Congratulations for taking on the noble feat of reading the Bible from cover to cover!
I believe reading the Bible in its entirety is a great way to appreciate literature, understand the human condition, and build your Christian faith.
Before you jump in, here are a few skills that may help you make the best out of your Bible study experience. How many of these 12 skills do you already have?
1) Decent reading skills: Not everyone is a strong reader. If you're one of these people, please do not be discouraged from reading the Bible. I do however, want to acknowledge some of the difficulties in reading the Bible.
I consider myself a decent reader and I still stumble over many biblical names. Learning some type of phonics skills can help you get through large and unfamiliar words. If you're not a regular reader, I would suggest listening to some audio versions of the Bible whenever possible alongside your reading.
Also, considered using a modern translation Bible instead of an older translation like the King James Version. In my journey to read the Bible in 1 year, I have been using the New Believers Bible Compact Edition, New Living Translation. It is the first Bible I have ever read that reads like a modern-day publication. No archaic terms. No confusing word phrasing.
I have compared it with some of my other Bible translations and I have found the message to be very accurate.
If you have major reading difficulties, consider getting a tutor or consider an online reading program catered to adults. Reading Horizons has an adult phonics learning curriculum to improve reading skills.
2) A moderate attention span: The Bible is going to be a long read, no matter how you schedule out your time. Even if you were to sit down and read the Bible non-stop, it would take you approximately 70 hours.
At a more practical pace, you need to be able to focus on what you're reading so that you can understand the storyline and the lessons that they hold.
Technology has been both a blessing and a burden. Electronic devices have dulled our attention spans, because the next exciting thing is just one swipe away. Check out this article by Lifehack to see how you can improve your attention span.
3) Curiousity: I don't know if curiosity is more of a skill or personality trait, but I think it's extremely helpful to be curious while reading the Bible. What do curious people do? They ask questions!
As you are reading different passages, try to be as curious as a detective looking for clues to a mystery. I ask questions out loud as I am reading through the Bible. Sometimes the answer is in the next passage of text. Sometimes it does not get answered until the next chapter or book. I am humbled to say, there are some questions that are still unanswered to me,but it makes the Bible that much more intriguing to continue to study.
I have a Bible dictionary that has helped clarify quite a few things. And I also use and various online websites. Some of them are Christian-based, some of them are Jewish based.
4) Critical Thinking Skills: Wright.edu gives a very good definition and examples of critical thinking skills. While making your way through the different narratives of the Bible, question, compare, and evaluate the different situations, relationships, and time periods.
Within specific stories, look for hidden motives, subplots, and the message that is said without being specifically spoken. Ask yourself, who is the messenger? Who is the message for? How did this particular message relate to the times? How does this message relate to me?
5) Thematic concepts: Before I go further into the personal skills needed to optimize your Bible reading experience, let me share with you some basic philosophical concepts to understand. If I were to summarize the Bible with several descriptive words and/or themes, these ideas would be used(in no particular order):
- Grace/ Mercy
- Justice/Wickedness (Evil)
6) Empathy: Putting yourself in the place of the people you're reading about will cause you to imagine the gravity of certain situations, experience the joy of unexpected breakthroughs, and the amazement of different miracles.
7) Imagination: some parts of the Bible are definitely juicier than others. Some passages are quite dry, or very repetitive, or highly detailed( information overload). One might easily get bored if not for the use of one's imagination.
Making a mental movie in the mind's eye can be especially helpful when reading books like Numbers or Chronicles, where there is a lot of information being given without a narrative. The counting of people, genealogy, laws, and regulations being repeated in various ways again and again. Imagining what is happening can bring another level of appreciation than just reading about what is happening.
8) Humor: Maybe I just have an odd sense of humor, but I myself have found different situations with characters or the dialogue between people to be quite humorous. The fact is, people, insult each other in the Bible. They make fun of one another. They embarrass themselves. And they do other things that would be ridiculous even by today's standards.
Loosen your collar and allow yourself to read, understand, and laugh if something in the passage is humorous. It just might make the text more memorable.
9) Open-mindedness: have an open mind to accept how things were in the Bible times and not to inject today's morals and standards on the actions, behaviors, laws, and social standards of the narratives in the Bible. It may help to do some additional research to help yourself understand politics, culture, and history at any given time that the books of the Bible were published.
10) Persistence: whether you choose to read the Bible in the shortest amount of time, or take your time searching for deeper meaning- persistence will be key. Reading the Bible is a marathon, not a Sprint.
The end goal is to finish it to completion. One thing that I have done to maintain my resolution of reading the Bible every day is to have a designated place and time to do it. This helps to fight against "mental resistance ", as described in the video by YouTube content creator, Better Than Yesterday.
Having an accountability partner can also be another way to resist giving up at some point. If you study with a friend or a group I believe you will increase your chances even more. The commitment that I have made to read the Bible daily has been like a marriage vow. "Through sickness and health," I have read it.
The Book of Ruth will always stick with me because I remember on that particular day I woke up with a migraine. I felt ill to my stomach and very weak. I really suffered my way through that particular reading. I'm extremely thankful that on that particular day one of the shorter readings were scheduled. Speaking of schedules...
11) Organization: you can definitely pick up the Bible and start from the beginning and go straight through to the end. There are many methods for reading the Bible. I suggest you find a particular want to stick to it. I would recommend using a Bible study guide in order to pace yourself and stay the course.
I chose a Bible study guide that was designed specifically to help one read the Bible in one year. The book is called The Woman's Guide to Reading the Bible in a year, the author is Diane Stortz.
12) Faith: if you're going to complete this challenge, you need to have faith in yourself that you can read the Bible in its entirety. Also, have faith that the lessons and stories found in the Bible can help you build moral character, have a better understanding of Human Condition, and a better understanding of who God is, what your relationship is with him, and what is purposes for you.
For non-believers, faith in the historical relevance should be proven at some point as you make your way through the Old and New Testament.
*This is NOT a set in stone requirement of what a person needs to actually read the Bible, but I think these are great skills/personality traits to have that can enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the Bible.