ worth of short Bible studies in A Chronological Tour Through the Bible—one for each day of the year. These 365 daily studies are categorized under nine broad eras of time:
- Era 1: Beginnings (the undated past–1800 BC)
- Era 2: The Birth of Israel (1800–1406 BC)
- Era 3: Possessing the Promised Land (1406–1050 BC)
- Era 4: The United Monarchy (1050–930 BC)
- Era 5: The Kingdom Divided (930–586 BC)
- Era 6: Living in Exile (586–538 BC)
- Era 7: The Return from Exile (538–6 BC)
- Era 8: The Coming of Jesus Christ (6 BC–AD 30)
- Era 9: The Early Church (AD 30–95)
These eras give us a historical framework that makes it easier to approach the Bible from a chronological perspective. They help us to see the “big picture” so that the finer details in each biblical book make better contextual sense. The more we understand this “big picture,” the easier it is to comprehend the overall redemption drama recorded for us in Scripture.
While your book is divided into 365 readings, you include five sections in each reading. Tell us about that.
Dr. Ron Rhodes: Well, foundationally, each chapter has a descriptive heading that lets you know the topic of each day’s study. Immediately following, I state the exact Bible passage(s) we’ll be exploring that day. That gets us off to a quick and easy start.
After you read each passage (or set of passages), you’ll find five very brief but helpful sections:
- Key Concept: This is a broad thematic statement about a particular day’s Scripture reading.
- The Big Picture: This is a short summary of the most important aspects of a particular day’s Bible reading.
- Transformational Truth: This involves a Bible principle we can apply to our lives.
- A Verse for Meditation: This is included for personal reflection.
- A Question to Ponder: These questions motivate self-examination. They help us to apply Scripture to our lives.
Each of these sections are necessarily brief. After all, the book has 365 chapters, which means each chapter needs to be very short—in essence, a “micro-chapter.” But these short chapters are strategically designed to give you maximum benefit as you read Scripture and allow it to transform your life. Harvest House did a fantastic job on the layout of the book. It’s very user-friendly.
What one or two Bible books were a highlight for you in writing this book?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: That’s easy to answer: Genesis and Revelation, the first and last books of the Bible chronologically. The Bible (in Genesis) begins with paradise lost. The Bible ends (in Revelation) with paradise regained. Actually, it’s fascinating to contrast the book of Genesis with the book of Revelation. There is a grand reversal worthy of our deepest contemplation:
- In Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). In Revelation, God creates the new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-2).
- In Genesis, the sun and moon were created as “two great lights” (Genesis 1:16-17). In Revelation, there is no longer any need for such light, for the glory of God lights up the eternal city of the redeemed (Revelation 21:23; 22:5).
- In Genesis, God created the night (Genesis 1:5). In the book of Revelation, there is no longer any night (Revelation 22:5).
- In Genesis, human beings succumb to Satan’s temptations through the serpent (Genesis 3:1-4). In Revelation, Satan is eternally quarantined away from the people of God (Revelation 20:10). He is no longer around to harass God’s people.
- In Genesis, the first man and woman succumb to sin (Genesis 3). In Revelation, redeemed humans are free from sin and live in a perfectly holy environment (Revelation 21:1-2).
- In Genesis, as a result of sin, God pronounces a curse (Genesis 3:17). In Revelation, there is no more curse (Revelation 22:3).
- In Genesis, the first man and woman were barred from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). In Revelation, redeemed humans are restored to the tree of life (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19).
- In Genesis, tears, death, and mourning entered human existence (Genesis 2:17; 29:11; 37:34). In Revelation, tears, death, and mourning are forever absent from the redeemed (Revelation 21:4).
- In Genesis, a Redeemer is promised (Genesis 3:15). In Revelation, the victorious Redeemer reigns (Revelation 20:1-6; 21:22-27; 22:3-5).
In between Genesis and Revelation, we read all the chronological details of God’s redemption drama.
How do you want readers to use your book?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: I want my readers to approach A Chronological Tour Through the Bible through prayerful dependence on God. In fact, I urge my readers to pray this way:
Lord, I ask you to open my eyes and enhance my understanding so that I can grasp what You want me to learn today (Psalm 119:18). I also ask you to enable me, by the Holy Spirit, to apply the truths I learn to my daily life, and be guided moment by moment by your Word (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). I thank you in Jesus’s name. Amen.
It makes good sense to ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand and apply Scripture to our lives. After all, the Holy Spirit inspired all of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). He who inspired Scripture is also its supreme interpreter and teacher.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: Unquestionably, my favorite Bible passage is Matthew 11:28-30, where Jesus said: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Such liberating words!
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway?
Dr. Ron Rhodes: I love the website. I’ve written over 80 books, and I don’t think I’ve ever failed to consult Bible Gateway in the process of writing all those books. It’s feature-rich and user-friendly. Keep up the good work.
Bio: Dr. Ron Rhodes has been happily married for almost four decades, and has two grown children who are both devoted Christians. He earned his Masters and Doctoral degrees at Dallas Theological Seminary (where his son will soon graduate), and was for eight years heard regularly on the national Bible Answer Man radio broadcast. He continues today to answer Bible questions on various national radio and television broadcasts. He has written over 80 books, including A Chronological Tour Through the Bible, The Big Book of Bible Answers, and The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions. His number one goal in life is to honor Christ by serving the body of Christ.
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