If anyone had asked me before 2014 if I had read through the Bible, I felt I could answer yes because, at various times and points, I remember going through each book of the Bible. Yet, even though I was baptized as a Christian, spent much of my life in church, and have been an ordained minister since 1998, I never really sat down and read it through.
The Bible app gave me a way to track this, so I jumped in on January 1, 2014 with the intention of reading it through in 52 weeks. Fifty two weeks morphed into one hundred and six, but I finished it today.
Imagine running around a track with someone saying, “Do that lap again” over and over. That’s what it was like for me as a pastor because even though I had long read through passages in my reading plan, my other duties returned me to the same texts.
I’d like to share my thoughts now that I’m done.
The Bible is so unlike any other book we have. Its genres, authors, editors, and translators are diverse. They do not have any uniform perspective. Nevertheless, I absolutely continue to believe that the Bible is inspired, and if you listen to passages in concert with others, you hear something new, and learn something new, over and over.
People struck me differently when I read this at 54 years of age versus in my childhood, teens, twenties, thirties, or forties.
- David seems far less a hero to me today. He may have been a man after God’s own heart at times. But he also was a violent (and heartless) leader at others. His sins can’t just be condensed to one weak moment with Bathsheba. But the same can be said of us all.
- And his son, Absalom, while not a hero at all, is less the villain than I remember him.
- Solomon is probably the least heralded major figure in the Old Testament. He likely contributed to the Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. As much as his wisdom helped him, it alone wasn’t the answer. He fell into error (although in different ways from his father David). Reading Ecclesiastes anew makes me feel he was depressed (a common malady in the modern world). But many of his observations remain true today. Faith, in the end, is what we need.
- Joseph was a truly admirable man. Not only do we see grace in his actions as an adult, but you have to sympathize with the challenges he went through.
- Jonah is always read with utter seriousness, but I think when it was written it was supposed to make people smile (and make them think about the scope of God’s love by the end).
- The whole Bible is very male-centric. I wish the authors had included more women. But you see heroism, wisdom, faith, intelligence, and love in many of their stories (as short as they unfortunately are).
- I flat out question some of what the royal narrators in Samuel and Kings attribute to God as actually being from God.
- If Solomon is an unsung hero in the Old Testament, Luke is in the New Testament. Many don’t realize that he not only wrote one of the Gospels but the Acts of the Apostles as well. It is Luke, more than any other, who underscores the scope of Christ’s love. And John, while different in focus, really gets down to what it is all about. We all need to pay particular attention to his epistles.
- Ezekiel is likely the most unknown major prophet. His book is a challenge to get through but has some really good points.
- After reading, I absolutely think Mary, Jesus’ mother, is a primary source of our Gospel writers. There are so many stories that they could not know (unless by God speaking to them directly, which is not how I think the Bible was written) without Mary telling them.
- The Bible is a mix of actual history and symbolic storytelling and metaphor. Discerning the two is vital.
- The Psalms never gets old. They are wondrous.
- I feel that the tragedy of our generation is that while the Bible is more easily accessible than an any time in humanity, our society is getting more and more biblically illiterate.
- At a time when symbol, myth, and metaphor can help us so much, we live in an age where people think if something is not literal, it has no value.
- We still, largely, do not appreciate the era in which the Bible was written or think that the Bible was never intended as a 21st century rulebook. Nevertheless, its value is beyond measure.
- To complete reading the Bible, I have spent a great deal of time in the Hebrew Bible. We are so guilty of erasing the ethnicity of all the stories. We need to appreciate the Israel of the Bible and the history of the Jewish people if we are to truly understand the stories.
- I absolutely see patterns in biblical times alive and well in modern times. God’s Word can continue to speak to us today if we study it together.
Until next time,