When you were in school, your English teacher would give you a text book and there would be assigned reading, practice questions, review sections, and assignments. Segments of great writings would be included in the text book, but never the entire story. Just the parts you needed to study the method of writing, the verbiage, the rhythm and pace of the story, would be included. We are taught to answer questions like, what did the author mean when he put this in the story, and why did the author choose to say it this way instead of that way, etc. Everything is sanitized and isolated.
How many classics have you only read those passages that were required reading in high school or college? There is value in this method of study, but what a shame that we have neglected so many great books, because we see them as ‘required reading’. We forget that they are great books! Sadly, the Bible is often lost in this same method of reading.
The Bible is a wonderful collection of writing that should be read in its entirety! Did you read the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye? Or maybe the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis? Imagine if we read those books like we read the Bible. You could certainly study them, pulling out passages to be dissected, gaining better understanding of what the author was saying. But would you then say you had read them? You wouldn’t think of starting in chapter 8 of Book 3 of the Left Behind series. And so we ask, what does it mean to read the Bible?
That’s a simple question right? Well, maybe not. Most Christians read the Bible like a text book. We are told often that the Bible is a Life Manual, a guide to Righteous living. Life’s How-To Guide. The problem with looking at the Bible this way is that we start to read it that way. Nothing kills the story of a great book like studying it.
Bible study and Bible reading are different both in purpose and process. When I read for the study of a work, I pick it apart. I contemplate things like why did the author say “dread poured into me from my head to my toes” instead of “I found I was gripped with fear, unable to move”. I look for symbolism and parody. I don’t read the whole story again, and I’m not concerned to start from the beginning. I can jump from chapter 8 to chapter 3 without stumbling over the story itself.
When I read for the sake of the story however, I look to understand the whole story. I want to meet the characters, the antagonist and the protagonist. I want to understand the conflict, get lost in the struggle, hope for the hero, and despise the villain! My purpose is to experience the story being told. When I read for this purpose, I read from the beginning. I try not to stumble over the mode and method of the work. They are details that don’t add to the story and so, I don’t focus on them. My purpose determines my process.
The Bible is one of the greatest stories ever told! Everything you could hope to find in the latest novel is found in this Book! Have you ever read it? Maybe you have studied it, and covered the ‘required reading’ but never enjoyed the story itself. If you have never read this Book in its entirety, allow me to recommend it to you. It truly is the Greatest Story ever told.