What would happen if we read the Bible in chronological order instead of the “Matthew through Revelations” version we read? Here’s a case for at least taking a look at a chronological New Testament from Huffington Post writer, Marcus Borg:
A chronological New Testament is different from and yet the same as the New Testament familiar to Christians. It contains the same 27 documents, but sequences them in the chronological order in which they were written.
The familiar New Testament begins with the Gospels and concludes with Revelation for obvious reasons. Jesus is the central figure of Christianity and so the New Testament begins with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Revelation is about “the last things” and the second coming of Jesus, so it makes sense that it comes at the end. Revelation and the Gospels function as bookends for the New Testament. Everything else comes between: Acts, 13 letters attributed to Paul, and eight attributed to other early Christian figures.
A chronological New Testament sequences the documents very differently. Its order is based on contemporary mainstream biblical scholarship. Though there is uncertainty about dating some of the documents, there is a scholarly consensus about the basic framework.
It begins with seven letters attributed to Paul, all from the 50s. The first Gospel is Mark (not Matthew), written around 70. Revelation is not last, but almost in the middle, written in the 90s. Twelve documents follow Revelation, with II Peter the last, written as late as near the middle of the second century.
A chronological New Testament is not only about sequence, but also about chronological context — the context-in-time, the historical context in which each document was written. Words have their meaning within their temporal contexts, in the New Testament and the Bible as a whole.
Seeing and reading the New Testament in chronological sequence matters for historical reasons. It illuminates Christian origins.