So yeah, one post was definitely not enough for me to say everything that I would want about Bible Reading in a series on Spiritual Disciplines. Today I’d like to talk about Reading Plans and I’ll tackle that age old question “What version of the Bible should I read?” (but with a twist – if you’re thinking translations… stay tuned)!
What about Bible Reading Plans?
Well there are a variety of Bible Reading Plans out there. There is of course the ever popular, ambitious, but rarely stuck to “Through the Bible in One Year” plan. I don’t mean to be discouraging, but these plans typically have you reading 4-5 chapters a day. If you can be that disciplined then more power to you – go for it! But I think that a lot of new (inexperienced) Bible readers feel pretty zealous on New Year’s Day with their brand-spankin’ shiny, new NKJV Study Bible that their Mom got them for Christmas right after they just got saved at Christmas Eve service. But then when they hit Leviticus chapter 13 around February 12th… well if they haven’t already run out of steam at this point this passage on the examination of skin diseases by the Priest here usually do the trick!
I prefer a more pragmatic (there I said it), success-oriented approach. Remember from week 1 that you can read 1 chapter of the bible in about 5 minutes. At that rate you can read through the New Testament in a year (and, what the heck, I’ll even give you weekends off)! Alternatively, 1 chapter per day will get you through the whole Bible in about 3 years. I just think its more important that you commit to a realistic goal and then build from there. Success will make you want more. Guilt will make you give up! OK, here’s my super secret Bible Reading Plan: I pretty much just read straight through the Bible. That way, if I miss a day (or 3, or 5) I just pick up right where I left off. I find that all of that trying to get “caught up” on my Reading Plan once I get behind (and you will eventually miss a day) just leads to discouragement, guilt and then giving up. After many years of regular bible reading, I prefer a careful, contemplative, quality reading of the scriptures (letting the word wash over me) to an emphasis on the quantity of the amount read daily (I once had a Pastor who said “5 chapters a day keeps the devil away”). But for those who have never read the whole Bible all the way through, you may want to try to get through it once to become familiar with the general themes & story of the Bible before trying to diagram the sentence structures of greek syntax.
What Version of the Bible Should I Read?
Or better yet what Bible format should I read (you’ll note that I didn’t ask what “translation”)? Truth be told, the temptation for me to rant on and on about literal (word-for-word) translations versus dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought) translations has a strong pull that is nearly irresistible! But I’m sure that you can find some article out there on the internet by some King James-Only fundamentalist to tell you about how the “New International perVersion” is a secret conspiracy of the devil to try to pull you away from God’s true word.
Seriously though, in the last few years we are beginning to see some (very positive) format changes in the Bible publishing industry with things like single column text (you know, like in a “real” book), normal paragraph formatting (for the record, the idea that there should be a carriage return after each verse is utterly preposterous), and (dare I say it) removing chapter and verse numbers! The Bible is literature, and should be read as literature if we are ever going to understand the story of scripture. God did not give us His word in the form of bullets on a PowerPoint slide.
So in that vain, I am going to recommend three Bibles:
The Literary Study Bible (published by Crossway) is really not a study bible in the traditional sense as there are no footnotes to distract you from the text of scripture. Readings are laid out in literary units with a short introductory paragraph which provides you with a reading strategy at the beginning of each section (IMHO, they make great daily readings).
The Books of the Bible (published by Biblica) completely removes all chapter and verse numbers from the NIV text (who’d have ever thunk it – I just recommended an NIV). They’ve also basically followed the canonical order of the Hebrew Bible rather than the christian Old Testament in the arrangement of the individual books. Law (Pentatuech); Former Prophets (Joshua – Judges – Samuel/Kings); the Latter Prophets (Major & Minor); and the Writings [Psalms – Wisdom books – Exilic writings (Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel); thus placing all of the books properly within their common literary family. Similarly, the New Testament groups the books by similar literary traditions: The Pauline tradition (Luke-Acts followed by Paul’s Epistles); The Jewish tradition (Matthew’s gospel followed by Hebrews & James); The Petrine traditon (Mark’s gospel followed by Peter’s & Jude’s epistles); and the Johannine tradition (John’s gospel & epistles followed by the Revelation). It just makes sense!
The just released ESV Reader’s Bible tries to do much the same thing as the Books of the Bible above (for those who just can’t bring themselves to read the NIV – LOL!): Single column text, normal paragraph formatting, removing those distracting verse numbers (but retaining chapter numbering).
So in short: Read the Bible as if it were a real book! God revealed Himself to us through His written word in the form of literature, so read the Bible as Literature. Read the Bible as story.
One Last Thing
When should I read my Bible? Doesn’t the Bible say something about rising early in the morning? I agree with Wayne Cordeiro: Read it when you are at the best! If you’re a morning person, read it in the morning. If you’re a night owl, read it into the wee hours of the night. Personally, if I don’t get my Bible reading done before I leave for work in the morning, it ain’t happening that day. And if I tried to read it before I went to bed each night, the pages of my shiny new ESV Study Bible would be all wrinkled from drowning in a puddle of drool as I feel asleep three verses into Romans chapter 12. Do what works for you!
Now, to quote Augustine: “Tole Lege” – Take up and read!
Until next time my friends, when we’ll talk about the Discipline of Prayer…
Charis & Shalom (grace & peace)