The Case For Speed Reading the Bible in a Year

Dear Jack,

One of my 2011 goals was to read through the Bible in a year.  This is something I’ve never done before – and was actually something I never gave much credit to.  After all, how much comprehension can you really retain reading so much in such a little time?  Most Bible reading plans are anywhere between 3-10 years.  This line of thought was even confirmed by a few friends early in 2011 when I shared my reading goal with them.  However, after completing the goal, I have a great appreciation for it – and strongly urge you to consider doing it sometime as well.

I didn’t follow a scripted reading plan, didn’t read from Genesis to Revelation, didn’t read in any chronological order – my friend Brandon printed a list of the books of the Bible, and I (for the most part) would read one book, strike it out on the print out page, and randomly choose to read another.  The exception was reading Genesis through Joshua and also reading the four Gospels back to back to back to back.  I would read for comprehension, but if I came across a passage that tricked me up, I’d simply write a “?” in the margin and move on instead of spending time researching it.  I read from an ESV Compact Thinline Bible with no commentary and few cross references.

I finished up Habakkuk (as it happened to be) on December 30th, and began dwelling on what I learned.  So here are a few lessons, principles, or themes that I picked up in my 12 month blitz.

A command to be courageous.  Over and over and over again throughout the Old Testament was the command and plea for leaders to be strong and courageous.  I didn’t take the time to count the number of commands, but it blew my mind how dominant that theme is.

Revelation can be summed up in two words.  The book of Revelation confuses me greatly – I have a Bible degree and still really don’t know how to read it.  It actually frightens me, and I avoid reading it at all cost if I’m honest.  I’m skeptical each time a sermon refers to a Revelation passage.  However, I noticed two words churn to the surface as I read it straight through: Jesus (or a term referring to him) and victorious.  Again, I didn’t do a word count to see if these are indeed the most common two words, but I’d be surprised if they’re not.  Jesus.  Victorious.  If I understand nothing else of Revelation, I’m good with understanding that.

God’s sovereignty.  Our free will and God’s sovereignty have always been a relationship I’ve felt less than comfortable articulating.  I just don’t know how it works most times.  But when reading throughout the Bible, and taking it at face value truth,  it’s almost inarguable that God is indeed all powerful and all capable.  He did pretty much anything we could dream of in asking for signs of His might.  From creation to nations to conceptions to destructions to resurrections, God demonstrated his power in all realms.

The Spirit was moving in Old Testament characters.  Could have been sheer ignorance on my part, but other than the case with Saul, I never took notice how often the OT mentions the Spirit of God moving in someone’s heart or dwelling upon them … and sometimes leaving them.  What an amazing gift that we all have this Spirit in our own hearts now, instead of a select handful of individuals over the span of thousands of years.

Reaping and sowing is a fundamental truth.  This agricultural concept is used frequently in Christian teaching, but I never realized how saturated the Word of God is with its usage.  It leads to some admitted confusion stemming from my lack of understanding in free will/God’s sovereignty, but I can’t get away from the truth that we will truly reap what we sow (yet also that God is sovereign).

My PBU undergrad is of help.  I’ve often discredited my Bible degree since I have so many questions about the Bible and Christianity as a whole – but I realized in reading the Bible that a lot of knowledge has penetrated my subconscious mind that I didn’t realize was there.  From trivial things (such as the city Jerusalem being synonymous to the kingdom of Judah, as was Samaria synonymous to Israel) to bigger things (the concept of the Trinity), my reading was greatly helped by a somewhat firm understanding of context.

The Bible is complex, not simple.  I’ve always known this – but it was definitely drilled down last year.  There are certain parts of the Bible that I really can’t explain – and if a skeptic were to press me on it, I certainly couldn’t defend them (these were marked by a lot of the ?’s mentioned above in my margins).  It’s not that all of these passage are not understandable, it’s just that I’m going to have to rely on good teachers to learn from.  It’s actually more mesmerizing to read something, not comprehend it, do some historical research, learn more about the context, and then see how delicately structured in truth the passage truly is.  There’s also great freedom in admitting to ourselves and others “I don’t know.”  Faith is built on top of that.

That’s my case, Jack.  Sure, I didn’t learn a whole ton about specific passages or certain ideas, but I believe I improved my overall faith through this goal.  I’d strongly urge you to consider your own 12 month blitz of the Bible – as I’m sure you’ll glean (or reap) lessons, principles, or themes of your own.  Till next time, Jack.

Sincerely,
J.

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