I’ve been asked for advice on how to increase one’s knowledge of the Bible, and I love the question. Years ago, I read St. Patrick’s Confession (written in the fifth century), and I was amazed and inspired by the way bits of Scripture just poured out of him in nearly every sentence. He clearly knew the Bible so well that it had become part of his language—part of him. Imagine how he was changed by his immersion in God’s beautiful, brilliant word. Imagine the joy it brought him. Imagine the humility, the comfort, the hope, the communion with God. Imagine how well he knew Jesus—how he was changed by meditation on the gospel. Imagine the wisdom he was able to offer others. I imagined all of this, and I was captivated by it. I’ve been working towards this kind of knowledge of the Bible ever since.
Does this vision motivate you, as well? You won’t get there overnight, but if you’re willing to be patient and purposeful about a long-term plan, it’s not out of reach for you. Here are some ideas for beginning to build your knowledge of the Bible over the next ten years.
I recommend you start by reading How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, which will teach you how to interpret what you’re reading. That’s a better beginning point than a commentary (which would present a particular point of view rather than give you the tools you need to discover the meaning for yourself).
Secondly, I recommend you read From Creation to the Cross. The most important thing you can do as you’re first setting out to get a handle on the Bible (after you’ve learned how to interpret it) is to get an overview of the story. This book will do that for you. One invaluable thing I did at this stage was to attend a Walk Thru the Bible event, where they teach you the framework—the major themes and events—of the Bible’s storyline through the use of memory aids (hand motions, etc.). You can look for an event near you here. (If there isn’t one near you, see if you can convince your church to sponsor one for your whole congregation.) All of this will help your reading go much more smoothly because you’ll have a big-picture understanding of how it all fits together. (Another option in this category is Greg’s The Bible: Fast Forward.)
Then I would spend at least a few years reading through the Bible like this—i.e., several chapters at a time, not just a few verses a day, reading for an overview, not getting too bogged down in details yet. Read the whole thing at least once a year.
After that, I would move on to reading the New Testament like this, adding on memorization, as well. You could trade off between reading one book of the New Testament every day for a month (over and over) and reading the Old Testament the next month, then back to a different book in the New Testament, then back to where you left off in the Old Testament the next month, etc. (You can start with the shorter books in the New Testament and/or divide the longer books, like the Gospels, into two parts.) If you stuck to that plan, it would take you roughly five years to read the New Testament thirty times and the Old Testament five times.
Because questions will arise as you read, I also recommend a few theology books that will help you make sense of what you’re reading. You could start these books at any point in your plan:
- The Holiness of God (Why does God judge human beings? Do we deserve it?)
- Gospel Deeps (Keep the main thing the main thing!)
- Knowing God (Overview of theology)
If you follow this plan, in ten years you’ll have an excellent foundation to build on for decades to come.