Thanks to Laura Bartlett for sending along Tyndale’s newest edition of the NLT Bible: 24/7 A One Year Chronological Bible. Tyndale, 2008.
First off, this edition is in a unique format. It is more or less in a square shape with the dimensions 6.5 x 5 x 1.8 inches. So, it’s trendy, and probably, it will appeal to a younger crowed.
Secondly, there are historic Christian symbols throughout that are connected to the Christian Faith – these are new woodblock prints specially commissioned for this edition of the NLT. This adds to the visual appeal of the Scriptures in a similar manner that I imagine Icons do for those of the EOC and related communions.
Thirdly, in a manner similar to the typical One Year Bible format, in the margins are what they call “verse callouts” that are more or less “Scriptures of the day” highlighted in bold. Often these are the typically “important” verses or are ones that most recognize as being significant in one way or another. The intent is for folks to think upon the slected verses in times of meditation and throughout the day.
Finally, the most significant feature is the Scriptures in chronological order, as is understood by the editors.
When asked if I wanted to review a chronological Bible for Tyndale, to be honest at first I hesitated. If I’ve been listening properly on the biblical studies e-list the whole concept of a chronological Bible can be a bit noxious, especially with the Old Testament. So much of what was written when is hotly debated and often not always conclusively verifiable. In fact, one lister argued that “only Evangelicals” would put an early date on Daniel, etc. This is less so with the NT but still there is debate as to which Gospel was first and which was Paul’s first letter and so on.
Let me share an example. Jan 2, one reads Genesis 4:1-5:32; 1 Chronicles 1:1-4; Genesis 6:1-22. The last part of the first Genesis reading has the genealogy from Adam to Noah – then the Chronicles reading has another brief listing of Adam and Noah’s descendants. Then you carry on with the Flood account. This might be interesting but the problem I have is, there is a reason Chronicles falls where it does in the Hebrew Bible – some may not know this but in the Hebrew Scriptures, Chronicles comes last – its more theological than historical but is believed to be written for a post-exilic Israel to help them get back on track with the Lord – there is lots of idilic language (note: it does not account David’s adultery with Bathsheba, even Menassah is shed in a positive light as an example of the benefits of repentance) but I am not sure the genealogy of Adam and Noah from the Chronicles belongs with the Genesis account of the same in a chronological Bible – the purpose of the genealogy in the Chronicles is to remind the people of Israel who they were and are and are to be. So, I guess that is one problem I have with how the editors of this edition of the NLT structured the chronology. Does reading Job fit well between Genesis and Exodus?
Another example would be that the “historical” books of Samuel – accounts of David are blended with Psalms attributed to David (The Kings only have a couple of Psalms blended in, a Psalm of Solomon and David). Some of the Psalms are clearly Davidic and obviously written by him such as Ps 51 for example. The problem is the superscriptions (read: titles) are all believed to be post-exilic, meaning many of Psalms are anonymous. Certainly Hebrew tradition knew certain psalms belonged to certain folks but for the most part the Hebrew “lamed” functions as a preposition meaning “to, for, by or of” so plugging them in certain places in the historical accounts can be a bit subjective. A Psalm can be to David, for David, of David, or by David. For a Psalm to be “Davidic” it has elements of similarity to Psalms known to be written by King David. Otherwise, because the superscriptions are late, there is no real way to know who wrote what Psalm when. But to be fair, looking at the reading schedule, it seems the editors took care to be sure that Psalm 34 belonged appropriately with the reading of 1 Samuel 20:1-21:15 (April 15).
The Gospels are read more or less like a harmony. They do the same with the historical books in the OT with I&II Samuel, I&II Kings, and I&II Chronicles but I would probably have done that only with Samuel and Kings since they both have a pre-exilic message (this is why Israel went into exile), Chronicles should be separate, as I see it, since it is clearly post-exilic. Some of the Prophets are also blended into the Samuel and Kings narratives.
In regard to Paul, being a South Galatians guy, I was pleased to see the editors put Galatians first in the reading of Paul’s letters. I do believe he visited Galatia before he went to Thessalonika. Typically in any NT Survey book the Thessalonian correspondence is believed to be Paul’s first letters. Paul’s letters are blended into the Acts narrative, so the Thessalonians come after the account of Paul being at Thessalonika and so on.
With the Johannine writings I expected that since the Fourth Gospel is typically dated late (80’s-90’s) that it would come at the end the readings, well after Paul’s letters, and not blended in with the Synoptics, but in fact, all four Gospels are blended and all come before Paul’s letters. which is interesting since chronologically, a significant majority of Paul’s letter were written well before Mark even got started. In fact, if you’ve read Strobel’s, The Case for Christ, you know that Paul is the best witness to the validity of the Gospels since he was prior to them.
So I suppose the 24/7 Chronological Bible is really only chronological to a point – if the Editors were technical about it, they would have had Paul’s letters first, then the Synoptics (Luke-Acts together) then the rest of the NT, and then the Johannine corpus would close it out, if I understand NT Chronology in a basic sense. Blending Paul into the Acts narrative does seem to help put his letters in “context.” But strictly speaking, Paul was before even Acts was written.
So, you can see the potential problems of putting together a Chronological Bible and why it would be hard to read in some sense and how in some sense it could be potentially misleading.
All that aside, I think it probably will be fun to read through the Bible in an imaginative way as to how God’s redemptive story plays out in history! And of course reading all that in the NLT!
Thanks again to the folks at Tyndale for the opportunity to review the 24/7 Chronological edition of the NLT!