For most of my Christian life the Bible was God’s Word. That is, I believed that man was inspired by God to write the books of the Bible. I also believed that the New Testament was placed in a divine order beginning with Jesus’ story as told in the Gospels. It made sense to me: Jesus came first, he died, the Apostles went out to spread his Word, followed by letters from the Apostles, and then the world ends with the book of Revelation.
As I studied the New Testament I learned that the books weren’t necessarily placed in the order they were written. They are actually grouped – Gospels, Acts, Paul’s Epistles by size, other Epistles by size and Revelation. As I read more and more I learned that the four Gospels are not in chronological order and should be listed as Mark, Matthew, Luke then John (instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
But what really blew me away, was that if you list the entire New Testament chronologically, in the order that they were actually written, you get an entirely new list. Jesus never wrote anything, as far as we know, except in the dirt. The first Gospel written was Mark and that was written around 70-80 A.D. Jesus died around 30 A.D. so it took someone approximately 40 years to write the first Gospel. Here’s the kicker, though. Paul wrote his first epistle in the 50’s – 1st Thessalonians. Yes, 1st Thessalonians is the oldest book/letter in the New Testament. Paul wrote more letters before he died in the mid-60’s. A few more years would go by until the first Gospel, Mark, was written. Matthew, Luke and John were completed by the end of the first century. The Acts of the Apostles wasn’t written until the early part of the second century.
I don’t know about you but no one ever told me this in Adult Bible study. You’re probably wondering how the age of the books were determined. That’s fascinating in itself and I will save that for another blog. This opened up a whole new set of questions for me when I made this discovery. I’ll share those with you in later blogs.
For now, a dark roast awaits me. Get out your Bibles and read! Happy Bible reading!
Note: A great book to read about the chronological order of the New Testament was written by theologian and Bible scholar, Marcus J. Borg, Evolution of the Word. He has been a favorite author of mine for years and just passed away on January 21 of this year. Rest in peace, Marcus J. Borg.