Monday, September 01, 2008

Scholar: "I'd want to be quite careful in pitching this as a Bible."

It's hard to know where to begin to explain how wrongheaded this idea is. The Religion News Service and some other news outlets are carrying the story about a new Bible headed to our Christian bookstore shelves. Thomas Nelson is publishing the "Chronological Study Bible". This so-called Bible purports to put the canonical text in chronological order.

The order in which the books appear in our Bibles has long been a subject of debate; and when we use the word "long", this means all the way back to the time when Jewish theologians were debating the order of the Tanakh (Old Testament). Even New Testament scholars have debated whether 2 Chronicles or Malachi should be the last book leading into the Christ event of the New Testament. And, of course, the most popular arrangement question has been: who decided that the Gospel of John belongs between Luke and Acts, two books that actually tell us that they are a two-volume set? Some have even posited the tantalizing thought that the development of the order of the canon in redemptive has had a divine hand... kind of like... inspiration.
However, this new so-called Bible from Thomas Nelson goes far beyond the order and arrangement of the books, and in doing so, attacks the very notion of inspiration in redemptive history. Ironically (against the well-intentioned claims of its publisher), this new Bible strips the canon of its intended *meaning*. Ultimately, it undermines Sola Scriptura, and in doing so, robs The WORD of His glory and authority, and mutes the life-changing life and grace dispensed through the Word by The WORD.
The Chronological Study Bible doesn't just rearrange the order of the books. It plays "cut and paste" with the text itself. As Tim Murphy of the RNS reports, "the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are merged into one based on Mark's chronology; and some of St. Paul's letters (which traditionally appear later in the New Testament) are woven into the Book of Acts". Bob Smietana of the Tennesseean reports, "Entire books, like the Psalms, have been chopped up and mixed in with other sections of the Scripture..." Wow. It's hard to believe someone would make another attempt at the ill-advised "Jefferson Bible".

There are a host of fundamentally flawed and arrogant assumptions that would go into a disposition that would mutilate the text this way:
1. The Bible is better understood or easier to understand chronologically.

2. History is best understood chronologically.

3. Chronology is more important to our interpretation of the Bible than theology (or eschatology).

4. Historical context is more important for *meaning* than revelational (eschatological, Christological) context.

5. Chronology is more important to our interpretation of the Bible than the intentions of the original author or even the Divine Author in its backdrop.

6. The immediate event that either gives rise to any given passage or described by any given passage is more important than the intentions of the original author or the original context in which the passage has been placed.

7. Pseudepigrapha (the practice of falsely authoring a work under another well-known name, a name usually drawn from the past) was not only a legitimate practice for canonical authors, but widely utilized in the development of the canon.

8. Any passage of scripture can be better understood by biblically illiterate readers in a chronological format than its divinely inspired immediate context.

9. Narrative takes precedence over all other forms of literature in the canon.

10. Rearranging the content of the text has no impact on the content itself or its meaning.

11. The narrative is predominantly the chronicling of brute history for history sake, not history for theology/eschatology sake.

12. The life, meaning, and *power* of the Word is in its micro-form, not its canonical context.

13. Scripture does not interpret scripture, at the very least for the biblically illiterate, if not for the rest of us.

14. The writing, collection, and organization of the canon throughout redemptive history had little rhyme or reason and chronology recaptures this "rhyme or reason".

15. The reader's chronological orientation as a worldview is the correct orientation in which the Bible is to be interpreted.

16. Books of the Bible are almost exclusively a mishmash of human authors and a product of the faith community.

17. It's possible to arrive at a chronology of scripture.

18. The publisher of the CSB knows better than the Divine Author *how* the "sacred writings" (2 Timothy 3:15) should have been arranged.

This is just the beginning. I'm sure there are more that could be added by canonical scholars more learned than I. Certainly, the biblical studies field isn't all that stoked about such a Bible, with Pat Graham, a professor at Emory University telling the Religion News Service, "Any biblical studies expert worth their salt would not have much interest in this at all, except as kind of a curiosity." In surveying the above assumptions, it would be easy to point fingers at liberal higher criticism, the liberal scholarship whose not-so-subtle purpose is to deconstruct the text.
But many of those same underlying assumptions, ironically, can be found in the hyper-literalism in conservative circles. This so-called Bible is the literalism chickens come home to roost. Literalism, the idea that the Bible must be literally interpreted whenever possible (as arbitrary a hermeneutical principle as there is), gets its life sustenance from the priority of chronology.
Because we were created in time and space, we are creatures of chronology. We don't even realize, most of the time, that chronology not only dominates what we do, but permeates how we think. Chronology is inherent to how we interpret our lives and our world. But while it is intrinsically human to be chronological in our world orientation, we must always be cognizant that our humanity is fallen and depraved; thus, our chronological orientation does not escape the fatal effects of our fallenness and depravity. Because of the fall, time is a tyrant; we are slaves to the clock.
When Vos showed us (in The Pauline Eschatology) that the writers of the canon – especially Paul – were interpreting history eschatologically (through the lens of the future), he was showing us that eschatology is prior to chronology. This thought isn’t merely a hermeneutic; it is a worldview. This is why Paul says in order to “put off/put on” (chronology; Colossians 3:9), we must first look to the heavens where our reality is seated and hidden in Christ (eschatology; Colossians 3:1-4). The ethic (put off/put on) is the product of the eschatology (your life is hidden with Christ in God). Paul isn't merely helping us interpret scripture, he is helping us interpret life. Even in our lives, eschatology is prior to chronology. In the already/not yet, what is heavenly (eschatology) imposes and intrudes itself on the earthly... and that includes chronology. The mundane of our chronological, earthly lives does not escape this eschatological reality (see Colossians 3:8, 12-14).

What is taking place in Colossians 3 between ethics and eschatology *is* the pattern of redemptive history, its revelation, and hermeneutic. Throughout the canon, then, chronology serves the higher purpose of bringing about the redemption of God’s people in the focal point of human history, Jesus Christ. Why is eschatology prior to chronology? Because chronology is so much a part of the human condition, chronology itself is bound up with what must be redeemed. Chronology had a beginning (creatio ex nihilo), thus it is a product of the Creator. Chronology cannot be in the hermeneutical driver’s seat, much less the theological driver’s seat, simply because it is inherent to the creature. It is only in the eschatology and soteriology of regeneration, Christ’s resurrection moved forward through time and space to quicken us (or better, down from heaven -- a deposit of that which is our future), that we are free from the tyranny of time. Our redeemed orientation is no longer a slave to the clock, which is especially manifested in our rest and contentedness in God's providence over time).

This doesn't mean that chronology is not important *at all*. Certainly it is. Redemption and revelation have taken place in time and space in the chronological unfolding of history. Without a very real chronology in history, the Christ event would be nothing more than an abstract, an idea so nebulous it would either be incomprehensible as other-worldly or completely malleable as a product of human ingenuity. Revelation must be tied to chronology if it is stand outside of ourselves as an act of God and a *fact* of history. Chronology provides the vehicle through which the Creator reveals himself to the creature in ever-increasing clarity.
This unfolding has culminated in a Person, Jesus Christ, who has brought together both chronology and eschatology in the Incarnation of God. As Vos has so clearly stated, "History we need, and that not only in the form of the tale of a certain perfect ethical and religious experience, which has somewhere come to the surface on the endless stream of phenomena, but such a history as shall involve the opening of the heavens, the coming down of God, the introduction of miraculous regenerative forces into humanity, the enactment of a veritable drama of redemption between the supernatural and the natural world." (Christian Faith and the Truthfulness of Bible History, The Princeton Theological Review 4:289-305. [1906]) This "coming down", this "drama" is none other than Christ himself; the eschatological intrudes the chronological and in doing so, both become embodied in His Person.

The scripture’s own Christocentric hermeneutic reflects this reality. All of this may sound cerebral, but it has everything to do with this new so-called Bible which has been cast into a chronological mold. While the creature, because of his chronological orientation may be supremely interested in "when things occur", the text, its human authors, and divine authors, are not as interested. This text has come down from heaven (albeit through the pens of human authors) and thus bears heaven's eschatological orientation. Chronology is subservient to eschatology. And if chronology serves eschatology (or theology) in the text, then any attempt to chronologize the text makes the text meaningless. Correct interpretation becomes impossible. It is because the text is thoroughly eschatological, coming from heaven to earth and from the future to the present, that to rearrange the text according to chronology is to void it of meaning.

An example of how chronology serves eschatology, soteriology, and Christology (all 3 are really bound up together), and then, how meaning is corrupted if chronology reigns supreme is found in the Garden of Eden. The Garden is a foil for those who think they can chronologize the text. The Garden isn’t merely a historical event recorded for the purposes of being an apologetic for man’s origins. Genesis 1-3 doesn’t merely tell us where man came from and how sin corrupted the creature and creation. Eden serves to point us to the last Garden of God, the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22 and to Christ, the ultimate Resting Place of man’s destiny. Eden serves as a shadow of God’s eternal dwelling with man: the New Heavens and New Earth. So, while Genesis 1-3 certainly involves chronology (yes, I believe in 24/6 day creation) and in fact tells us where chronology began, its orientation and its intended meaning are not primarily chronological. From the Divine Author’s perspective, Genesis 1-3 was intended (even in the creative acts recorded) with Revelation 21-22 in mind.
The same thought holds true in the relationship between chronology and the Christology of the Sinaitic Covenant. The Passover, Sinai, the Exodus, the tabernacle, the sacrifices, the priesthood, the law, the covenant, etc. etc. – all recorded in chronological narrative – all serve redemptive history’s metanarrative which culminates in Christ. All exist in time and space for the purposes of something, or better stated, Someone else in the future. These are shadows that point forward to a greater reality. The chronology is not prior to Christology, but is Christology’s "servant".

If chronology is allowed to usurp the place of eschatology, then chronology seizes, mutes, or destroys the priority of the author's original intent, an intent, as Vos has shown, that is eschatological at every turn. This thought of the heavenly future injecting itself back and down into time and space is a thought captured by the canonical authors themselves, especially in the New Testament. Even in the Old Testament, the thought is embedded in the rich messianic typology and shadows being relayed by OT authors who, while not realizing the full import, still understood present *hope* in terms of the future. As they were carried along by the Holy Spirit and motivated by their prophetic office to write down, record, reflect on, and "theologize" the acts and words of God in history, they themselves are aware that the history they record, the chronology, serves a higher purpose -- a higher purpose that is lost if we "cut and paste" the texts they wrote without regard to the rest of what they or others wrote. More on this in a moment.

Further, both the Garden and Sinai act as a foil, not just in the eschatological trajectory of the text, but in the literary situation of the text. Some have asked the question, in the wake of Thomas Nelson's announcement, "whose chronology?" While those asking the question are speaking to the debate among scholars as to the dating of certain texts (later vs. earlier Deuteronomy, for instance), the same question must be asked in regard to the relationship between the original audience of the text and the events being recorded.

The Tennesseean reports that "the new Bible's chronology is based on the setting of each text — when the events in it occurred — rather than when it was written. That's a problem, says Doug Knight, Buffington professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Many books of the Bible, he said, were written long after the fact. For example, Knight says, the book of Joshua is set in the late Bronze Age, but was probably composed several hundred years later. Inserting notes about the historical context of a Bible passage won't help if that text was written hundreds of years later, he said. "Why would that be relevant, if the author is not living in the Bronze Age?," he said. "What's happening in the author's own time is relevant."

I don't happen to share Knight's view about the dating of Joshua, but his concern is a valid one. In fact, he understates the problem. It's not just that what is happening in the author's own time that is "relevant", what is happening in the author's own time necessarily takes priority over the chronology of the events described by the author. Again, revelation about the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1-3 provides an example. Obviously, the events recorded in Genesis 1-3 occurred first in human chronology. However, in the chronology of revelation, it's quite possible that Job predates the Pentateuch. That Moses is writing the Pentateuch for Israelites who have been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years is itself a critical hermeneutical consideration that is jettisoned in a chronological framework. Again, with the original intent of the author in mind, the Garden is less an explanation of man's origins than it is an explanation of *Israel's* origins. We can't possibly begin to understand the theological import (the meaning) of the narrative if the narrative has been stripped from its situational, theological, and eschatological moorings.

This is no more apparent than in the example provided by the publishers themselves. The senior VP of Thomas Nelson told The Tenneseean, "Here's where David and Bathsheba did their thing," he said, "and right in the middle of that is when David wrote Psalm 51. So we dropped (in) Psalm 51, to give you, the reader, the spiritual impact of that psalm." He further claims that reconfiguring 2 Samuel 12 to include Psalm 51 provides the reader with "historical and spiritual context." Such an assumption isn't just problematic, it's historically revisionist (not to mention, arrogant). The historical and spiritual context for 2 Samuel 12 is found in Samuel. The historical and spiritual context for Psalm 51 is found in the Psalter. And both passages appear where they do via divine inspiration.

Had the author of Samuel thought David's Psalm important for the meaning of 2 Samuel 12, he would have included the Psalm in the midst of his narrative. Had the Divine Author thought 2 Samuel 12 necessary for the interpretation and meaning of Psalm 51, He would have either included the Psalm in 2 Samuel 12 or would have included narration in Psalm 51 (at least more than the explanation at the beginning of the chapter). 2 Samuel 12 cannot be rightly understood unless its unity is retained and its links to 2 Samuel 11 and 2 Samuel 13, a unity which is shattered by superficially injecting an alien text (Psalm 51) into the passage. Further, and most importantly, Psalm 51 is precisely where the Psalmist (and Divine Author) believed it should be. Contra the Thomas Nelson VP, the spiritual impact of Psalm 51, even for the biblically illiterate and postmodern reader, doesn't come from 2 Samuel 12 and the event chronicled there, but FROM THE PSALTER. The ultimate meaning ("the historical and spiritual context") of Psalm 51 is *not* bound up with the David and Bathsheba event, as important as it is to be recorded at the beginning of the Psalm. The ultimate meaning of Psalm 51 is bound up with "the unfolding world-drama" of the "Blessed Man" of Psalm 1 as sung and prayed by a redeemed people of God. Lifting Psalm 51 out of its Psalteric glory, complete with its messianic undertones, perverts the text itself, and its supposed "spiritual impact" is a mirage.

Additionally, The Tennesseean reports that "Parallel parts of the New Testament, such as the four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — also have been woven together." This kind of apostolic mashup is no less problematic than what has been outlined above. Yet, this practice, ironically, has long historical precedence in popular "harmony of the gospels" and "life of Christ" studies. While the value of such studies is best left for another time, the critique is still similar. "Weaving together" the four Gospels obliterates not only the original intentions of each of the four authors, but the unique *meaning* of the parallel events in the theologies of the four authors. The gospel writers are *not* recording brute history. It is literal history to be sure, but again, history serves eschatology, soteriology, and Christology. Thus, the feeding of the 5000 for John does not *mean* precisely the same thing as it does in Matthew or Mark or Luke. One event. Four authors. Four different eschatological and theological ends in relaying the one/same event. The one event does not serve the same purposes from one author to the next, and such nuance -- nuance without which accurate interpretation is possible -- is destroyed when parallels are stripped of their context and conflated into the oblivion of chronology. How does one hear John's purposes in his own use of the feeding of the 5000 as his "last supper" event (see John 6:53-54 and compare to Matthew 26:26-28)? If the unique message of the canonical authors (and the Divine Author) has been lost, how is the postmodern who wants to "get closer to God" supposed to "get into God"?

In the end, the readers that the publishers claim to be helping are not helped at all. To resume the drumbeat of this blog over the past few weeks, the reader cannot help but interpret the text through the lens of moralism. Stripped of its canonical context, de facto moralism is the result because the unity of redemptive history isn't grounding the text or its interpretation. One cannot help but be a moralist when attempting to "apply" a text which has been extracted from its eschatological and theological context. In the example provided by the publishers, David becomes an ideal to be pursued and a change agent for behavior, rather than an imperfect type of Christ desperately in need of that to which he points forward.

Worse, when the unity of redemptive history in revelation is shattered, "Christ in all of scriptures" (the scriptures' own stated intent) is ruined. Regardless of whether one believes that singular authors were primarily responsible for the enscripturation of the canon or that multiple authors gradually compiled pieces and sections of the canon over a long period of time, One Divine WORD orchestrated the whole, breathing out His Word in and through the authors. And because there is a Divine Author who has comprehensively revealed himself through the text, that text has a divinely-ordained unity, a Christocentric storyline which functions as the glue holding the entirety of revelation together. The "Christ-centeredness" of the Bible disappears when the eschatological unity that reveals to us this Christ-centeredness is fractured by chronology.

Instead of interpreting the Bible on its own terms, a publishing company has allowed the end-user to hijack the interpretive process through chronology. A chronological Bible seems the right thing to do because it stems from and appeals to our human condition. But because chronology is inherent to the human condition, this so-called Bible has fashioned a text in (and molded the text to) the image of the creature. It is a project of the conumer, by the consumer, for the consumer and as such usurps the WORD's rightful place in the arrangement and interpretation of the Word.

If we are to allow the Bible's hermeneutic to dictate our life and worldview, we will allow our natural tendency to view everything chronologically to take a back seat to the Word's eschatology. And when we give priority to the eschatological continuity and unity inherent to the text, we preserve the essence of what it means for the Bible to be, well, the Bible. Philip Towner, dean of the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship of the American Bible Society, told the Tennesseean that "the term Bible should be reserved for only canonical arrangement...I'd want to be quite careful in pitching this as a Bible."

Good call, Dr. Towner. It would have been better for the publishers to take the position of Paul who "renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways" by refusing to "practice cunning" i.e. getting overly creative in order to have "spiritual impact" in placing the felt needs of the end user over the integrity of the text, or by refusing to "tamper with God's Word" i.e. presuming that a change in the text itself is a legitimate means of "unveiling the gospel" (2 Corinthians 4:2-3a). -- crb


Brian said...


Well-written and some strong arguments here. I am very concerned about these editors pulling verses out of their books and converging them into other passages.

However, please address this question:

The books of our Bible were put in the existing order by man's reasoning and not God's. In other words, there is nothing inspired about the way we have organized these 66 books. They are organized by literary type and book length (poetry together in the Old Testament - New Testament epistles roughly organized by length). Therefore, is it all that disruptive to at least attempt to assemble chronologically?

Also, you indicate that chronology is not key to understanding history. I would argue that chronology is to history what time is to music. Chronology is an essential part of history - it is one of its main ingredients!

Again, I appreciate your concern over merging books together but we should remember that the current canonical order is not under the inspiration of God.

Breuss Wane said...

>The books of our Bible were put >in the existing order by man's >reasoning and not God's.

1. The main thrust of what I wrote was not about the order of the books, but the fracturing of the books themselves, which is what this so-called Bible does. I think you missed a main point of my argument. The order has always had some flux in the course of canonical history. That's not what I'm talking about...

2. ...for the most part. I think you're statement above goes too far. No, the canonical order isn't inspired. But I would argue that *that* is only true in the strictest sense of the meaning of inspiration. Given Christ is THE Revelation of God and the Bible is his revelation... and given that Christ continues to divinely orchestrate redemptive history to His own culmination... and given the continued work of the Spirit in the church... we have to at least commit to a divine orchestration of the canonical order. We can say "man's reason", but we cannot say it to the exclusion of spiritual reality. God is the God of secondary causes, including decisions made by His people regarding the ordering of the canon.

You have to be careful how strongly you're going to use "man's reason" as an argument against divine orchestration of redemptive history because it is not so far removed from the agnostic's argument of "man's reason" -- not against the ordering of the canon, but the canon itself. Those two things (inspiration of the text and the ordering of the canon) both historically and philosophically are not all that far apart. Yes, we make a distinction, but we must be careful as to the kind of distinction.

All that to say is that I'm not going to deny a divine role (especially as Christ and His Spirit continues to work in and through the church) in the ordering of the canon... no more than one would deny a divine role in Hurricane Gustav landing west of New Orleans.

But again, my point on this post was *not* so much about order as it was about fracture "within" the books. That is not the same kind of rearrangement as is the rearrangement of the order of the books (though I know full well that the organizers of this so-called Bible would not agree with me on this). If the only thing this so-called Bible did was rearrange the book order, I wouldn't have bothered with a post. But rearranging books is *not* the same as rearranging texts. Sola scriptura (and inspiration) is at stake in the latter.

3. I didn't say chronology was unnecessary to understanding history. But in terms of interpreting history, eschatology is prior to, or is more important than, chronology. We get that from the text, not from our reasoning. Again, I don't think you read everything I had to say: "Without a very real chronology in history, the Christ event would be nothing more than an abstract, an idea so nebulous it would either be incomprehensible as other-worldly or completely malleable as a product of human ingenuity. Revelation must be tied to chronology if it is stand outside of ourselves as an act of God and a *fact* of history. Chronology provides the vehicle through which the Creator reveals himself to the creature in ever-increasing clarity."

Brian said...

Thanks Chad:

I did get the main point of your post - and I said that. The main argument was the mutilation of the books - and I agree with you on this.


you did say chronology wasn't necessary for interpreting history and I was simply disagreeing a bit on this point. Yes, you don't toss chronology completely (I did read the whole post) but you strongly de-emphasize it and I am just offering some tempered thoughts in that regard. I don't know that Philippians following Ephesians is all that critical to understanding God's word.

I agree that this bible project is bad news...

Breuss Wane said...

Where did I say that chronology was unnecessary for interpreting history?

Again, I'm not arguing against re-ordering per se... but...

1. Would it make a difference if Philippians followed Ruth? Or Deuteronomy followed Isaiah?

2. Is it purely "man's reason" that Genesis is at the beginning and Revelation is at the end?

I strongly de-emphasize it specifically because the Bible isn't all that pre-occupied with chronology. In fact, the very fact that the canon has had numerous different arrangements over the course of redemptive history, including before it was closed, suggests that chronology isn't all that important. If chronology were an important factor in interpretation, God would have inspired the ordering of the books.

Again, chronology is important to us as creatures. It is not necessarily as important to the Bible, and certainly, in some people's minds, not as important as they would have liked the Bible to be. Apparently, had they been orchestrating history, they would have made sure to keep it chronological (an underlying presupposition in the backdrop of "it helps us understand it better").

Brian said...


Again, I agree with the thesis of your post. I think it was argued very well and is an important read for anyone who loves the Bible. I simply suggested that chronology is a tad more important than you suggest. And, here is what you say of chronology:

"There are a host of fundamentally flawed and arrogant assumptions that would go into a disposition that would mutilate the text this way:
1. The Bible is better understood or easier to understand chronologically.

2. History is best understood chronologically."

I don't think it is an arrogant assumption that history is best understood chronologically. I had a professor at Miami who argued that the book of Isaiah was written by two differnt men named Isaiah. He had no evidence that there were two, but he freely admitted to me after class (when pressed) that he couldn't accept the fulfilled prophecies as miraculous. In his case, chronology was an apologetic that he had to reject because it showed the fulfillment of prophecy.

I don't have a huge argument here at all - I am grateful that you have shown the subtle errors of this new bible.

Brian said...

Sorry, one other thing. You're right, you didn't say chronology wasn't important for interpreting history. I misquoted you unintentionally. What you do say is just a shade less than that. You say it is arrogant to think it is important for understanding history, and I see that as pretty close.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Very interesting post. I hadn't thought much about a "chronological" Bible before, but your argument against it is spot-on. Truly, eschatology is the propulsion in Redemptive History and the means of our understanding the purpose of God to "sum up all things in Christ". To cut and paste the Biblical text to fit (someone's) chronology is a dangerous proposition if we want the Word of God to properly direct our thinking.

Having said that, I found Dempster to be quite illuminating in his book "Dominion and Dynasty" when he saw the ordering of the Tanakh as making an important contribution in our understanding of the purpose of God. Even though the people in Jesus' day proved to be "blind" to the eschatological thrust of the ordering of their own Scripture, Dempster points out that it's structure should have led the people to recognize their Messiah when He arrived.

I realize that my bringing up Dempster and his book is not the same thing as what you are talking about with a "chronological" bible. Dempster doesn't view chronological history as necessarily important in understanding the purpose of God (though it could prove potentially dangerous). He realizes that we must see the eschatological purpose of God if we are to understand His Word. But in response to whether or not it matters what order the individual books are placed, I think it can have an impact (however subtle) on our understanding of redemptive history.

I don't have the book in front of me and I don't remember his exact argument, but I remember that he saw in the ordering of the Tanakh the same eschatological movement that you speak of as the crux of proper Biblical interpretation. God has a purpose in redemptive (or salvation) history and if we don't see this eschatological progress (which could very well be veiled or hidden in a "chronological" Bible), then we will inevitablly miss the Gospel or, at the very least, the full glory of our Lord and Savior.

Anyway, your posts are always thought provoking and I appreciate the work you put into them. I especially liked the two "Abigail" posts which I'll be sending to others shortly.

Breuss Wane said...


In regard to your professor, I believe it is not chronology he rejects (two Isaiahs), but eschatology (the miraculous).

There are two extremes in this discussion... the chronologist (both higher criticism and literalism... i.e. the Chrological Study Bible) and the eschatologist (Barth, Schweitzer?). Vos represents an acknowledgement of both as necessary, with chronology serving eschatological purposes. The canon (via The WORD) is an eschatological intrusion into time and space, from heaven to earth. Anyone who affirms inspiration is affirming this, whether they are cognizant of it or not.

This intrusion is why we must allow eschatology, not primarily chronology, to interpret history for us.

For those who like theological drivel, there's also a supra vs. infra. thought in all of this... the cross-resurrection chronologically followed the fall, but its priority is eschatological not merely because it is an intrusion into time and space (esp. the resurrection), but also because the cross was determined before the fall. :-) When the temporal gives way to the priorities of the eternal, what you have is the priority of eschatology over chronology. Reformed folk have often scratched their heads as to why Vos was "supra" (the WCF is "infra")... I believe it's his eschatological view of the text and the priority of the eschatological over the chronological that resulted in his "supra" leanings. I could be wrong about that... the Vos historians may have a better sense of it, but that's my opinion, based on Vos's view of the relationship between eschatology and history. It would lead him to that conclusion.

I have another upcoming post on Vos's view of the priority of eschatology. :-)

Breuss Wane said...

Great Googly,

It was precisely those same thoughts about the Tanakh that are behind my comments that I think we must give some weight to a divine ordering of the canon, at least in the divine orchestration of secondary causes (where divine providence and human responsibility/decision-making intersect). The natural "next thought" after Chronicles... the anticipation of another greater temple and the divine glory... is John 1. The natural "next thought" after Malachi is Mark 1 with a voice crying in the wilderness. Either way, it's not an "accident". I believe both John and Mark (if not the others) are intentionally keying off of concluding and unresolved thoughts at the end of the Jewish canon.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

"It was precisely those same thoughts about the Tanakh that are behind my comments that I think we must give some weight to a divine ordering of the canon..."

That figures...that's probably why it came to my mind. And your comments here are precisely what I had in mind.

Thanks for the interaction.

Brian said...


I guess I prefer simpler discussions.

I really don't care whether Vos was infra, supra, or anything else.

Eschatology and chronology are not mutually exclusive. Eschatology means "study of the end". The end follows the beginning so chronology serves eschatology, at least in my simple-minded reasoning.

I appreciate your thoroughness, but there comes a point where this can all become somewhat nebulous...

Breuss Wane said...


I'll grant that the supra vs. infra debate can be nebulous... which is why I refered to it as "drivel" (at least in the way it is usually discussed).

However, eschatology is so much more than "study of the end". It is a study of the ages... and from the very beginning of time, eschatology has been in play (which is why Dumbrell's "End from the Beginning" is so appropriate). The end may follow the beginning chronologically, but it also gives rise to the beginning... it is the reason for and source of the beginning.

We are people of the heavenly realm precisely because the end has moved backward through time to save us.

Tim said...

Do you have a point of reference supporting the order of the books in the Bible? I have seen copies that have the books moved around, e.g. the Gideons copies of the NT plus Psalms and Proverbs.


danny2 said...

this concept isn't all that new.

at an old ministry i used to work for, they sold "chronological-read-the-bible-in-a-year" niv "study" bibles. like this concept, they popped job into genesis, some psalms into 1 & 2 Samuel, etc.

what was also disturbing, was that it was touted as a way to read "all of Scripture in a year" yet, the gospels (and other portions) were merged, just like you described.

in my opinion, this led to a "read all the Bible, but you can cut corners" type approach. already read about the parable of the sower...well, no reason to read it again, we can just skim on down to the next part. when i confronted the head of our ministry about seemed that the purpose of reading all of Scripture in a year was not really to understand the whole counsel of Scripture (as given by the original authors) but to receive "magic fairy dust" of spiritual growth for being able to say you met a big goal...even if you cheated along the way.

well, he didn't say it that way, but that's the way it came across to me. ;-)

Breuss Wane said...


Good point. I had forgotten about those chronological calendars.

I noted the Jefferson Bible. Other places this same kind of problem shows up is in the "Harmonies of the gospels" some of which date back to the early church fathers. And then there are the popular "Life of Christ" books and seminary courses which also distort and mask the intent of the context in which the four writers penned the gospels.

While such "harmonies" and "biographies" may help us understand Christ's life and ministry chronologically (and biographically), they do (or should do) nothing for hermeneutics and homiletics.