A professor once remarked to former atheist, Josh McDowell: “If you are an intelligent person, you will read the one book that has drawn more attention than any other, if you are searching for the truth.” That book, of course, is the Bible.
A common New Year’s resolution among Christians is to try and read the Bible through, cover-to-cover. I well remember the first few times I attempted this. I rarely made it past the first part of Leviticus. Then, I discovered something that helped me complete the task. I started reading about the Bible as I read through the Bible. This discipline took me longer to read through the Bible but the payoff was priceless: I was finally understanding what I was reading. And this made all the difference.
While studying over the holidays I stumbled upon a wonderfully helpful blog by theologian, R.C. Sproul, on this very topic.
From the article:
“If God delivered a letter to your mailbox, I am sure you would read it. (The Bible is that letter.) But the Bible is a pretty big letter, and its sheer bulk is somewhat daunting, even to the person with the best of intentions. Therefore, few Christians actually keep a resolution to read through the Bible.”
Here’s my recommendation: begin with an overview of the Bible. Get the basic framework first… Once you understand the basic framework, you are much better equipped to read the Bible.
The entire article is, in my opinion, spot-on. In fact, I have a quote by Sproul (rhymes with “roll”) that I jotted down in the front of my Bible back in the early 90’s: “If we can identify the author, the author’s chief purpose, as well as the author’s intended audience – this goes a long way in helping us understand [each book’s/letter’s] teaching with greater accuracy.”
In addition to the resources Sproul mentions, I would highly recommend two more options: (1) “Know Your Bible: All 66 Books Explained and Applied” – 2008; Barbour Publishing; I’ve given away a ton of these. And, (2) “The Baker Illustrated Guide to the Bible: A Book-by-Book Companion” by Hays & Duvall; 2016.
Taking time to study about the Bible while reading it will take longer than just “diving in and reading”. But, I can assure you that you will come away with a far richer understanding of what you’ve read.
(You can access R.C. Sproul’s blog by clicking the highlighted phrase in paragraph three, or by simply clicking here.)
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick