Most Christians realize that the Bible is very important to the Christian faith. So much so, in fact, that it often leads to treating the Bible in some strange ways. We might take a particular sentence (verse) and memorize it, but use it out of context. There are some strange views of how the Bible was produced (ie: dictation). Some Christians might venerate the physical Bible in the home, yet hardly ever crack it open and just read.
‘Just’ reading the Bible is an important practice that has, too often, been lost today, especially with all the technology we now have. I must admit that I have been guilty of this as well. I have participated in (and have taught) book studies where I dug into a particular book or text. I’ve read the entire Bible at least a couple times for classes over the years or in studying the individual books. However, up until recently, I have not made a great effort to simply read the Bible as a book and try to get familiar with it in an overall way.
Don’t get me wrong, I started on this many times over the years in various ways, but I seldom finished. It has been one of my big weaknesses and probably just a lack of discipline on my part.
In some ways, technology has hurt many of us when it comes to reading our Bibles. We use our Bible software to search out that ‘proof-text’ passage when debating with someone on a theological point, or even in our own study of some Biblical concept. Or, we might search the Internet when studying a particular topic and come up with a bunch of advice, including Scriptural references. I can find a verse pretty fast in my Bible software but seem to be getting slower at finding such a verse in a physical, paper Bible.
But, we can also use technology to help our study. The Internet is a great resource for information and study, as long as we apply a critical mind to it and be careful of our sources. Using Bible software, we can now do complex searches that people before computers probably would have not even attempted, due to the vast amounts of time it would take to do them manually. Technology, I have found, can also help in the basic task of Bible reading.
When I got my iPod Touch, I downloaded a couple Bible programs on it. Then I noticed the ‘Bible reading plan’ features and decided to give them a try. Bingo! I found what I needed as motivation. The software takes care of the reading plan. All I have to do is read, and it checks off my daily reading. If I miss a day or two, it is easy to read a bit more until I am caught back up. I’m now on my second pass through the entire Bible which will conclude this winter. Going over and over through the Bible, even if it is only once through per year, starts to fill in a knowledge of the Biblical story as a whole. This provides critical context or a vantage point from which to see all the other passages when you are reading a book or even a few passages. I would highly recommend any Christian apologist adopt this kind of practice, whether it is using the technology, or simply using a paper Bible with one of the many available reading plans.
The software I have settled on as my favorite for reading plans (I like others for other purposes), is simply called Bible by YouVersion.com. It is available through the web site in a browser, as well as for a vast number of mobile platforms (ie: iPhone/iPad, Blackberry, palm WebOS, Android, Symbian, Java, etc.). The only thing I don’t like about it, is that you need an Internet connection to access the reading plans. That is a bummer for those of us with WiFi-only devices if we want to catch up on our reading when we’re away from WiFi networks. However, you can read downloaded Bible translations off-line, you just can’t access the plan.
Please join me in becoming more Biblically literate and encourage your friends to do the same!
Update: Wednesday, February 16, 2011
OliveTree has recently released a major update to BibleReader. Version 5 now has many improvement, including a better implementation of the reading plans. I’m not sure I like it quite as much as YouVersion’s yet, but it looks like it might allow for off-line reading of the plan, which would be very nice. Also, the NET Bible translation includes a demo set of its awesome footnotes, and the OliveTree implementation of the notes and multiple panes is quite nice. Be sure to check it out as well and see which you prefer.