Who Put the Bible in Biblical Order?

(The title here is referring to a song my kids listen to.)

So now that I have exerted my considerable influence as Pope of Geneva to cause all Reformed peoples everywhere to stop saying “Sanctuary” and instead use the new term “Audiosacramentorium” (“Audiosac” for short), I now turn my attention to putting the books of the bible in proper order.

So my biggest beef is the order of the Gospels. I propose that John be moved first. This will have a number of beneficial results:

1. Both testaments will begin with the phrase “In the beginning.” This, along with the fact that the end of revelation describes “In the end,” will provide an elegant high-level structure for the whole bible.

2. Both testaments will begin with a prologue of exalted prose, which will help some people to not take Gen 1 so literally, and see how it uses literary recapitulation, not straight chronology.

3. This switch will put Luke and Acts together, so that that two-volume history will flow seamlessly.

(4. While we’re at it, who decided to put Matthew before Mark? Mark is the shortest and most straightforward gospel, everybody knows it was written first, and Matthew and Luke probably had access to it when writing their gospels; so it only makes sense to put Mark first.)

So from here on out, the order of the New Testament books begins John, Mark, Matthew, Luke, Acts, …

Another bit of bible-book-order trivia: by ancient tradition, the Pauline Epistles are ordered by decreasing size, from the mighty Romans down to the diminutive Titus and Philemon. This constitutes patristic evidence that Paul did not write Hebrews (Belgic Article 4 notwithstanding).

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6 Responses to Who Put the Bible in Biblical Order?

  1. amirahrais says:

    Reblogged this on Lttle Sweety.

  2. Sam Owens says:

    Completely agree with you besides the bit about not taking Genesis literally. Would flow better and make more sense, not sure why we have the order we do.

  3. mikelmann says:

    Hey, I’d buy the RRSV (Ruberad Re-Shuffled Version).

  4. Bill Baldwin says:

    You could also put Matthew first. It begins “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ”. That’s a clear allusion to the section headings of Genesis. The last section heading in Genesis is “the generations of Jacob”. The rest of the OT comes under that heading. Matthew’s opener announces that the next chapter has finally begun.

    Or you could put Mark first. People reading the Bible in order will finish reading Malachi’s prophecy that God will send Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then they’ll turn the page and start reading an account of John the Baptist–identified by Jesus as Elijah who was to come.

    Or you could split up the Gospels so they aren’t presented right in a row. In that case, I’d put Luke first. My ordering would be:

    1. Luke, Acts, Pauline epistles
    2. Mark, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude, James
    3. Matthew, Hebrews
    4. John, 1-3 John, Revelation

    Luke gives the basic story and Acts the only sequel describing the beginnings of the Church. Acts introduces Paul, so his epistles naturally follow. Plus, Luke’s focus on justification also in with Paul.

    The second section gives a brief recap with Mark and 1 Peter. The focus is on suffering followed by glory. (2 Peter, Jude, and James get put in here as well because they have to go somewhere. I don’t have a strong reason.)

    The third section uses Matthew’s gospel with his focus on Jesus as the new Israel and the consequent spiritualization of all those shadowy pointers. Hebrews is a natural follow-up to flesh out the theology.

    Last of all comes the Johannine literature, allowing us to end our readings with the book of Revelation.

  5. RubeRad says:

    Thanks for your thoughts; I am delighted to see that I don’t have the only good ideas for reordering the New Testament!

    “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ”. That’s a clear allusion to the section headings of Genesis….Matthew’s opener announces that the next chapter has finally begun.

    As surely as Christ’s work moves God’s people from the seventh-day Sabbath to the eighth-day New Creation. Nice!

    Or you could put Mark first.

    Although the Elijah–>John continuity is a benefit of a John-first order as well.

    I’d put Luke first

    Another argument for Luke first would be that you get the most extensive treatment of Jesus’ birth and youth.

    I really like your thematic grouping of the NT with one gospel per chunk. You should develop a reading plan around that! (In the meantime, anybody could adapt any existing reading plan to follow that ordering).

    However, it seems to me that the best ordering for that scheme would start with Matthew/Hebrews, to have the closest connection with the Old Covenant and work forwards in redemptive history; then Luke/Acts/Paul because of all the history and foundational doctrine, then Mark/catholic epistles (is it too much to insist that ecclesiology flow out of soteriology, not the other way around?), concluding with John, as you suggest, to end with the end.

    But that brings us back to the way the gospels are ordered already! Maybe that’s how they got that way in the first place!

  6. RubeRad says:

    My home fellowship group started studying John, and I discovered another excellent reason to make John the first gospel: given
    Luke 1:17, Mark 9:13 and Matt 11:14, look how the narrative would flow from the last two verses of the old testament (across John’s prologue) to the opening narrative in John (esp. John 1:21)

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