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April 1, 2012

Yearly Bible Reading

by Brendan

Since December of 1998, when I received The Oxford Annotated Bible as a Christmas gift, I’ve followed the ancient practice of reading the Bible through every year — 3 chapters a day, 4 chapters on Sundays gets a person through the whole Bible in a year.

I don’t think, though, that doing it the way I’ve been doing it is a substitute for directed study, so I go to Bible study groups whenever I can find them, as well as supplement my reading with books about Scripture or articles on the Internet — Beliefnet.com is a good source for these, also Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s blog, “Windows and Doors.”  Obviously, Rabbi Brad comes from a Jewish perspective, but as my former pastor Fr. John Gillispie once said, “You can’t be more Jewish than being a Christian.”

Ernest Hemingway recommended regular Bible reading, all the way through on a yearly basis — not entirely as a religious practice, I don’t think, but also as training for writers.  Huge chunks of the Scripture are beautifully written — I particularly like 2nd Samuel, which I recently finished and which some scholars argue is the best-written book in the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament).  Chapter 11 tells the story of David’s sin re Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah the Hittite.   David goes up on his roof in Chapter 11, sees Bathsheba bathing on an adjacent roof, and by the end of the paragraph she’s pregnant — and then the wheels seriously come off David’s life.  A masterpiece of narrative compression, leading up to the wonderful story of David and the prophet Nathan (“You are the man!” says Nathan).

I’m now in the First Book of Kings, which definitely is not the best-written book in the Hebrew Bible — sometimes I dip ahead into the New Testament to provide a little leaven to Kings & Chronicles.   I have a new translation of The New Testament by Richmond Lattimore, famous for his translations of Greek drama.

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