A few years ago I decided to read through the entire Bible. I had never done it before – most people haven’t. In church the scripture readings come from the lectionary, which is a calendar outlining specific readings for specific seasons and days. It’s a sort of Bible Greatest Hits that ensures you’re always reading the passion during Holy Week and the nativity story at Christmas.
The benefit of the lectionary is that it taps into a key concept in pedagogy: repetition. If something is important you don’t teach it once and assume your students have it. You say it over and over. And each time you talk about it you add something a bit different. The downside of using a lectionary is that we only focus on the parts of the Bible we find “most important,” and leave the rest for people to read outside of communal worship.
I think the greatest thing I learned from reading the Bible all the way through is that the Bible is a really big book. There’s a lot in there. The sheer volume of words guarantees that no matter what you believe, there’s something in the Bible to support it. And a lot of it is just vague enough that you can take it as literally or as figuratively as you want. We sometimes criticize Christians for picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to follow, but after reading it my only conclusion was, “How could you not?” There’s just so much to take in, so much to interpret. Things that seemed to go together one day sound contradictory the next. Stories you discounted as foolish at first become your favorites (I used to hate Jonah and the Whale).
But that’s also what I love about the Bible. It’s not easy. It makes me think and question and go over my own internal logic time and time again. Every new thing I learn in the world turns into a new way to read a particular story or passage. I’ve never been able to read a line of scripture and take it without question. For me, the question is the point of reading scripture. Reading the Bible brought up a lot of questions. It made me think a lot. There was one beautiful moment in my reading where I lost faith in God completely. I kept reading anyway, because it’s good to wrestle with your God from time to time. Some of us just love the fight.
I’ve been in a love-fest with the OT for some time now. With apologies to Paul and the Gospels, the OT has the best stories, and the insights that informed Jesus’ teachings are all there.