Bible Reading Methodology
Augustine of Hippo said that the bible is like the ocean. “The smallest child can wade safely on the beach and yet even the strongest man cannot plumb its depths.” Well, I’m paraphrasing. He said something like that.
What he meant was that the new Christian unfamiliar with the bible will be able to understand and enjoy the essentials of what God communicates - all that is necessary for life and salvation. But even the most brilliant biblical scholar will find grasping the fullness of scripture beyond his reach.
This is part of what makes daily bible study so rewarding. When you study a familiar passage carefully you’ll always find something new and fresh mixed in with the familiar and comfortable.
If you’ve just started reading the bible and you’re confused and discouraged, don’t give up.
The key to gaining the most out of your reading, is to read the whole bible through in a systematic way. You don’t want to get into the habit of just reading your favorite familiar passages over and over again because you’ll develop a partial, distorted, and self-shaped perception of God’s will, character, and purpose in the world. Nor should you make a habit of simply opening your bible randomly and reading whatever meets the eye because that will produce a spotty, confused, and disconnected view of God’s purposes in the world and leave you ignorant of the all-important narrative arc of redemption that flows through scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Instead, work toward reading the entire bible over and over again so that you gain full-orbed view of the entirety of God’s self revelation.
There are many ways of doing this. The best methods provide you with daily readings in the Old and New Testaments together and take you slowly through the entirety of God’s Word.
The method of daily reading that my pastor taught me when I was a new believer is a bit different than the more common methods I’ve seen, usually built around a one year cycle of readings, but it has been invaluable to me. I’ll pass it along to you below. Use it if you find it helpful. If not find something else.
Every day read 2 chapters from the Old Testament, 1 chapter from one of the four Gospels or Acts, and 1 chapter from the remainder of the New Testament beginning in the epistles.
Start with Genesis 1, Matthew 1, and Romans 1 and work your way through to the end of Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) and then start over, to the end of Acts (the last book written by one of the Gospel writers - Luke) and then start over and to the end of Revelation and then start over (the last book of the remainder of the New Testament) and then start over.
Using this method you’ll work through the entire Old Testament in about a year and half. In that time you will have read the through the Gospels and Acts about 4 times and the Epistles and Revelation about 3 times. As you do you’ll notice your understanding of the New Testament consistently deepened and broadened by your reading of the Old. You’ll see the the underlying Old Testament themes and concepts modern readers so often and easily miss. And you’ll become more and more aware of just how unified and harmonious God’s Word is; 66 books written by many different authors in vastly different times and contexts and yet united by one Spirit speaking one overarching Word and Truth implicitly and explicitly throughout.
There are many different methods, most of them extremely helpful. The important thing is to find one that fits your needs and personal habits while exposing you to the whole counsel of God regularly, repeatedly, and systematically.
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