|Hurling yourself into a flowing river gets you much wetter than merely dipping a toe in. Reading whole books of the Bible rather than dipping into passages immerses you in a way which can similarly take your breath away.|
Easter reading challenge
During Holy Week this year, I decided to start to read all the books of the New Testament. I'd realised that, while daily reading of the Lectionary makes for completeness of reading the content of the Bible, there is something to be said for reading each of the component books as a self-contained piece. It's a different way of engaging. I also wanted to read these books of the Bible one after the other, to get some sense of the broader flow of the New Testament. Rather than being drawn to the most deliciously-worded, thought-provoking or challenging verses or ideas and studying those in depth, reading a book (or letter) gets you into the world of the author, keeps some sense of the bigger picture and throws up wider themes.So, having finished this self-set task a few weeks ago and having had time to let my brain digest a little, what did I get out of it?
Holy Week and Easter Week is a fantastic time to read the Gospels, I found. As the over-arching story of the life of Jesus was repeated four times with different voices, emphases and differing selections of what was important to include, it was brought home to me how wonderful it must have been to spend time in Jesus's company. Confusing at times, yes, but wonderful. What came to me afresh was how eager the authors each were to communicate something amazing with their readers, to try to distil that first-hand experience into something which explained what had changed them - indeed, what had changed everything.
Having the same tale told by different authors is much more than taking different oral traditions within the early Church and setting them down. It's a nuanced explanation of who Jesus is, what the nature of his ministry was, what people expected of him and records Jesus's teaching. Whoever decided to put John's gospel last played a blinder in my opinion. Having read the other Gospels so closely beforehand, John seemed to perform an act of summing up for me, reinforcing as a close eye-witness the events surrounding Jesus's death and resurrection in a very personal and vivid way. Immediately after reading this, I read through Kit Widdows' excellent 'Fourth Witness' , an imaginative retelling of John's Gospel which helped focus my reflections post-Easter.
Acts and Letters
|Should the Bible have similar |
warning signs on the cover?
|Some bits of the Bible can appear a bit off-putting, or|
even dangerous! Ask for the Holy Spirit to help navigate,
and ask someone who's been that way before... chances
are, others have given it some thought too.
It's worth saying that, along the way I did indeed get distracted (in the best possible way) by the odd deliciously-crafted, thought-provoking and challenging passage - some of which made it into blog entries in the meantime - but I would certainly recommend that, if it is not already your practice, the reading of complete books of the Bible in "one chunk" (not necessarily in one sitting for the longer books, but in a fairly restricted period of time so you can keep a train of thought going) is something worth considering.
Try reading one book of the New Testament as one chunk. The Acts of the Apostles is a good one to start with.
Where might you look for help in navigating the Bible?
What positive benefits are there in dipping into scripture rather than this more immersive approach?