My initial reaction was: “No” when, last March, a friend asked if I wanted to do the Bible in a year through The Bible Project. I’ve tried reading through the whole Bible before and failed miserably, barely lasting a week. Eventually I accepted, and last Monday — a year to the day that we started — I read the final two chapters of Revelation. Job done, Bible read.
First, a word on The Bible Project. It was started in 2014 by two friends, Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins. Using Mackie’s deep understanding of Scripture and Collins’ gift for visual storytelling, the two wanted to create something that would make the Bible more accessible. After starting with two videos, the project now has over 130 videos along with 200 podcasts. The videos are free to access and have been viewed more than 100 million times and in over 200 countries.
I’ve loved the journey and here are six reasons why it has been an invaluable exercise…
1. The story of Scripture
As anyone who has completed it will testify, reading through the whole Bible helps understand the overall narrative of Scripture. This is helped by the way The Bible Project, like other similar resources, orders the books. It has been fun joining the dots together and reading the books in a new light.
2. Accountability and friendship
I did the project with four friends. At different times of the year we met up to ask questions, moan, offer thoughts and share stories. And eat! We also set up a Facebook group. Doing the journey together has not only enriched our understanding and application of the Bible, it has also done wonders for our friendships. We’re planning to do it all over again after Easter with new recruits in tow…
3. Sermon support
I was told at Bible College: “If you want to receive a word, you have to be in the Word.” It has been noticeable this past year how ideas for sermons have emerged more frequently than they have done previously. Furthermore, understanding more the broader narrative of Scripture has enabled me to better convey in my sermons the context of different passages.
4. What’s that about a talking donkey?!
It’s been fascinating reading the more obscure, hidden stories of the Bible that often evade our pulpits. So God was close to killing Moses until his feet were touched by his son’s cut-off foreskin? (Exodus 4:24-26). Just how did faithful Obadiah hide 100 prophets (1 Kings 18:4)? Ezra literally tore his hair out (9:3)?. And what about that talking donkey (Numbers 22:28)? As with all of Scripture, there is treasure hidden in such stories that, if we allow, can speak to us today. I’ve highlighted many passages that I need to return to, starting with that talking donkey…
5. Good toilet reading
Each day around 2-4 chapters need to be read (alongside a Psalm). In the Old Testament some chapters are rather long and, let’s be honest, a little boring. For me, sitting down in one setting wasn’t always doable. So I ended up reading chunks on the toilet and listening to parts on my commute. The beauty of this was that the in-between spaces of my life became more productive. Plus it encouraged me to meditate on passages throughout the day, which in turn contributed to a healthier mindset throughout the day.
6. Lions, chronologies and other difficult bits
A final word on the challenges. Reading through the Bible means being confronted with the hard bits — and I am not just talking about the loooong chronologies! I mean the episodes of war and sudden, seemingly harsh deaths, like the prophet killed by a lion after being deceived by another prophet (1 Kings 13). They’ve come up in our group discussions and in my own prayers with God.
There aren’t easy answers for these kinds of stories. That said, having now read through the whole of the Bible, I can’t escape the overwhelming conviction that on every page of the Bible is the trace of one bigger, magnificent story, centred on one man — God’s own son — with the sole aim of rescuing a humanity that has gone wildly astray. Only a God that is good, who is love, could do that. And that gives me the faith to stick with God and his Word, including the bits I just don’t quite get (or find boring).