Faith & Wisdom

How To Read The Bible In Chronological Order

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6
min
Date Published:
July 20, 2021

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Summary

The Bible contains two major sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. A range of different authors wrote these across hundreds of years. 

The Bible has 66 books in total. There are 39 books in the Old Testament (starting with Genesis) and 27 in the New Testament. Many of them are arranged across different Biblical genres, and you may want to focus your Bible study around these. 

It isn't essential to read the Bible in chronological order, but it can be a fun exercise to try and see God’s Word and events in Biblical history as they occurred in their correct order. There will be sections in the Bible that overlap and where timelines become blurry. This reading won't diminish the continued relevance of God’s Word.

This article examines how to perform a simple chronological reading of the Bible concerning the literary genres contained within the Scriptures.

What is the correct chronological order in the Bible?

For a chronological Bible reading, you may want to start with the Book of Genesis first and move to a different Bible reading every day. 

The chronological order of books in the Old Testament is: 

  1. Genesis 
  2. Exodus 
  3. Leviticus 
  4. Numbers 
  5. Deuteronomy 
  6. Joshua 
  7. Judges 
  8. Ruth 
  9. 1 and 2 Samuel 
  10. 1 and 2 Kings 
  11. 1 and 2 Chronicles 
  12. Ezra 
  13. Nehemiah 
  14. Esther 
  15. Jonah 
  16. Acts 


These books start with Genesis and continue with Abraham's story and the journey of the Hebrews out of Egypt.

There are 27 books in the New Testament, starting with the Gospels. (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), followed by the Acts of the Apostles, then letters or epistles. The final section is the Book of Revelation.

You can develop a reading plan, which introduces you to the key characters in the Bible, starting with Creation and Genesis. You can use this reading plan to customize your reading of the Bible so that on day one, you read John 1 ("in the Beginning was the Word) and move through Genesis on subsequent days.

If you want to develop a reading plan based on the chronological order of the New Testament, start with the books of Galatians and James on the first day. The birth of Jesus appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. From here, you'll work through to the Book of Revelation by day 27. 

A person reads the Bible
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How literary genre works in the Bible

The Bible is the most read and studied text in the world, and 3.9 billion copies have been sold over the last 50 years alone. 

The Books of the Bible (Old and New Testament) are based upon the literary genre along the following lines:

  • The books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
  • The books of history (Joshua through 2 Chronicles)
  • The books of wisdom (Job through Song of Solomon)
  • The prophets (Isaiah through Malachi)
  • The Gospels (Matthew through Acts)
  • The epistles (Romans through Jude)
  • Final prophecy (Revelation)

In our podcast "The Bible is the Greatest Leadership Book," Sally Burke tells us why we should read stories about leaders in the Bible and how it can inform our lives.

Another interesting section of the Old Testament is the Book of Psalms, which are essentially 150 Hebrew poems, including Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd." The Psalms teach us to offer praise to God.

Stained-glass window depicting a young Jesus teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem during Passover, from Luke 2: 40-52


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Why reading the Bible in chronological order can offer insights

You can easily develop your own reading plan of the Bible for both the Old and New Testaments. When reading the New Testament, you base your reading upon this timeline of the Acts and the Epistles.

You can start by following a simple historical narrative. Your Bible study can begin with Genesis and then reading in order: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2, Samuel, 1 and 2, Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah, followed by Acts. 

Daily reading of your Bible can help you with spiritual discernment by reading about the struggles many of these key characters in the Bible had during their lives.

St. Paul wrote 25% of the New Testament, and you can learn a lot by reading his letters to the Corinthians. Paul wrote letters to the Churches, including Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and the First and Second Thessalonians. These letters were written over 14 years to over seven churches throughout the world.

In Acts 17, you'll see Paul setting up the church at Thessalonica. Paul's letters in 1 Thessalonians tell us about the difficulties experienced in the early days by the Christian Church. Paul's letter to Philemon is considered an important moment in the Bible. 

There are many important prophets in the Bible. The major prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations 1 and 2, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The minor prophets all appear in the Bible at different times and include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. 

All of their messages cover a large period and deliver a wide variety of Christian instruction.

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How to develop a daily Bible reading plan for the year

You can develop your own Bible reading plan, starting with Creation on day one and working through Genesis, the story of Noah’s Ark up to Abraham’s journey. 

As you proceed through the Scriptures each day, make sure you highlight verses and make notes in the margins. You may also want to cross-reference other passages of the Bible. By the end of the year (on day 365), you’ll be reading the Book of Revelation, predicting the Second Coming of Christ, which is the logical end of the Bible.

While reading Abraham’s journey, consider the promises God made to him and the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery during the Exodus. The struggles of the Hebrews are well-documented by the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 1-3.

Reading the Bible is a lifelong journey


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Reading the Bible is fun

Many Christians trying to read the Bible in chronological order find themselves disoriented about overlapping times after reading Genesis and Exodus. 

By the time they get to later books in the Old Testament, they find themselves completely confused about the major players and where they sit in the historical record. 

The reading plan and ideas set out in this article should help to simplify the process. Using a reading plan gets you used to the most important characters and events in the Bible, starting with Creation. 

Reading the Bible should be an engaging activity. You can highlight your favorite verses and make notes in the margins as you go.

If you want to learn more about reading the Bible,  download the pray.com app — for daily prayer, bedtime Bible stories, and more — in the Google Play and Apple Store.

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