It wasn’t something I was expecting to do, but the words of a friend on facebook challenged me. He wrote, “If you read just four chapters a day six days every week, you can read through both the Old and New Testaments in less than one year. If you have never read through the Bible before, I challenge you to make 2014 the year.”
I can say I’ve read the Bible, just never in order and never in less than a year. It’s a daunting undertaking, to read thousands of pages penned by at least 39 authors over a period of over 1,500 years. It contains some of the oldest and most reliable records of civilization anywhere. As a piece of literature, it is a masterpiece. As the very Word of God, it is an unrivaled source of enlightenment and influence.
For the publishing world, Bibles are big business. In just the last forty years more than 100 million copies of the Bible in its ten most popular translations have been purchased. Those versions are: the New International Version (NIV), Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), The Living Bible (TLB), the New King James Version (NKJV), the New Living Translation (NLT), The English Standard Version (ESV), the Good News Translation (GNT), the Contemporary English Version (CEV), and a New Testament paraphrase called “The Message” (MSG). Ranging in price from a $1 New Testament paperback to an over $100 leather-bound, gold-leaf-edged chain reference text, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time.
And herein lies the paradox. What other best-selling book do you know of that just sits on a shelf or coffee table, rarely opened, and is hardly ever read cover to cover? Sir Frederic Kenyon (1863-1952) once remarked: “Bible reading has been a notable characteristic of the English-speaking peoples from the Reformation to the end of the Victorian Age”, and the decline in Bible reading has undoubtedly been “a serious loss to the moral and cultural equipment of the nation today.” His observation was written a century ago, yet it holds true today.
The middle of January finds me in the middle of Exodus. I’ve already read the history of creation, the flood, the genesis of the nation of Israel, how Joseph saved that nation from starvation, their slavery, their exodus from Egypt, and the Ten Commandments. I’m always amazed at the contents of the first two books of the biblical canon–the intrigue, deception, murder, love, hate, faith, faithlessness, anger, forgiveness, and even sex scandals. And I still have 64 books to go!
Perhaps as I travel this journey, you will join me. It’s not too late to get started! You might find, as I did, that the book of Genesis reads like a novel that is hard to put down. Catching up will be easy. Don’t be afraid to make notes on what you’ve read–write down your insights and questions–and share with family, friends, or a pastor. I’d love to hear from you, too!