You walk in to your adult group at church and the leader gives you a collection of paper strips with the names of the books of the Bible written on them. “What order would you put these in?” the leader asks.
A friend of mine actually did this in the group he leads, and he got some interesting responses.
One person said immediately, “Well, THE order, of course!” For that person, custom and use had already fixed the books of the Bible in THE order, and there could be no deviation.
But others felt freed by the exercise to think about some possible alternatives. One person put books like John and James first and the “hard stuff” last. Why? They said they were thinking about people who were new to the Bible; they wanted to make it more accessible to them. Another person put the books in chronological order so a reader would progress sequentially through time when going through the Bible. And someone else tried to put books together that spoke to the same audience, so readers could see how they addressed similar situations and concerns.
There’s nothing improper about doing an exercise like this. Book order was actually quite fluid for the first three quarters of the Bible’s history. “THE order” that we know today only appeared around 1500 with the advent of printing. Before that, a variety of orders were used, in pursuit of different literary, historical and liturgical goals. So there’s nothing that says various orders can’t still be used today.
The non-traditional order of the biblical books in The Books of the Bible, it should be specified, is not intended to create a new fixed order, another version of “THE order” to replace the conventional one. Rather, that order was chosen because it served the goals of the edition, which were to encourage the reading of whole books with an appreciation for their historical and literary contexts. But other orders could legitimately serve other goals, such as the ones just described.
How about you? What order would you put the books of the Bible in?