Friday, December 19, 2014

Some Thoughts on Reading the Bible in 2015

By Dr. Benjamin Shaw

This is not another post on Bible reading plans. There are about a thousand different reading plans out there, and I have no intention of adding to the list. What I will say first is that if you really want to read through the Bible in 2015, use a plan that takes you straight through from the beginning to the end. The Bible is one great big fantastic story, and if you’re reading a little here and a little there every day, you lose the plot.

Second, get yourself a Bible for reading. What I mean is that most Bible publishers do everything they can to make it hard to read the Bible. They print it in two columns. They put cross references in there. They put notes at the bottom of the page. They print in different colors, and add pictures and drawings. All of this can be helpful if you’re studying the Bible. But if you’re reading the Bible, it all distracts. When was the last time you picked up a novel that was printed in double columns, or had footnotes, or was printed in different colors, or had cross references? Of course you wouldn’t expect cross references or footnotes in a novel. But the point is that those things distract from the task of reading.

The ESV and the NIV are both now available in what is called a reader’s edition. While I don’t much care for the NIV as a translation, if you do, look into it. What both of these editions do is eliminate the verse numbers, the cross references, and the footnotes. And they put the chapter numbers in a place where they don’t intrude on the reading.  If you don’t want to buy one of those, at least get a plain text Bible (no cross references or footnotes). You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to simply read when you don’t have all those distractions on the page.

Third, read the whole thing. By that, I mean don’t skip over the annoying parts, such as the rules for sacrifices in Leviticus, or the censuses in Numbers, of the long lists of names in 1 Chronicles. Don’t puzzle over them trying to find some secret meaning in them, but don’t ignore them either. However obscure they may be, they are part of the story. Having those things in the Bible is a little like having accounts of dish-washing and vacuuming in someone’s biography. Maybe they don’t seem important, but they constitute a regular part of daily life. So these seemingly unimportant things in the Bible have a place.

Fourth, if you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up. Just pick up where you left off. If you don’t quite finish in a year, that’s okay.

Here’s to getting the big picture, reading the whole story in 2015.

Editor's note: Dr. Shaw has prepared a one-year Bible reading plan. See/download it here. If you wish to order a Bible from, be sure to go instead to and designate Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary as your charity to receive a portion of the purchase proceeds.