The Bible this quarter

One day in late March when the pandemic had just canceled the NBA season and trans-Atlantic travel and time was going nowhere quickly, my mom suggested I take the second quarter of 2020 to read the Bible. She was then finishing a 90-day reading plan and meant to repeat it in April-June. “If you ever have time to do it, it’ll be now,” she said. I couldn’t argue with that.

We followed a chronological reading plan, the type where you read 2 Chronicles in the middle of the Prophets, and where the Gospel of John and his three letters come right before Revelation. Perhaps Q3 will be a bit faster-paced than Q2, but whether busy or not I’d recommend reading the Bible quickly in big chunks, and here are some reasons and tips for it.

One, reading large sections of Scripture helps you notice different things than you might at a slower pace. You’ll cover Genesis, say, in half a week, which lends itself to seeing how the Serpent at the beginning is “crafty,” but so too are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons. The long downward spiral of Israel and the pleas of the prophets will drag out week after week. And then in short order Jesus shows up, and things change quickly. 

Two, the Bible is not just a book—but it is a book. Reading chunks at a time lets you read entire stories and entire books in one sitting, which is how they would have been read (or heard) originally. Thus I found myself reading the entire Joseph story, or the whole book of Hebrews, in one morning. I no doubt missed some details a good, slow reading would uncover, but I felt the overarching themes more readily.

Three, I recommend you get a verse-less, chapter-less Bible, often called a “Reader’s Bible,” in whatever version you like best. A couple pages into Genesis, I was hooked. Even now in my shorter daily readings, I often reach for Volume I: Pentateuch, rather than my “regular” Bible. I find taking away the chapters and verses helps me pay attention to the words, without the constant tick-tock of numbers counting up or counting down to when I’m done for the day. What other book do we do that with?

Four, reading the Bible in 90 days is a commitment, but it’s a manageable one. Maybe I spent about 45 minutes to an hour in the morning, but with a little planning that’s not too bad. Pour yourself a little extra coffee. Reading the Bible in 90 days might sound intimidating (it did to me), but reading a really great book for 45 minutes every day? That sounds wonderful. And again this is 2020: what else are you going to do?

Five, keep a journal or mental log. It doesn’t have to be fancy—just a couple sentences or bullet points of themes, words or ideas that stuck out to you—from that day or from the last couple of days. Reading big chunks of Scripture means you’re likely to glaze over a lot of it. On the other hand, what you do remember you’re more likely to remember; it’s easier to find a connection between the end of Matthew and the beginning when you read the beginning two mornings ago and not last week.

The joke goes that historians one day will say they specialize in the year 2020, only to be asked, “Yeah, but which quarter?” Why not take this next quarter to read the Bible quickly in big chunks?

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