The Chronological Study Bible is something that’s pretty close to a must-have for anyone who’s serious about studying the Bible. We live at a time when there are hundreds of cheap “themed” Bibles that are really not much more than a standard Bible with a few devotionals thrown in randomly. This Bible, published by Thomas Nelson, was put together by no less than 13 contributors, each Ph.D.s and Th.Ms in various universities around the country. In the introduction, they state that one of the goals of the Bible is to “help Bible readers join the scholar’s quest for historical truth”.
A lot of us who read the Bible make the mistake of reading it in a vacuum. But something important to remember about the Bible is that while it was inspired by God, it was written by human beings who lived in the world. And so while a lot of people just read the Bible as a theoretical religious book, understanding the world that the authors lived in really helps you understand the text in context of their world. And in turn, we can apply the text more effectively to our world.
The Bible is the regular NKJV text of the Bible, but both entire books and sections of books have been rearranged to reflect as accurately as possible the actual order of the events described in the Bible. This might strike some purists as a bit sacrilegious, but the truth is that through the Bible’s history there have been different orderings, including when Jerome translated the Bible in the 4th century AD, when the Greek translation called the Septuagint was created, and the original Hebrew manuscripts. The editors of this Bible are transparent about the difficulties of providing exact dates for certain Bible passages and even disagreements among themselves, but the end product seems to be a very good reflection of chronology. It different slightly from other chronological Bibles I’ve seen, but the ordering never seems arbitrary and is always explained.
In addition to the chronological text, there are a huge number of features. They divide the Bible text into what they call “Epochs” and describe what was going on in world history at the same time as the events described in the Bible were happening. Their attention to detail is amazing. They talk about what daily life was for people living in the times and places that the Bible’s events took place. The full-color pages include photos of archaeological discoveries that help you further visualize the areas and the day-to-day lives. Where appropriate in the context, they give a lot of insights into world history–it’s amazing how understanding the history behind the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans help you understand the context of the words in the Bible. This isn’t a “Study Bible” in the traditional sense where every verse in annotated with background information or explanation, but on the other hand, nearly every page does have a useful call-out that provides this kind of context. I also love details such as how the top of every page tells you what years (BC or AD) the events occurred.
The book itself is stunningly beautiful. The version I had a chance to read had a greyish-green and blue faux-leather cover with the words “Chronological Student Bible” embossed in the front. I prefer the imitation leather cover to the hardcover, as it makes it lighter. The book is 1700 pages and about 9″ by 6″ by 2″, so it has to use very thin paper; if you’re not very careful with it it can tear easily. The one slightly annoying thing I found is that a lot of the pages are “stuck” together when the book is new, and you need to carefully pry them apart. But it’s a reasonable price to pay to keep the entire volume in one, and each page also has gold edging to finish the classic look.
As with any time you’re reading scholarly and academic commentary on the Bible, you do need to prepare yourself. Most of the time, the editors of this Bible stick to clearly researched historical facts, but even when they veer into conjecture, I find their commentary fair and good for me to use as reference. I know that some people might feel comfortable, for example, when they read that things like the fact that there were other accounts of the flood, or that authors traditionally associated with certain books may not have been the actual authors. While I like about these editors’ commentary is that they present the facts without necessarily drawing conclusions for you (for example, one Amazon reviewer said that the editors’ inclusion of other accounts of the flood implied that the Bible’s account was not reliable, but I don’t see the commentators ever saying that).
Overall, I highly recommend this Bible as one of the main ones in your library.