If you are a reader of our blog, you know that last year I posted every day as we walked through the entire Bible in one year. If you did not join us for that, the posts are still available and you can do it this year! If you did join us, what is the next step? How do we expand upon our detailed walk through the Bible?
Well, there are a number of things I like to do to go deeper into the Bible while at the same time keeping the Bible exciting and fresh. For example, I spent a few years reading through the Bible in a year using different English translations. That is a great and easy way to expand your Bible knowledge. The English Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the Christian Standard Bible are all great translations. It is also helpful, and sometimes easier, to read a somewhat looser translation, like the New International Version or the New Living Translation. You’d be surprised at the things you realized you’ve been missing in your usual translation. I highly suggest that you avoid paraphrases like the Message, because they change the meaning of the text in many places. I also would steer clear of the King James Version (and New King James Version) for a number of reasons, including the fact that the Greek manuscript used is very outdated and the translation philosophy is lacking, in my opinion.
Another good resource are translations of the Bible that exclude the headings and even the verse markers This makes it read more like it was written. It can help you to see things you haven’t seen before, because we tend to break up the narratives or letter subheadings according to the headings and verses in our Bibles. These are not original to the text. It may sound silly, but reading a letter like a letter is eye-opening!
Another way to see the Bible with new eyes is to hear it. Listening to an audio Bible can help you focus on aspects of the narrative you haven’t noticed before. I find that the narrative portions of the Bible (Genesis – Esther in the Old Testament, the Gospel accounts and Acts in the New) are great to listen to. While I personally don’t find it as easy, listening to the New Testament epistles may be rewarding for some, because that is how the early church would have known them: they would have heard them read in a public gathering.
Something else I have done that sounds a little crazy but is so very worth it, is read through the entire Bible as quickly as you can. It is not about getting through it. What happens is you are able to make connections you normally don’t, from chapter to chapter, book to book, and even across the two Testaments. For example, when you read Paul quoting an Old Testament book that you read just a few weeks ago, the context is fresh in your mind and you get more of what Paul is trying to communicate. If you are an avid reader, it is not difficult to get through the whole Bible in two or three months.
What I also like to do, and I highly suggest doing, is read an epistle in one sitting. They were letters, not books. Reading them as they were intended to be read helps us get the big picture of the letter. I have also read the same epistle every day for a week, or even a month. You start to memorize passages without even trying. Even more, you start to anticipate what’s coming, so what you read in Galatians 1 becomes easier to connect with Galatians 6 because you just read it yesterday. You start to see the natural progression of longer letters like Romans or 1 Corinthians, and it really helps us understand Paul’s logical arguments.
If you want to really go deep, I would suggest a good, and preferably recent, commentary. Why recent? Our understanding of the ancient languages is getting better all the time. We are making new discoveries of ancient texts. Even the extra-Biblical texts we have found in the last few decades have shed so much more light on the language, thought, and worldview of the Biblical writers. Older commentaries are at a distinct disadvantage. However, know that good commentaries can be very cost prohibitive. I suggest the New International Commentary.
There are also some really great podcasts out there. Some are a little more scholarly than others, but they all offer good Biblical insights. I suggest Renewing Your Mind, Credo Podcast, Reasonable Theology, Reformed Forum, and The Naked Bible Podcast. In addition, there are innumerable blogs about the Bible, monthly periodicals, and theological journals if you like to read.
There is nothing more rewarding than knowing God through His Word. There are so many resources to help us do that. We just each need to find the best way for ourself. So try different things until you hit on something that opens your eyes to the wonder of God’s Word and your heart to the illumination of His Spirit.