When I became a Christian in Summer 2008, I became super hungry for the Bible. I think this was a unique experience: I read and read and read the Bible, with a pen and originally some highlighters. I went through Mark and Matthew and Mark again and then John and all of Paul’s epistles. Then I applied to go to Bible college and soon I had read most of the NT before entrance into Bible college. I used the New King James Version.
When I arrived at the college, I got into the King-James only cult because of stuff on the internet I was reading. I wouldn’t read anything but the King James, because I (wrongly) assumed any other translation was poisonous. So I bought a King James and began to read the Bible from Genesis to the end of the OT. I really would not recommend anyone to read through the Bible in the King James the first few times. It was very difficult at times.
But it was also an incredible blessing. I used an online audio Bible which blessed me immensely, because the reader was so good. Ah! I hate it when God’s holy, exciting book is read so boringly. And if you gallop through this book, it will be boring. It was actually designed to be read out-loud, to a corporate group of people who identify themselves as belonging to the God of Israel. So it’s no wonder lots of people get bored reading it, because they do it wrong and all too often with the wrong motives. Your motive is key in all of this: what is it? I think hearing the words read by someone else and following along on screen and marking my Bible with a pen as I went along, chapter by chapter, really helped.
I need to add also that whilst I got a lot out of reading the historical narratives and the stories were very memorable, the prophets were very difficult. I’ve no doubt that part of this was down to the Bible translation I was using. But primarily, it was because nobody ever sat me down and just briefly explained some very basic things to me about the prophets. For example, the prophets continually expound the OT Law of Moses in light of the rebellion of the people of Israel. They constantly tell the people that judgement is coming and that the way God will judge is via another nation: Babylon. Babylon were to come and take the vast majority of Judah’s tribe (the remaining Israelite tribe) captive in Babylon. This was God’s curse upon Israel: to be removed from his presence. (Incidentally, Jesus fulfils this, because the NT says he suffered the curse of God in his death. God removed his presence of blessing from Jesus when he died. When he resurrected Jesus, he raised Jesus out of this state of condemnation and judgement which God had placed on him…). But the prophets also provide hope: the hope of restoration (or maybe I should say, of resurrection!). God promised to deliver a remnant, a small group of faithful followers, from Babylon. The promises that were made were partially fulfilled, but they only became fully fulfilled when Jesus the Messiah came. Some actually still need final fulfilment, like Isaiah’s prophecy of the new heavens and new earth (Is. 65). We are still stuck in this old creation, whilst waiting for a new one.
So I very much enjoyed the tough, but very exciting process of reading the Bible through for the first time. I have since read it through another two times and I’m on my fourth. This is certainly the most exciting yet. It gets more and more exciting the more you read it. I use the New International Version now: I love it. I also use Biblegateway.com and listen to it read. I follow along on screen and mark my Bible when I see things that I want to especially remember. If I want to briefly go into deeper study or make a study note, I go into the awesome free Bible software, E-Sword! Well worth downloading if you want to study the Bible on your own for your life. Plus, it has free commentaries, so if you get stuck you can quickly check up what a passage means.
I would like to give a few pieces of quick advice about doing this amazing endeavour. Firstly, don’t just read once. You are kidding yourself and everyone else if you think that reading once will help you get to grips with the vast majority of this book. Only on my fourth reading am I really getting to grips with the overall structure and message of each book. Secondly, you would do well to read the NT about three times before beginning the Old. Thirdly, don’t set yourself limits. There are all sorts of problems tied up with this. For example, making yourself read this amazing book in precisely ‘one year’ tends to breed unwillingness after a while. You tie yourself to a deadline and then you have little time to delve deeper into those bits the Holy Spirit may want you to look at and meditate on. So take your time. The best advice I can give here is that if you are struggling, keep asking God to help you love it all and enjoy it. He’ll help you out. Fourthly, maybe using an audio bible would be very helpful! I find it really fun! Fifthly, get a simple translation, for goodness’ sake! Don’t use a translation which is difficult to listen to. The NIV is great and there is a free audio Bible of it available on Biblegateway.com. Sixthly, I would suggest using a pen as you go along. Your brain will remember stuff better if you mark it. Seventh, TAKE YOUR TIME. It’s not a race and after all: why are you doing this? What is your motive? To know God more or to just be able to say ‘I’ve read the Bible through’? Eighth, try out reading at different times of the day until you find your best time. Mine is about 7.10 am every morning, until about 8.00. I almost always have a shower first and then make a cup of tea to drink whilst reading. Love it! Love it!
Anyway, here are some thoughts. May the Lord help those of you who really want to do this. May your pastors help you understand this Book of Books better!