“A Man (or Woman) of God will live a life Marked By Bible Reading and Study. Be sure and understand, knowledge about God is not the same as knowing God. This is an important distinction to make because far too many people think that because they can quote volumes of Scripture or name all 66 books of the Bible or discuss theology like a . . . well, a theologian, that they know God.”
This was the first paragraph of the blog of 2015/01/25, but it bears repeating as we begin to talk about Bible Reading and Study. Let me also recap the content of the Bible. It is not one book, but rather a library of 66 short books, many of which can be read in a few minutes if the translation is your “heart language,” i.e. the language in which you dream. The longest ones (except for Psalms) would take a reader a few hours. (Psalms, the longest book of the Bible, is also without a plot or unified direction of teaching, but is a collection of songs that express the human longing for communion, protection, and eternal life with Father.)
The Bible is the Word of Truth, God’s expression to show us how to live now and eternally, a “final rule for faith and practice” and reveals His character and attributes. It is not of human origin, even the Psalms, but “you must understand that no Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Without the time nor your interest in what is called “literary criticism” (the evaluation, verification, and interpretation of literature), I will leave this to the student who wishes to discover more by recommending a couple of books:
The Bible, The Living Word of Revelation by Merrill Tenney;
Biblical Inerrancy: The Historical Evidence by Norman Geisler;
Encountering the Old Testament by Arnold and Beyer;
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Kittel, Friedrich and Bromley;
So the first principle of Bible reading is to set a time and place to do so. There is no correct liturgy to be honored here. There is no requirement to be in a specific position or face a certain direction. There is not any “correct order” of books to read, though I will make some recommendations for your ease.
What I wish to propose is that you read the entire Bible during 2015. Even starting in April, this is not an impossible task, because as noted, it is a collection of short books. Since any good project normally takes some planning, I strongly recommend that you set aside certain times each week to read some of the books. Longer books can be broken into a couple of sessions, although I do not recommend this for simple reading.
In fact, I challenge you to read the Bible aloud during 2015! If however, you are in a situation where Bible reading could get you into trouble, simply read it silently. If there is no danger to your reading the Bible, then why not enjoy your freedom and be grateful to our God that He has given you such a blessing?!! Read it in your “heart language” rather than in a foreign translation, even if you would like to use it as a tool to improve your English. You can read it in English in 2016 or even later this year as a separate project if you want.
Most languages are available at https://www.biblegateway.com/.
You will find the Mongolian Bible at http://mongoliabible.blogspot.com/.
The Turkish Bible is available for online reading at http://unbound.biola.edu/.
Simply set aside some time each week when you can capture up to four hours alone and without interruption so that you can read a book from start to finish at one sitting. You will not need four hours every week, but that should be enough time to read books like Deuteronomy or Isaiah in one sitting. Others will only take 10 to 15 minutes. You may be able to read several at a time, although they are digested better if you read one at a time and take at least a short break between books.
This can be done alone or with someone, e.g. a spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend, or roommate or business colleague. You may want to alternate reading chapters or sections if you are doing this aloud together.
The books can be divided into History, Wisdom Literature, Prophetic Literature and Life Lessons. There are other ways to catalog the books, but this will suffice for most purposes. The Old Testament (OT) are the books written before Jesus was born; the New Testament (NT) books were written after his death and resurrection. [Testament simply means Agreement, and we’ll discuss this later in other blogs.]
The History books of the OT will start with Genesis through Esther, followed by the Wisdom Literature, and ending with Prophetic Literature. In the NT, the History books include the four biographies of Jesus and the story of the early spread of the Good News (Matthew through Acts), followed by the Life Lesson books of letters written by apostles to early Christ-followers, Romans through Jude, and finally, the last book of Prophetic Literature in the Bible, Revelation.
The following lists all 66 books in some additional divisions for our understanding of the material they present:
The Old Testament (Agreement)
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
The New Testament
History (Biographies ~ Gospels):
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
The Acts of the Apostles
Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude
If you have never read any of the books of the Bible before I recommend beginning with Luke and Acts in the New Testament. From there I would encourage you to read 1, 2, and 3 John with at least short breaks between these tiny books.
Then “switch gears” and read some Old Testament with the prophecy of Malachi first, then History such as Genesis and Exodus, followed by Joshua, Judges, Ruth and Esther. Pick up more Prophetic Literature with Isaiah, Hosea, Joel and Amos.
Come back to the NT for Matthew, Mark, Romans, and go on to Titus, Jude, Philemon, and James.
Back in the OT, pick up with 1 and 2 Samuel, Song of Solomon, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum and Habbakuk.
Back to the NT for 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians;
Back to the OT for 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah and Lamentations;
The NT again for Philippians and Colossians, 1 and 2 Peter;
The OT for Leviticus, Numbers, and Job;
The NT for 1 and 2 Timothy and Hebrews;
The OT for Deuteronomy, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zephaniah and Haggai;
The NT for 1 and 2 Thessalonians;
End your reading of the OT with Zechariah;
And end the NT with the Gospel of John and Revelation.
Intersperse readings of any of these texts with some of Proverbs and the Psalms which are divided by letters of the Hebrew alphabet. One chapter of Proverbs or Psalms per day will complete these book in 181 days. I do not recommend reading these at a single sitting because of their length, lack of plot and lack of theme teaching. These are best digested in smaller portions throughout the year’s project. (Watch out for Psalm 117 and 119!!) 😀
This is just a suggested order of reading to take you from easier books to more difficult ones, from clear action stories to more complex philosophical ones, from historical events to future events. If you wish to read in any other order, “more power to you”! Read on!
So get started soon, while this is still doable in 2015, and if you will, let me know if you are taking on this project and your progress in it.
1. Do not expect to understand everything you read nor understand why God does some things the way He does, on your first reading. Some of the reasons involve study of the culture and society and first “hearers” of these words. As a child does not understand all its parents’ decisions, there are things we will learn as we “grow in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
2. Do not allow anything to discourage you in this quest. Opposition may come from unexpected corners or from those opposed the Jesus, but He will help you if you allow Him to do so. If you miss a planned session simply pick up with the next one where you left off, so if it takes you a little into 2016, no worries. Just do it.
3. Do not waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to pronounce strange names, especially if you are reading aloud. For example, when reading 2 Samuel and you come across a name like “Mephibosheth,” if this poses any problems pronouncing it, just call him “Little M” or some other nickname and keep going.
4. Finally, do not allow knowledge of the Bible to “puff you up” (Colossians 2:18-19) and so miss out on getting to know Him better. This is HIS WORD you are reading, and it should lead you closer to Him and help you hear Him better.
Next week, April 12, 2015, we will look at different methods by which to study the Bible.