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Entries in Bible Reading (3)


It's all about the endings

He spoke the word.

Who is doing the speaking? If you're an English speaker, you know that it is "he" who is doing the speaking. That's the subject of the sentence. Generally, in English, the subject precedes the action of the verb. Now, if you're Yoda, you could say, "The word, he spoke," but you're taking a chance if you copy Yoda because someone could conclude that we're actually saying something like "The word which he spoke." Word order is really important in English. English is not an inflected language.

Koine Greek is an inflected language. That means word order doesn't matter. Αυτος ειπεν λογον, "he spoke the word" can also be written ειπεν λογον α­­υτος or we could move the words around again. What tells me what is the subject of the sentence is the ending of the word, in the case of "he," the pronoun αυτος, with its -ος ending indicates that the word is in the nominative case, and hence, the subject of the sentence. The word λογον with its -ον ending tells me that it is in the accusative case and that means in this sentence, it is the direct object, or the receiver of the action.

These endings are crucial for understanding what all the grammatical components of the sentence are. And what is more interesting is that when it comes to prepositions, the meaning can change, depending on what the ending of the noun is. Adjectives also have different endings, and the way one tells which adjective goes with which noun is the ending of the word. These endings are something students must learn. Once we learn what the endings are, it's just a matter of recognizing them in context. When we do translations in my Greek class, it's like putting puzzle pieces together. I've never been good at number puzzles, but so far, I'm good at this kind of puzzle. It does take time, though, and one has to be careful and pay attendion, because even the absence or prescence of an accent can make a difference in meaning.

This is probably mind-numbingly boring to most people, but it is fascinating to me to see how words work. And it is a great reminder to me that paying attending to little details as we learn to read Scripture is really important. Maybe you don't have any aspirations to learn Koine Greek, but if you're a Christian and you want to grow, you'll want to open your Bible up. It requires time and attending to read in English, too. Just why did the author use that particular word? What modifies what? Where is the main verb? Why did the writer draw that conclusion?

We are fast learning to become skimmers rather than readers. If you consume a diet of mostly online content, unless you're reading academic journals and abstracts, you can get by on skimming. But is skimming really the best approach to Bible reading? The art of reading slow needs to be preserved. Slower reading means more reflection, and that's a good thing.


Discernment 101 For Women

As we get past Christmas, and into the New Year, Bible reading plans will be shared. Bible Gateway and ESV Online (and if you've decided you object to the ESV now, you don't have to actually use that version, but the printable schedule is nice) have their Bible reading plans on their site all year long, so if you don't get a chance to see what is available during the holiday season, check them out.

While I have read through the Bible quite a few times, and enjoy that approach, in 2017, I'm thinking about focusing on just one book. Yes, just one: Romans. While being in seminary means that I spend a lot of time in the Bible, I have only taken one of my Bible requirements. In January, I will be taking Theological Foundations II and Moral Theology, so while I'll be in the Bible, it isn't like immersing myself in a book.

I'm going to keep track of how many times I get through the actual book and I plan on reading in more than one version. One of my profs was a firm proponent of reading in more than one. I'll be reading in the NASB, the ESV, the NIV and maybe the NLT. I know people would brand me a heretic for reading the NIV or the NLT, but until I can read Greek well, I'm going to read as many translations as I can. Those guys still know a whole lot more about the language than I do. Next September, I start Greek, so maybe my next Bible reading plan will be to read the New Testament in Greek.

In addition to Bible reading, I hope to read a few commentaries alongside of my Bible reading. I'll likely start with Leon Morris's commentary, and I'm considering Ben Witherington's commentary, and possibly Richard Longenecker's commentary, which is on the Greek New Testament. Dr. Fowler recently encouraged us to read commentaries on the original language. I have also heard good things about Tom Schreiner's commentary.

Romans is a complex book, chock full of significant doctrine. I have never been sure enough of my understanding to teach it. I trust that in the year to come, I'll learn more. While reading the whole Bible gives us a panoramic view, focusing on one book gives us deeper understanding. And it's been my experience that the best way to memorize Scripture is to study a book deeply over a long period of time.

Now, here is where the "discernment" part of the post makes an entrance . . . 

Whatever route you choose in 2017, choose to read Scripture. Even if it means forsaking reading that new book that "everyone" is talking about. We cannot adequately discern whether a writer is making good arguments if we don't know Scripture ourselves. You can read all the "how to" books in the world to advise you on what is good reading and what isn't, but if you don't know Scripture, you start off at a disadvantage. We cannot adequately feed our souls apart from Scripture.

Knowing Scripture ourselves keeps us from becoming more a disciple of the writers we read than of Christ himself. Reading Scripture is to be taught by the Spirit. It is communion with God. Make it a priority.


Your best 90 days in 2017

In fall of 2015, I took one of my first seminary classes: Biblical Introduction. It was a rapid-fire tour through the entire Bible. We looked at each book individually, but with a focus on the entire scope of the Bible. One of the requirements was to read the entire Bible over the course of the semester. That meant reading it in about 90 days. It was one of the best things I've done as a Christian. I wouldn't do it every year, and I don't think it's the only way to read the Bible, but I think it's a very worthwhile thing to do.

When one reads the Bible at this rate, she can't stop and ponder too long. That may be contrary to many of us as Bible readers, but the purpose of the exercise is to get a panoramic view of Scripture, so stopping too long isn't the point. What I did as I read and faced questions was to write them down to look at later.

It sounds like it would be a lot of work, but it isn't. I am not a fast reader, and I was able to finish by reading about fourteen chapters each day, which worked out to about an hour daily. On days when I had to go to class, I listened in the car. I found listening especially enjoyable with books like Daniel, Ezekiel, and the Psalms. On one day, I had time for both Daniel and Hosea with the drive there and back. Finding an hour in the day isn't as difficult as we might think. I realize moms with young children would have a difficult time for this, but for those with older children, it could be easier. Get up an hour earlier or forsake that television program in the evening. 

I found this very beneficial. I was immersed in Bible reading in a way I had not been before. And it is so much easier to follow narrative passages when we read them in large chunks. There were some days when I read more than fourteen chapters in order to finish to the end of a narrative passage. And there were days when I read fewer than fourteen rather than starting in the middle of a storyline and having to cut it short. Especially in the prophetic books, it is easier to read them according to their units than it is by the chapter divisions. As I read, I looked for and marked the word "covenant." It really emphasized to me the covenantal nature of our faith.

I am hoping to do this again at some point. I thought I would forget a lot of it, but there are things that come back to me at moments. Here are some plans you can check out:

Bible Gateway Through the Bible in 90 Days: I have this link in the ESV, but you can pick your version.

Bible Study Tools 90 Day Reading Plan: I followed this plan loosely. Sometimes I modified it a bit depending on my schedule.

Through the Bible in 90 Days: Here is a printable one has you reading in more than one place each day.

I know that most Bible reading plans start to crop up later in December, but why wait until then? Just get up next Monday and just begin reading!