This is the second part of a series taken from Mortimer Adler’s book How to Read a Book. While I’m not following his method precisely, the principles he lays down are applicable to the Book of Books, the Bible.
Gaining a superficial understanding of the Bible is good, but we can (and must) go deeper. We need to become familiar with it and its contents. How do we do that?
In order to be familiar with the Bible, you have to read it – all of it. Every word from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. The purpose of reading all of the Scriptures is to become familiar with the plot, characters, and flow. You’re looking for a big-picture view of the story as it moves from beginning to end.
I’ve found that a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year programs is very helpful. By reading approximately three chapters per day, you’ll finish in a year. There are all kinds of plans from which to choose, but I personally like the chronological reading plan from Back to the Bible (the chapters are organized as they happened historically).
Of course, you don’t have to read through the Bible in a one-year period. You could do it in two, or maybe even three. The point is this: just do it! Having a plan and a schedule will help keep you on track, specific goals to meet, and a sense of progress. Reading at a normal speed – not too quickly and not too slowly – takes between 15 and 20 minutes per day. That’s not a lot!
I highly recommend reading through the Bible in a year because most Christians have never done it. As a relatively young Christian (many, many years ago!), I heard a guest preacher asked anyone in the congregation who had read the Bible cover to cover to raise their hand. Out of a crowd of about a thousand, only a few dozen hands went up (mine was among them). I was shocked! Hardly any of these people at a Sunday evening service (the really committed people went to evening services – right?) had read the entire Bible. Aren’t we supposed to be “the people of the Book?” Isn’t the Bible the Word of God, the final rule for faith and practice? Yes! Then why wasn’t it being read? As far as I’m concerned, a lifelong commitment to encouraging people to read the Bible began that night.
What if you don’t understand everything you’re reading? Don’t worry about it! Remember, you’re trying to become familiar with the Bible, not master it (yet). If there are verses, passages, or concepts that you don’t understand or have questions about, write them down and come back to them later. In other words, don’t choke on the bones, set them aside. Believe me, there are things in the Bible that are hard to understand and other things you may not necessarily like at first glance, but don’t let that discourage you. Keep reading!
The benefits of reading the Bible for familiarity are many. It begins to make more sense as you read and re-read it. You notice things you didn’t before. You begin to be able to see themes and points of emphasis more clearly. Most of all, you’ll be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2).
There are different ways to read a book, including the Bible. Read it superficially, but also for familiarity.