Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Books of The Bible

Over this year I've been doing daily(!) readings from a Bible that is utterly unique in format. Utilizing the TNIV text, 'The Books of The Bible' summarises its differences to the common current format in the preface:

  • chapter and verse numbers have been removed from the text;
  • the books are presented according to the internal divisions that we believe
    their authors have indicated;
  • a single-column setting is used to present the text more clearly and
    naturally, and to avoid disrupting the intended line breaks in poetic
  • footnotes, section headings, and other supplementary materials have been
    removed from the pages of the sacred text;
  • individual books that later tradition divided into two or more books are
    made whole again; and
  • the books have been placed in an order that we hope will help readers
    understand them better (TBoTB pp iv)

The preface goes on to justify these changes by asserting that, "the chapters and verses that the Bible has been divided into aren't the work of the original authors. The present system of chapter divisions was devised in 1205, and our present verse divisions were added in the 1550s. Chapters and verses have imposed a foreign structure and made it more difficult to read the Bible with understanding." (TBoTB pp v)

A result of the dubious convenience provided by chapters and verses is that they encourage the Bible to be read as "a giant reference book" (TBoTB ppv). It's hard to argue against such a charge. Proof-texting, precious thought-ery, Christless readings of the text and other biblicist lunacy has to be down to, in some measure, the man-made divisions of our text.

Anyway, my wife Sharon and I have loved the new format for a variety of reasons. Sharon said she's never read so much of the Bible in her life. The text feels new and exciting. Gone is the legalistic desire to put the Bible down after reading a chapter or two. Gone is the internal legalistic pressure to read the Bible every day. (The reading plans make it possible to miss days, even weeks of Bible reading and pick up again from where you left off - making it an ideal purchase for justified sinners!) Gone is the stop-start nature of Bible readings like that of the McCheyne reading plan (a good plan, but it seems that just as you are getting into a book, you're whisked off elsewhere). Gone is the urge to mine the Bible for precious thoughts. In place of that you are focused on the argument of an entire book.

You can download a variety of reading plans from The Books of The Bible website. The reading plans work by page numbers and not by chapters. When you download your free plan, the sheet has boxes for you to tick as a reminder as to where you left off. As I've said already, this makes it an excellent plan for the undisciplined who begin reading plans in January with great gusto and crumble by mid February when they get to Leviticus.

Personally, I've only gotten about half-way through the Bible this year. The difference is, I'm still engaged with the text, still excited and motivated by Scripture and not planning to start again at Genesis this January.

American readers wishing to purchase The Books of The Bible can follow this link from the homepage. For British readers, Wesely Owen have it available on pre-order.

Take up and read!

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