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A Better Way to Read the Bible in 2022
There are many good ways to read the Bible. The purpose of this article is to explain what I call “A better way” to read it.
Please note that I will discuss reading the Bible rather than studying it, meditating on it, or memorizing it (which, of course, are also valuable ways to spend time in the Word).
But first, let’s address the question of whether we actually read the Bible. It seems to me that many professing Christians do not read the Bible very much. If they do, it is with inconsistency and/or rarity.
By “inconsistency” I mean it’s not a habit. We don’t read the Bible regularly. We do it from time to time, piecemeal, randomly. “Maybe I’ll spend some time in the Word today, maybe not.”
Such an approach to Scripture reflects the attitude that reading the Word is not a priority. “I’m busy. I have a job, a family, and things to do. And reading the Bible just isn’t that important to me.”
“I still love God. I regularly attend services, donate money, and serve in the church (in the nursery, or as an usher, or in a number of other important ways I’m doing fine without that “Quiet Time” people talk about. Having “devotions” just isn’t something I see the need to do.
By “rarity” I mean it’s for very short periods of time, and it might involve reading a verse from a daily devotional book that follows this format: a verse is quoted, then the author provides a few paragraphs of explanation and application, with a prayer at the end.
Such devotional books are as popular today as they ever were. And I do not condemn them. These books contain the truth of God and are written by devoted followers of Christ whose sincere motive is to communicate the Word of God to the people of God.
I have read and benefited from such books. My wife and I read John Piper The dawn of indestructible joy, twenty-five daily readings for Advent. It was excellent and follows the format described above.
But if this “verse a day” approach is the Alone way we read the Bible, aren’t we making a mistake? Certainly it is better than nothing. But I believe there is something missing here, and I hope I can explain why by showing you a better way to read the Bible.
To unbox A Better Way to Read the Bible, think of your favorite book (other than the Bible). It can be fiction or non-fiction. It could be a book you’ve read at any time in your life – a childhood treasure or a classic you read for a college literature course. Or maybe it’s a book you read recently. It might be Alice in Wonderland or Grapes of Wrath or Chicken soup for the soul.
Now think about why you love this book so much. And how you enjoyed reading it and benefited from it – how much it was worth it.
Imagine telling someone about this book, perhaps a good friend, family member, or colleague. This person has not read the book, although they may have heard of it.
And you want to explain to me How? ‘Or’ What to read your favorite book. Now notice I didn’t say share Why you loved this book so much. Suppose you have already done this. Right now I want you to explain to me How? ‘Or’ What to read it.
What are you going to say? Would you say things like this:
1. Don’t start reading the book at the beginning.
2. Don’t read everything.
3. Instead of reading the entire book cover to cover, over the next 365 days, pick a random sentence (or at most a paragraph) from anywhere in the book and read it.
4. It doesn’t matter what you read each day, or what part of the book you read, just read a small part each day, in no particular order.
5. Not sure where to start? Choose any random page and start there. Or, find someone who has read the whole book and ask them to suggest the 365 sentences (or paragraphs) you should read over the next year.
6. If you find a particular sentence, paragraph or chapter that you really like, you can read it again and again.
7. After a while, you can find many sentences, paragraphs and even chapters that you really like – your favorite sections. It’s OK to read these parts over and over, and there’s really no need to worry about reading the other parts you haven’t read.
What do you think of this approach?
Or rather, would you say this: “Start at the beginning and read the whole book.”
Obviously you would go with the last comment, right?
A better way to read the Bible is to read the Bible like any other book, because to fully understand a book, you don’t have to read everything? And isn’t one of the main purposes of reading the Bible to understand it? Shouldn’t it be read like any other book?
Do you find the Bible confusing and difficult to understand? Maybe it’s because you’ve never read it the way you read any other book. You never read it cover to cover. You never read everything.
So it’s a better way to read the Bible – read it like any other book.
I wonder what percentage of Christians have actually done that: read the whole Bible. I have no idea. What do you think?
But it doesn’t matter how many other people did or didn’t.
I worry about you and me.
Have you read all 66 books of the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation? If so, great!
If not… what would be the reason? Over the next few days it might be good to ponder this question, asking God to reveal the answer to you. And if you’re so inclined, email me and let me know how this exercise goes for you.
Let’s get back to your favorite book… I guess you’ve read it all. How long did it take you to do this? And by that, I don’t mean how many hours in total you spent reading it, but over what period of time did you read it? How many days or weeks or months or years did it take you?
I’m going to take a risk and say that it took you a few weeks or a few months, at most, to read it all.
So when we approach the Bible with this idea that we should read it like any other book, shouldn’t we give priority to reading the entire book within a reasonable time? Of course, the Bible is longer than the typical book you would consult at the library, much longer. Depending on the font and paper size of your version, the average Bible is over 1,000 pages.
A few years ago, I took a translation of the Bible from the public domain (World English Bible) and published a New Testament. The paper size is 6×9; the font size is 10 or 11 points. And only the New Testament is 390 pages. Since the New Testament makes up about 25% of the entire Bible, the 66 books would fill nearly 1,600 pages.
When determining a “reasonable” amount of time to read the entire Bible, many have opted for the well-known time frame of “reading the Bible in a year.” I think that’s a very achievable goal, especially considering that that equates to about 3 chapters a day, which should take even a slow reader about 20-30 minutes max.
Think about it. If you set aside 30 minutes a day for 365 days, you can read the entire Bible in a year. How many of us spend at least half an hour every day texting, watching TV, surfing the internet, liking Facebook messages, and a number of other potentially time-consuming activities. (Over the years, my weakness has been television, especially sporting events. I wonder what my life would be like today if, over the past 55 years, I had spent as much time reading as watching television.)
So reading the whole Bible is not such a daunting task after all. And that’s how we read almost every other book. Why not approach the Bible in the same way?
What do you say? Does everything I’ve written so far speak to you? I pray that is the case.
Let me conclude by telling you about my own experience with reading the Bible. When I started reading the entire Bible, my understanding of the scriptures skyrocketed to a new level.
It was amazing. I could go on and on about this. But it’s true. God used this simple exercise of seeing the big picture of Scripture to provide insight into the meaning of all the different parts. And there are many parts in the Bible, starting with the two main parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament there are the historical books and the Law of Moses; there are books of wisdom like Job, Psalms and Proverbs; and there are the prophetic books – the longer ones like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and a bunch of shorter ones like Jonah and Micah and Malachi. Then there is the New Testament, with the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles; next come letters written to churches and individuals; then comes the grand finale of the Apocalypse.
Phew! How do you make sense of all these different authors, genres and famous people?
We start by stepping back and realizing that while the Bible is an incredibly diverse collection of 66 books (like a 1,000-page mini-library), and is also a book with one author, namely God. Yes, God wrote this book!
And to understand the Bible as one book with one author, we must read everything in a reasonable time. I pray that you will see the value of it today, and experience the joy of reading the entire Bible. May God be with you as you do.
Also, many Bible reading plans are available online. These provide a calendar for the year, telling you which books to read in which order and which chapters to read each day. There are several ways to do this, so take a look at these plans and pick the one you like and give it a try. Just visit your favorite search engine, enter “Bible Reading Plans” and you’ll have no trouble finding several to choose from. Enjoy!
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