Read the Bible in a year

June 5, 2009

On Monday, the last day of the "year", I finished reading Revelation, and it was a very good feeling. I have to say, I highly recommend doing this. For me, I had probably read less than 10% of the Bible myself, but even for people who have read most of the Bible, I think there's something very special about following the Israelites from creation through to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

I wish I had journaled more as I finished reading the different books... it's a little hard at this point to reflect on so much. Here are some thoughts and feelings about the New Testament.

Matthew: What a great book to read right after finishing the prophets. All of the references to Old Testament prophecy make it wonderful to read right off the bat.

Luke: I had never realized that this was the only gospel that captures the Christmas story.

John: I have to say, I think this was my favorite of the gospels. What an opening! I like how John reflects not only on the history of the events, but the also on the profound meaning.

Acts: Wow, there was so much here that I was unfamiliar with. I vaguely knew about some of the things that happened after Jesus died, but to read Acts myself and to do it after reading the gospels was great. When I got to the end of the book of John, I was like, "Now what?"!

I had never realized how much of the New Testament was written by Paul. What an interesting guy... I'm sure many Christians would be fascinated to read a detailed biography of his life if one existed.

I found it somewhat jarring how little we know about the life of Peter after the death and resurrection of Jesus. I found it fascinating finding out about Paul rebuking Peter at one point when Peter's behavior was failing to send a clear message to the gentile believers that they need not be dragged down by Jewish law. The dynamic between Paul and the other apostles must have been very interesting.

I have to say, I really struggle understanding some of the things that Paul says about the place of women in creation, especially when he talks about women coming to God through men, or something to that effect.

I'd like to learn more about Revelation and the different takes on what it all means. After reading through it, there's only so much that you can really "get".

I think my feelings after finishing the whole Bible are somewhat similar to how I felt after reading the first seven books: What a breathtaking adventure. Certainly there are depressing parts, parts we struggle to understand, etc, but when you stand back and consider the history and the amazing generation-after-generation way in which faith has been passed on, it is just that: breathtaking!

And here we are, in 2009. Wow. What an amazing and mysterious universe!

Sept 28-08: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges

I'm a ways behind in my reading schedule, but it felt good to finish Judges today. I have lots of thoughts to share, too many to realistically write them all down!

Overall, I've really enjoyed reading the Bible as a story. The Old Testament comes to life when you read it this way, connecting the dots as you go. At times it is breathtaking following Jacob's descendants on their long and remarkable journey. How amazing is it to hold in your hands scriptures that are thousands of years old... following along on the journey of man's relationship with God from the very beginning.

Here is a list of topics that have struck me, and I could probably go into a lot more detail on some of them.

Moses: One of the most striking figures in the Old Testament is Moses. Before he enters the scene, the Israelites are a group of slaves in Egypt. By the time Moses dies, Israel is a nation of 600,000 people with a complex set of laws handed down from God, and together they have shared one of Earth's most amazing adventures. They witness God's mighty hand in some of the most remarkable displays of supernatural power recorded in the Bible, they share 40 years of soul searching in the desert, and after it all, they're crouched at the door of the promised land.

The promised land: Talking about story, it is extremely satisfying to read about the Israelites, at long last, entering the promised land: a journey, several generations long, finally coming to fruition.

Human interaction with God: Another attribute of Moses is his remarkable interactions with God. I can't think of another human figure in the Bible that has such an intimate relationship with God, relaying countless numbers of things to the Israelites. Besides Moses, it is intriguing to read about all of the mysterious encounters with God in the Old Testament.

Eternal life: A curious fact about the first books of the Bible is that eternal life isn't really mentioned. Sure, Methuselah is taken away, but that's about it. Strange.

Hell: Likewise, the first books of the Bible don't really mention hell. Curious.

Violence and war: I'm probably more sensitized having attended a Mennonite church these last few years, but the violence of the Old Testament is a little hard to take at times. On one hand, you have examples of communal stoning, commanded by God, and on the other, you have the sweet mood of the promised land tainted by the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of opponents, including women and children. We understand that part of God's motivation for wiping out these peoples were their detestable behavior, which including child sacrifices, but surely not all of these people were wicked. Many of them would have been not-to-distant relatives of the Israelites.

Women: It is pretty clear reading the Old Testament that woman played a very different role in society than men, and a few of the laws sound very odd given our modern day mindset.

Polygamy: Today there are two primary models for sexual relationship: The monogamous relationship (marriage + common law) and casual sexual relationship. But during Biblical times, it appears that polygamy was very much on the scene as a very mainstream thing.

Unlawful sexual relations: Some striking text in Leviticus that I had never read before. Leviticus 18:22: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman: that is detestable.", and Leviticus 20:13: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." Sounds pretty clear to me: God detests homosexual relations.

Idolatry: And of course, there is idolatry, one of the most significant themes in the Old Testament. It's hard to understand the temptation, several thousand years ago, to cast an idol and worship it, but it's clear that the temptation was huge. It's very sad, especially in the book of Judges, reading about Israel's failures, to the point of the tribe on Benjamin getting nearly wiped off the map.

Through the generations

Something that strikes me about Genesis is that we follow several successive generations. It was one thing for Abraham to follow God, but it is impressive that Issac, then Jacob, and finally Joseph all carried on the walk.

Taking that idea a bit further, isn't it amazing that, here we are thousands of years later, and generation after generation, the walk continues?

So while the next generation may be a perpetual cause for concern, perhaps we only need to look back to take comfort in what lay ahead.

Human ambition

Genesis chapter 11 tells the story of the tower of Babel. My NIV's commentary says:

People are ambitious -- they want to succeed. Genesis portrays humans as so ambitious that they try to compete with, rather than serve, God. This was Adam and Eve's sin (3:5,22), and at Babel people were at it again, in a citywide effort. God frustrated their plans by confusing their language.

This casts an interesting light on the study of artificial intelligence... are ambitious computer scientists striving to compete with God?

This is a good reality check: There is no competing with God, only striving to comprehend and better appreciate His creation.

June 2, 2008

This is something that I've always wanted to do, so I'm glad to finally be doing it. My plan is to read for about 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night.