Re: [asa] Bible reading advice?

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Mon Oct 13 2008 - 10:56:54 EDT
Let me offer an alternate approach for your consideration, at least for much of the familiar New Testament, particularly if you have read the Bible through in the past. I'm not sure that a single approach suffices for effectively reading through the many types of writings in the Bible (though disciplined readings can be helpful for sticktoitivity!). In particular, I think that much is lost in reading (teaching and preaching) most of the NT books in chunks, since so many of them were in the form of letters.

For these books, you might consider preparing to read one of the books by reading a bit of contextual material from other sources (preferably several voices that have different perspectives - go ahead and skim a little Asimov and Borg!) which includes the timeline position for the specific book, the cultural and historical ambience , to whom it was written and why (what was going on at the time , since every writing has a specific motivation and objective),  and perhaps any relevant discussion regarding authorship (the Internet really facilitates this peripheral reading). You don't have to overdo this, just get a decent sense of the context. If you benefit by daily regimen, these activities can be divided up into daily activities.

Then, being mindful of any tensions you discovered that exist in the scholarship about the book, let the letter speak to you. Sit down and read the whole book through (none of them are huge), taking it in as a letter, and making marginal notes as you read. Then at your next opportunity, page through the book again, and reflect on your sense of what you heard the book say, and explore those marginal notes you made. Journaling is good if you are so inclined, an investment in your future when you have an opportunity to revisit your thoughts at the time, predictably finding yourself looking through somewhat different lenses here and there.

I think this prepares a framework for engaging the letters (and offers some new things to look for), and at the end, gives you a more integrated, internalized (and lasting) sense of their message to both the recipients in their time, and us in ours.

Many of the other books are perhaps better approached in other ways. Certainly, Psalms and Proverbs - as collections - lend themselves to reading in selections.

Just a thought.   JimA [Friend of ASA]

William Hamilton wrote:
Hi Christine

I pretty much agree with Michael Roberts. One way to get the mix Michael suggests is to get a one-year Bible, which has an Old Testament Selection, a New Testament Selection, a reading from Psalms and one from Proverbs for each day, and takes you through the whole Bible in a year. The last one I bought came with a CDROM with  a pdf file for each day with that day's reading. Each day's selection has a file name like <month><day>.pdf, so I eventually wrote a java application that constructs the filename for the current date or any other date and opens it when the user clicks a button. If you use one of those schedules that has you read the Bible in sequence, OT first, then the New, I find some of the OT readings can get rather tedious. Reading some OT and some NT every day breaks up the monotony.
I tend to use commentaries pretty sparingly, although I have nothing against them. Hope this helps.

On Sat, Oct 11, 2008 at 10:37 PM, Christine Smith <> wrote:
Hi all,

This is perhaps not directly relevant to ASA's usual topic of discussion, so please feel free to reply off-line...

I am looking for advice and tips on the best way to read the Bible the whole way through. I've probably read ~50% of the Bible in shorter spurts just from spontaneously selecting different chapters or books and reading those at various times, but that of course isn't a particularly coherent approach. I tried once to read it the whole way through, one chapter each night, but ended up stopping about 1/3 of the way into the OT because of some personal issues that disrupted my routine. I'd like to try again, but would appreciate any advice/tips you would offer from your own experiences that will help me get the most out of it (and keep me disciplined in it!!) Specifically, I'm wondering...

1) Should I try to keep a journal/diary as I read, to reflect on what's being said and my reactions/questions to it?
2) Should I stop every time I don't recognize a cultural term, geographic location, etc. to look it up and try to find out its relevance to the passage, or would it be better the first time through to just try to get the basic grasp of each passage rather than engaging the nitty-gritty details of it?
3) How should I section off my reading? Is it better to do a chapter a night? A book a night? One complete story/section (i.e. Noah's flood) each night? Are those "Read the Bible in 365 days" type of set-ups you can find in the store worthwhile?
4) Are there any particular things you did to enrich your experience? For example, prayer before and/or after? Listen to music? Read along with family members and then discuss? Go to a park?
5) Is it helpful to read a commentary or book on the passages that you're engaging as you go along (i.e. reading a commentary on Genesis as you read Genesis) to get someone else's perspectives and insights, or does that hinder your ability to read it in an unbiased manner? If you'd recommend concurrently reading a commentary or Biblical studies series, what would you recommend?

Thanks ahead of time for your thoughts!
In Christ,

"For we walk by faith, not by sight" ~II Corinthians 5:7

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