A personal Bible-study curriculum might be followed or take its own direction, once you’ve begun. My suggestion would be to begin with the Gospel of John, “the Quaker Gospel,” then move on to a short book like Jonah or Ruth before tackling the Song of Songs in Marcia Falk’s wonderful translation (HarperCollins, New York, 1990; her commentaries on Middle Eastern poetic imagery and form are very helpful, as well as earthy and direct – besides, who doesn’t like a romance?). By this point, you may be ready to delve into Isaiah, with an eye for the Peace and Social Concerns Committee reports. From there, it may be time to face Genesis and Exodus, skipping over many of the legalisms, if you wish, but remaining mindful that these stories are, in many ways, primitive poetries having much in common with the fragments Jerome Rothenberg presented in his moving collection of sacred writings from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania, Technicians of the Sacred (Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1968). Notice how quickly the characters are drawn, yet how unforgettable they become. As a writer, I have an ever-growing appreciation for the leanness of the narrative, its sinewy strength, the way it breaks so many established rules; the only indication we have of Jesus’ physical form, for instance, occurs in Isaiah! Much of the writing is openly blue-collar, close to the grain, or even unadorned, something that becomes especially apparent when reading the Gospels in Richmond Lattimore’s translation, where a highly respected Greek scholar at work and at play.

2 thoughts on “Ways to approach the Bible

  1. I have followed the Revised Common Lectionary readings daily for years. You move through much of the Bible, and often the readings are chosen because they comment on each other. Frequently I will read the section preceding or following the suggested section for the day. I find myself more in touch with the authors and the times they write about.

    1. RCL is a good structure with readings portioned for reflection and contemplation. It is also a human structure. It follows the liturgical year and so be open to reading Christmas passages in Holy Week or Lenten passages in Advent just to undermine its hold. I also pay attention to what the lectionary misses; sometimes they will drop a verse or two and when I go to it I find it changes the sense of the passage or even was dropped as it reflects poorly on the human authors.

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