A few years ago, I ran across this plan for reading the Bible from Peter Krol. To sum it up: at the beginning of the year, Krol sets aside all other reading and just reads the Bible through quickly. He does this to get the big picture of Scripture, the overarching story (something we sadly neglect nowadays).
At the end of last year, I was about to finish reading John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied and was looking forward to starting Geerhardus Vos’ Grace and Glory. So when I read about this plan again, I debated whether I should do it. “Well,” I thought, “I really want to read that Vos book…”
That was when I realized I needed to do it.
What I found had happened was that I was prioritizing books about the Bible over the Bible itself. The love that I had for the Bible had stagnated, ironically lost in my search to understand it. I’ve been trying to learn about Reformed theology for the past year, and I fully believe Reformed theology to be Biblical. And I also believe we should not neglect the teaching that comes from great men and women of the faith. But even more, we should not neglect the source, the very words of God himself as found in Scripture. And I think I had started to do that.
So, come January 1, I set aside my reading list and dove in. I ultimately decided to do a Historical Bible plan (where you read the Old Testament in the order the Jews arrange it, and the New Testament in the order it was written) thanks to an episode of The Bible Project’s podcast. And it was a deeply rewarding and even exhilarating experience. Here are a few things that happened.
I Gained a Deeper Appreciation of the Bible as a Work of Literary Art. I’ve recently come to understand that the Bible is more than just a divinely inspired historical record (though it certainly is that). It is a work of literature. It is a work of artistic beauty. When you understand that, it makes a lot more sense. That means you read each individual book with a sense of what it says as a whole as opposed to what isolated chapters (or verses) say. It means you read each book with a mind as to its genre; you would read poetry, for example, differently than you’d read a narrative. That also means you read the books of the Bible with a better sense of how they contribute to the whole of Scripture.
For example, if you read Jeremiah, you repeatedly see the prophet give new oracles to Zedekiah, king of Judah. Having just recently read 2 Kings (especially in a historical plan, where only Isaiah separates 2 Kings and Jeremiah), you know that he is the last king of Judah before Nebuchadnezzar destroys it. The result is that, whenever you see a new oracle to Zedekiah, you know full well Judah’s end is getting closer and closer, adding an apocalyptic tension to it. You read passages like Jeremiah 32:1–2, which describe Babylon’s seige of Jerusalem. Or, later, you read in Jeremiah 34:6–7 that Babylon has taken so much of Judah that only two fortified cities remain. The world is crumbling around these people, and the call of God to repent rings throughout. It adds a level of dramatic tragedy when Jerusalem finally falls.
I See More How Scripture Alludes To Itself. If you read the Old Testament quickly, then jump into the New, you see not only the direct quotations of the former, but also the allusions. You also notice the common themes throughout. Take wisdom, for example. The most obvious place to look for wisdom is the book of Proverbs. How does that come into play when you get to the letter of James? How does that come into play when you read Paul’s writings about wisdom? You note similarities between them. Wisdom is actually a very common theme in Paul.
I See How the Bible’s Theology Develops Over Time. Don’t misread me here; obviously the truth of the Bible has always been true, and human beings didn’t “develop” theology as such. They didn’t determine it; God did. But what does develop is the inscripturation of that theology. Paul’s later letters make a lot more sense, for example, when you’ve read his earlier letters. The same goes for other parts of the New Testament. The idea that Abraham’s true children are faithful Christians of any descent rather than just physical Jews isn’t highly developed in the letter to the Hebrews, but is rather assumed. But if Paul already wrote Galatians by that point, the author of Hebrews didn’t need to expound on it. It was already out there and well known. Why reinvent the wheel?
My Love for the Bible was Restored. Ultimately, the goal of this reading was to revitalize my love for the Bible, and that’s exactly what happened. I saw such beauty in the writing, in the doctrine, in the history…beauty that only comes from the God of the Bible. God spoke to me. God speaks to us today through the same words he breathed out thousands of years ago. They ring with the same authority, exercise the same control over us, and bring us into his real presence any time we read it. So, read it!
I’ll be doing this again next year. I’m considering a chronological plan. If you’d like to join me, let me know!