How to Read Your Bible

No, this isn’t an essay on how to read your Bible through in a year, or on what parts you ought to read most, or even on how to “rightly divide the word of God.” This post is about something far more fundamental: *how to get yourself to read your Bible at all.*

I have two points under a single main heading: **Your Bible is Too Big!**

**Point the first: sheer volume.** We are at the apex of a time when people seem to think that one’s spirituality may be measured by the importance to them of Bible reading. Correspondingly, the importance of the Bible to people may be measured by the amount of space it takes up and the number of calories which may be consumed in transporting it to a given location. What an ascetic frame of mind!

But what is the practical result of this? Those Bibles keep getting bigger. The biggest one I’ve seen is produced by my own school – The Archaeological Study Bible. It’s spine is some 5 inches wide, and its weight has got to be in the vicinity of 10 pounds. Brothers, this should not be! What a heavy burden (literally) we put on the backs of those who wish to be readers of God’s word.

When I was in public high school, it was quite common for Christians to carry a Bible around with them in school, for devotional reading and friendly discussions. But if some well-meaning parent gave their child a 10-lb. Bible that takes up more than 10% of the backpack, how is that kind of integrated Christianity even possible? If you work at an office and want to read at work, what do you do with a Bible like that? Carry it around in your briefcase? Designate for it its own cabinet? My mom has a small shelf next to a recliner which she keeps stocked with Bibles, but it is getting so that some of us need a separate room designated for Bible study

The net result: It’s too much work. We don’t bother.

**Point the second: Study Notes.** I may be wrong, but I think CI Scofield invented the first study Bible. However the market for the things seems to have really taken off with the advent of cheap layout and publishing software. Now anybody with a gimmick can publish a “Bible” with their name on it and cash in on the number one best-selling book of all time. Now, of course, there has always been the theological danger of such a phenomenon – anybody who can get their name on a Bible can get their teachings equated with the perfect Word of God. Imagine the joy of Mary Baker Eddy or Charles Taze Russell to have lived in such a day.

But my concern is more basic: people are being trained that they have to *read* all that to understand the basic gist of the text. Combine that with the general perception that we ought to try to read through the Bible at least once a year, and again you’ve created a far-too-daunting task. For a slow reader, such work could take hours a day. For me, a quick reader, the superabundance of footnotes becomes a distraction. The pastor says, “turn in your bibles to page *q*,” and in a few moments I’m lost, not as I might have hoped, enraptured in the text of scripture, but in analyzing and debating the supplementary text instead of listening to the sermon at hand.

Bible commentaries are good, particularly when they attempt to systematically consider the whole text of scripture. But study Bibles are not commentaries. They aren’t thorough; they supply answers to questions that haven’t been asked, and they seem to have been invented solely for the purpose of inflating Bibles and Bible sales.

The net result: less actual reading of the actual Bible.

This is why, when last I felt compelled to buy another Bible, I didn’t buy my school’s Archaeology Bible, The MacArthur Bible, The Ryrie Bible, the New Scofield Bible, The Rainbow Bible, The Prophecy Bible, the Men’s Bible, the Teen Study Bible, or even the Spirit Filled Life Application Bible (of which I already have one). I bought a small, pocket-sized, English Standard Version, compact thinline edition. It’s the best Bible I ever had. It’s leather-bound and it cost me $14. I carry it with me everywhere. Of course, though the ESV is a good translation, I still keep the others on hand, as an occasional reference for phrasing, but I don’t expect to take any of them with me out of the house ever again. I anticipate, in the future, replacing all my translations (with the exception of some heirlooms) with similar super-compact editions.

Until such time as my eyes go weak, the goal is to keep my Bible (and only my *Bible*) available at all times so that I might actually read it.

6 thoughts on “How to Read Your Bible”

  1. CI Scofield didn’t invent the first study bible. It was the Geneva bible, published in 1560, that first had many annotations written by the Puritans alongside the text itself.

    I agree totally with your point about reading our bibles being our first priority. It seems that many Christians are more familiar with contemporary christian literature than the biblical text.

    I’ve also stopped reading the bible through once a year. I just found myself reading the text quickly to get through the daily portion. Now, I read slowly, going through a book with a classic commentary (Matthew Henry on Daniel at the moment). I have found this has been far more fruitful for me.

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  2. Just curious, where did you find that Bible for $14? I have an ESV(no study notes either) that I really like and my wife keeps snitching it from me. I think it’s high time that she have her own copy. And she’d really appreciate it being like the slimline that you describe.

    Thanks!

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  3. I was trying to decide between a Scofield III study Bible or a Ryrie (expanded edition) study bible in NASB version. Which would be the better of the two?

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  4. Since I don’t really recommend study bibles, I’m not sure why you’re asking. I haven’t read either. I’m not sure where Ryrie comes from, but the Scofield III is classic dispensationalism, redacted to match up better with classic protestant theology. I’m pretty ambivalent on dispensationalism, but the Scofield bible will be your best primer in it.

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