“Father I’ve decided to read the Bible, one chapter a night until I’ve read it through.”
I’ve heard that one plenty of times, and I applaud the sentiment. It is based on a desire to grow closer to the love of God in Jesus Christ, and to understand something about God through the understanding of His Word.
But–like the resolutions about which I wrote last week– it is difficult to achieve. Why? Frankly, because much of the Bible is not all that understandable or accessible. The task is a lot like trying to climb the Turkey Path with a broken ankle.
There are too many things that are confusing, conflicting bits and pieces of information, much too easily taken out of context, much too readily applied in a destructive manner.
What happens: In my experience, when people set out to read a chapter a day, they usually make it as far as the second chapter of Leviticus, give up, and never try to read the Bible again.
What should you do?
- If you are reading solo, you might start with one of the Gospels, since they are generally more familiar and narrative. Some suggest that a good place to start is with the Gospel of Saint John. You might consider a more readable translation than the King James Version—I really don’t love the NIV (New International Version), but it is written at about a 6-7 grade level.
- Try a Bible Study: We’ve got a great one on Wednesdays at 11 AM, served with coffee, humor and Holy Writ!
- Use a devotional guide: Most folk who use Forward Day by Day read only the couple of paragraphs that are included in the booklet, missing the point that they are generally a reflection on the readings that are cited at the bottom of the page. You can kick it up to the next level by taking a look at those readings, and how they tie in with the day’s meditation.
- Try reading the Sunday lessons before Church—it is amazing how much more you can get out of the lessons by glancing at them beforehand. (They are listed in The Epistle, in Forward Day by Day, and in online lecionaries.)
And, as always, it is more than possible to talk to the that priest about those things that you are reading. He may have studied them once upon a time and may have some insights that he’d enjoy sharing with you!
(Canon Hinton is Examining Chaplain for Scripture in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, where he mentors ordinands and remediates deacons’ and General Ordination Examination writers’ knowledge of Scripture. See the parish website’s Resources page.)