The Bible As Literature?

Do you consider the Bible, or rather, the books in the Bible, to be literature? The way you might a novel like The Lord of the Rings or Pride and Prejudice, or the latest book by Tim Keller or D.A. Carson? Sure there are a few differences but there are many more similarities. All of these authors wrote with a purpose in mind and an idea of what they were trying to share with those to whom they were writing.

bible reading 2Like literature today, the Bible is full of different genres from narrative to poetry to letters and many others. Yet we often limit ourselves to reading little bits, or a number of little bits, of different books (a chapter here and there, perhaps a chapter from Genesis another from Matthew and a Psalm all in the same go). But if that’s the only way we read the Bible we are in danger of missing the bigger picture of what the author might be trying to communicate, the grand flow of a narrative.

My point isn’t to suggest you give up your daily reading plan, there are plenty of good ones and we should make a habit of reading the Bible regularly! However, I would like to encourage you to think about choosing a book of the Bible and reading it through in as short a space of time as possible, the same way you might a novel, perhaps even in one sitting so as to get sense of the plot, or big picture, of the book. How might we read Genesis differently if we read it all together or over a couple of days instead of over 50 days? Or even Romans? Might we see things that were previously obscured by the way we read it?

If this way of reading the Bible sounds appealing to you allow me to draw your attention to two products that will most certainly aid you as you pursue this endeavour:

Firstly, the NIV’s The Books of the Bible. I’m a huge fan of this Bible and you can read about why here so I won’t add anything else except that I would recommend this Bible slightly more than the next.

Secondly, the ESV Reader’s Bible. This is a new product by Crossway and it looks amazing, so if the ESV is your translation of choice you should invest in a copy (only so long as you have money to spare for things like this!).

Both of these Bible’s have headings, chapters (the ESV retains chapters in the margins but they don’t impede on the text), and verses removed giving you access to the Scriptural text without these distractions. The experience of reading without these is markedly different and honestly a little weird at first but they do encourage longer readings and I’ve found they help me to get a better grasp on what the different authors are saying.

Of course you can just as easily use any Bible to read the Bible in this way so why not give it a go? Just open it up to a book that’s piqued your and read, and don’t stop until you finish.


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