Last year was an unusual year for my Bible reading. I did the Bible reading challenge in 60 days. For the Old Testament, I alternated between audio Bible and reading through Robert Alter’s The Hebrew Bible. Then I used my ESV journal and read and reread the New Testament until the year’s end (you can read about that here). This year, I’ll be following the reading plan I did in 2019 but using different tools to aid my reading.
The goal is not to check off a list of chapters or to finish reading the whole Bible in 365 days. The goal is to let the Words of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom (cf. Col 3:16). For what does it profit a man if he reads the entire Bible but does not understand what he reads?
Let me share some of my favorite resources that I’m utilizing in my Bible reading this year. The first three tools are probably sufficient for many. For those who want a little more challenge, I have added two more.
1. Write using a journal Bible.
Reading and writing have always been the best learning tools for me. I have seen journal Bibles from the ESV and forthcoming in the CSB. I read through the New Testament last year and made all kinds of notes and markings. I’ll be doing a little bit of this again this year, but also adding some reflections and journaling.
2. Listen to an audio Bible.
Thanks to technology, you can listen to the entire Bible being read to you! You can even select the dramatic version, which is especially engaging in narrative literature. I listened to the NIV and ESV last year, and I might do it again for some of my reading this year. My favorite app for this is Bible.is. Check it out!
3. Read along with a study Bible.
I’m not a big fan of study Bibles since they tend to take over the text instead of illuminating the text of Scripture. But I was so impressed by the NIV Study Bible that I am thinking of reading through some of its historical insights as I read through the text. Check out my review of this study Bible here. Other exceptional study Bibles are the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible; ESV Study Bible; ESV Gospel Transformation Bible; and the MacArthur Study Bible.
4. Connect using a biblical theology book.
Connect what you’re reading in the Bible with how it fits into the overall storyline of Scripture. Here is a short but excellent definition of Biblical Theology:
Biblical Theology studies how the whole Bible progresses, integrates, and climaxes in Christ.”Andy Naselli, 40 Questions about Biblical Theology, p. 20
While this may take more time and reading commitment, it will be so profitable to read the Bible along with a biblical theology book that attempts to outline the storyline of the Bible. Here are a few books I have read (or am currently reading) relatively rated from beginner to more advanced:
- Vaughn Roberts, God’s Big Picture. You can see my review here.
- Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan.
- James Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment. If you choose to read this work along with your Bible reading, a reading plan is available here.
- Thomas Schreiner, The King in His Beauty. I’m looking forward to working my way through this biblical theology this year.
Here are some special mentions or other volumes in my “to-read” list:
- Nick Roark and Robert Cline, Biblical Theology: How the Church Faithfully Teaches the Gospel. This is a good introduction to biblical theology, but it may be too short as a complement to Bible reading.
- Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty. Unfortunately, this only traces the story of the Old Testament, but it’s an excellent work.
- Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant.
- Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum, God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants. This is an abridgement of the work listed above.
- Walter Kaiser, The Promise-Plan of God.
- Greg Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology.
5. Translate Greek/Hebrew books.
To those who can read their Greek or Hebrew, keep reading. You lose what you don’t use. Three tools are helpful for me.
- Greek Text: The Greek Scripture Journal Set, produced by the Tyndale House, published by Crossway.
- Vocabulary Guide: I started using A Book-by-Book Guide to New Testament Greek Vocabulary. I find this the best vocabulary guide out there (superior to Trenchard or Mounce).
- Reader’s Edition: Reader’s Edition of both Hebrew and Greek will always help you progress in reading with immediate profit and devotion from the text.
There you have it. Write. Listen. Read along. Connect. Translate. Here is some encouragement from David Mathis:
For most of church history, and still today in many places in the world, Christians have not had their own personal copies of the Bible…. But now, with printed Bibles and electronic options galore, we have priceless access to God’s very words to us, words that we are so tragically tempted to take lightly. Reading your own copy of the Bible daily is not a law that every believer must abide; most Christians have not had this option. But the habit of daily Bible reading can be a marvelous means of grace. Why miss this bounty and blessing?”David Mathis, Habits of Grace, p. 47