I have written before on the responsibility we have when we pick up the Scriptures. We have a gift, and a responsibility, that most common people did not have for the first 1500 years of the church. We have the Bible freely available to us and the education with which to read it. What do we do with that? Personal Bible study has been a cornerstone of post-Reformation Christians, but how do we do it? Today I want to look at a few broad considerations when picking up our Bibles.
One dimension of Bible reading I want to look at is breadth, which addresses the broad narrative, overarching story of the scriptures. We should have a general grasp on all the main characters and stories in its pages. Reading for breadth is primarily focused on knowledge, wanting to get to know this book which we hold in such high esteem.
Reading through the Bible in a year is a good baseline and there are many plans online to help you do that or you could devise your own. In recent years, a 90-day reading plan has become popular in which you read about 12 chapters per day. Most people could do that in about an hour a day, which would be a great way to fill some of the hours you freed up each week.
While the Daily Office Lectionary will take you through a good chunk of the Bible each year, reading in the context of the Daily Office might not give you the big picture. The way the scriptures are nestled in the midst of prayer makes it more devotional reading than informative reading.
The second dimension of Bible reading I want to consider is depth, where we ruminate on a passage over an extended period. One way to do this is through Bible memorization. I believe it is more useful to memorize an entire chapter or more rather than random verses, though it takes more work. One school year, my wife and son memorized the whole book of James, learning about 4 verses per week. You really get to know the contents of a book when you spend that much time with it.
Another way to find depth is to read a particular book of the Bible repeatedly. Some of the shorter New Testament Epistles can be read through each day without much effort. Taking a couple hours each weekend to read through one of the Gospels—staying with one Gospel for the entire year—can also be fruitful.
The goal with either breadth or depth is not to extract novel insights and obscure facts. The goal is to know the mind and the will of God as expressed in the scriptures in order to conform our lives and our thoughts to his.