One of the keys to a better understanding of the Bible is revealed in 2 Timothy 2:15 which says, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word truth. If the Bible is to be intelligently studied, it must be divided correctly. Instead of rendering the passage, “Rightly dividing the word of truth”, other versions translate the passage, “handling aright” or “handling accurately” the word of truth. Either rendering is a scriptural basis for the importance of rightly dividing the word of truth, for unless the Bible is rightly divided it is impossible to handle it aright or accurately. The Bible can be divided by languages. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. Next, the Bible can be divided by covenants, the old and new. For purposes of study the word of God can be further divided by covenants, the old and new For purposes of study scripture can be further divided by subjects and categories. Another important division is by religions.Three religions are revealed in the Bible: the Patriarchal religion, the Jewish religion, and the Christian religion. Furthermore, there are fourteen historical periods in the Bible, separate and distinct. Still another way the Bible can be divided is by book divisions. There are thirty—nine books in the Old Testament and twenty—seven books in the New Testament, sixty—six books in all.
A seventh way to rightly divide the Bible is to divide it chronologically, and this is the subject to be pursued in this religious discussion. The Bible differs from most history books in that the events in it are not in a chronological order. A history book generally records events in the chronological order in which they happened. Such a book usually records the events which happened in 1800 before the events that happened in 1900. Contrariwise, many of the events and happenings in the Bible are all mixed up time-wise. The books of the Bible are arranged according to subjects; we do not know who arranged the Bible in its present order, but it is quite clear that it was arranged on the basis of subjects or topics. In the Old Testament the books of law, the books of history, the books of prophecy etcetera are together. In the New Testament the books on the life of Christ, church letters etcetera are together. Suppose one wanted to read the Bible through just like it happened, event after event. It would be impossible to do this by reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in its present arrangement. In order to read the Bible through in the order of its historical events, there would have to be a rearrangement of the books of the books by dates covered by the material in each book. I want to divide the Bible chronologically in this lesson.
Since the various authors did not date each page of their writings, we cannot be absolutely certain of any of the dates we shall use in this study. However, the dates we shall use are sufficiently accurate for our purpose. Some of the King James versions of the Bible use the dating arrangement of an Irish scholar named James Usher who lived in the first half of the seventeenth century. I personally prefer a Bible which uses the ithe chonology of Sam Usher, the Irish scholar. This man attempted to date all events in the Bible by the study of the genealogies of the Old Testament. These dates are usually found at the top of each center column of reference Bibles, but they are no part of the inspired text. These dates were inserted there by man to help us better understand when a certain event took place. You might check your present Bible to see if there is a date given in either B.C. or A.D If it is there, you can use it as a guide to help you become more effective in your study of the Bible. It is possible to rightly divide the word of God by arranging the books of the Bible according to the dates at the top of the pages.
Turning to the first chapter of Genesis we notice that the date is 4004. B.C. This date relates to the creation of Adam and not necessarily to the creation of the earth. It cannot be ascertained from scripture how long the earth existed before Adam was created. We do not claim that Usher was exactly right on this 4004 B.C. estimate for the creation of Adam. Perhaps Adam lived many years before this date, but that is not important to this method of study. We want to arrange the books of the Bible in order or proper relation to each other, and these dates will enable us to do that. Admitting the possibility that The chronology of Usher is not exactly accurate,yet he made a great contribution to knowledge. Now, if you turn through the Old Testament,you will find that the first date of each book may be different. The date will indicate when that book or event took place and whether it was before or after some other book in the Bible. For example, the first date in the book of Genesis is 4004 B.C., and the first date in the book of Exodus is 1706 B.C. The book of 2 Kings begins in the year 896 B.C., but the book of Esther begins in 521 B.C. for that was the time that Esther was queen. The letters B.C. mean before Christ was born, and the letters A.D. mean after Christ was born. I would like to present to you some interesting facts about the Bible derived from a chronological study of the book. There are four books in the entire Bible that merely review or summarize what is stated in a number of other books. They are first and second Chronicles and Ezra in the Old Testament. We may call these books review books. That is why you will find the date 4004 B.C. listed at the beginning of Genesis and at the beginning of first Chronicles. The book of I Chronicles reviews twelve books, covering events from 4004. B.C. to 1015 B.C. Similarly, second Chronicles summarizes 19 books, covering events from 1015 B.C. to 590 B.C. The book of Ezra reviews three books, embracing events from 536 to 456 B.C. The book of Acts in the New Testament covers fifteen books and speaks of events which happened from 33 to 65 A.D.
I would suggest that one way you can read the Bible continually through is to read the four books of first and second Chronicles, Ezra, and Acts. These four books give a very brief outline of the history covered in most all sixty—six books. The account would be sketchy and incomplete, but most of Bible history is touched upon. Another approach to reading the Bible through, as the events historically happened, is to start with Genesis and read through second Kings; Skip both books of Chronicles, for they are review books of things you have already read. Then read Ezra, Nehemiah, Malachi, Matthew, Acts, 2 Timothy, 2 Peter, Jude, first, second, and third John, and Revelation. By reading these twenty—four books in a consecutive manner, you will read a complete and uninterrupted story from the beginning of the Bible to the end. After you have gotten this history firmly in mind, then you can go back and fit all the remaining books into their proper places.
There is one more possible approach to reading the Bible through in the order of events as they happened. Read first and second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Malachi, Matthew and Acts. This will give you the complete scheme of redemption in six books. It will not be a detailed account, but it will hit the high points of all the Old and New Testaments. Another benefot which comes from dividing the Bible chronologically is to give us a better understanding of prophecy. The various events foretold by the prophets are all grouped together in the Bible. We know that prophecy is something that is to happen future to the time it is stated. Yet, some of the prophetic statements in the Bible are recorded after we have already read of their fulfillment. For example, Isaiah 44:28 makes a prediction about Cyrus King of Persia over a hundred years before the king was even born. The prophecy says, “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; an4 to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” This name of Cyrus is mentioned in 8th century B.C. but did not live till the 6th century B.C. However, if you read from Isaiah 44:26 forward in the Bible to the end of the book of Revelation in the New Testament you will find no mention of Cyrus. The prophecy is in Isaiah 44:28 that God will use Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem after its destruction in 586 B.C., but we read about Cyrus earlier in the Bible in the historical section, but before we get to the book of Isaiah. If we turn backward in the Bible to Ezra 1:2 we will find the fulfillment of Isaiah 44:28. It says, “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” Our trouble is that the book of Ezra is a book of history and appears in the Bible before Isaiah. Thus, in Isaiah 44 we have a statement foretelling a future event, but we must turn backward in the Bible in our search for the fulfillment to the book of Ezra. The entire book of Isaiah should be inserted at 2 Kings chapters 15 to 21, for this complete prophecy took place during these few chapters of history. Chronologically, Isaiah is out of place in the Bible and should be located before the book of Ezra.
Another book of prophecy that is out of place chronologically is the book of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 1:2 we learn that Jeremiah prophesied during the days of King Josiah, but we must go back to the historical section to read about this king in the book of second Kings chapter 22 and 23. If you will turn to the first chapter of Jeremiah and the twenty—third chapter of 2 Kings you will find the dates at the top of the page are nearly the same. Almost all of the prophecy of Jeremiah is fulfilled before we ever get to the book itself. This is due to the fact •that Jeremiah is out of place chronologically. When rearranged in proper order we would read the prophecy in Jeremiah first then pass on to its historical fulfillment in 2 Kings chapters 22-25.
A final example is that of the date in the last chapter of the book of Esther. The last chapter of Esther is dated at 509 B.C., and this simply means that the last events of this book took place about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The book which follows Esther in the Bible is the book of Job, and the date of the first chapter of Job is 1520 B.C. Although Esther is placed first in the Bible, yet the book of Job was written first,~ about 1000 years before the book of Esther. Those who collected the inspired books and arranged them originally, placed Esther as the last of the books of history, while the book of Job was placed first in a new category of books on poetry. If you will observe the date of Job 1:1 and go back through the Bible searching each page for that date, you will find that the entire book should be fitted between Exodus 2 and Exodus.
What a marvelous book the Bible is to be able to study it in so many different ways! To thus know the Bible in all of its divisions and subdivisions is an accomplishment worthy of our best endeavors. I believe it is possible for everyone to have a working knowledge of the Bible and to be able to use it intelligently and profitably. It is not possible, neither is it practical, for us to commit to memory the whole Bible. But it is possible, and it is also necessary to have a working knowledge of the Bible. For instance, no person knows everything that is in an Encyclopedia of 20,000 pages, but we may have a working knowledge of it, We may know it well enough to be able to find just what we want. In like manner, no one knows it well enough to be able to find just what we want. In like manner, no onÔ knows every word in an unabridged dictionary, but many of us may know it well enough to be able to use it intelligently. No man is able to know everything that is in a library of 1,000 books, but every man should be able to use his library intelligently, to be able to find in it just what he is looking for. So with the Bible! We should be able to find any truth or locate any subject we desire and find it readily. The Bible has been compared quite appropriately to a great temple 4tith many rooms, each room being known by what it contains. We should know where the various rooms are in the divine temple and what each room contains. We should know it well enough to pass from room to room with ease without any difficulty. I close with these words written about the Bible, •and I know not the author: “Many years ago I entered the wonderful temple of the revelaltion of God.
I entered the portico of Genesis and walked down through the Old Testament art gallery where the pictures of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, and Daniel hung on the wall. I entered the music room of the Psalms; I listened to the sorrowful wail of the “weeping prophet, Jeremiah and to the grand impassioned strains of Isaiah, until it seemed that every reed and harp in God's great organ of nature responded to the tuneful touch of David the sweet singer of Israel. I entered the chapel of Ecclesiastes
where the voice of the preacher was heard. Then I entered the conservatory of Sharon, and the Lily of the Valley's sweet scented spices filled and perfumed my life. I entered the business office of Proverbs and passed into the observatory room of the prophets where I saw many telescopes of various sizes, some pointing to far off events, but all concentrated on the Bright and Morning Star which was to rise over the moonlit hills of Judea for our salvation. I entered the audience roam of the King of Kings and caught a vision from the standpoint of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then I passed into the Acts of Apostles where the Holy Spirit was doing His office work in the formation of the blood—bought church. From there I went to the correspondance room where sat Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John penning their epistles. Lastly, I stepped into
the throne room of Revelation where all towered in glittering peaks, and I got~ a vision of the king seated upon his throne in all of his glory and I cried, “All hail the power of Jesus̓ name, let angels prostrate fall. Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.”
When one really examines the evidence within and without, he comes away feeling a confidence in the inspiration of the Bible. Truly, it is a book from God as well as a book designed for the good of man and woman. It is only in the Bible that man learns who he is, how he is to live while here on the earth, and what his ultimate destiny will be, Yet, it is not enough to admire the Bible and to be impressed by its many remarkable features. It is only enough when we accept and obey the Christ of the Bible as our Lord. We must believe in him as the divine Son of God, turn away from the sins of the world, confess our faith in Christ before men, and yield our wills to his in the beautiful symbolic act of baptism. Then, and only then, has the purpose for which the Bible was written been fulfilled, The apostle John said, “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” John 20:30,31).