Spending 365 Days With the Good Book
BOOK PICK: Bible in a Year
BIBLE IN A YEAR
YOUR DAILY ENCOUNTER WITH GOD
Tim Gray, General Editor
Augustine Institute, 2018
1,392 pages, $29.95
To order: augustineinstitute.org or (866) 767-3155
How many people say “I ought to read the Bible?” How many make a new year’s resolution: “This is the year I’m going to read the Bible?”
If your answer to either question is “Yes,” Bible in a Year may be for you.
Each day contains readings from the Old and New Testament, with a selection from the “wisdom writings” (like a responsorial Psalm) in between. Each day concludes with a short paragraph for reflection, tied to at least one of the readings. The editors say you can do the readings in 20 minutes a day, but, if you want to break it down, you can focus on the first reading (Old Testament) in year one and the second (New Testament) in year two.
Here’s a sample of a reflection: “As a wise scribe would later say, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out’ (Proverbs 25:2). Reading Scripture is thus a kind of royal exploration. In science, man explores the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of the world, but in the quest of Scripture, we take on the greater task of discovering the ‘why.’ What is a practical way to make the daily reading of Scripture an integral part of your spiritual life?”
For those who want to get more familiar with the Bible in an ongoing way, this book may be a useful tool. That said, a few caveats for potential readers:
First, the driving motif of this book is to read the Bible in a year. You can start anytime during the year: You’re not limited to the new year. That said, the book is not correlated to the liturgical year. Granted, Easter as the Church’s moveable, central feast would make that hard, but Christmas is fixed, and there is something unusual about reading from John’s Apocalypse Dec. 25.
Because reading the Bible in a year is the goal, biblical texts seem bunched up.
On Jan. 1, readers get a mega-dose of both Genesis creation accounts, plus the whole Infancy Narrative of Matthew. Without suggesting rank-ordering the importance of the word of God, that’s a lot of rich theology to digest in one day versus, say, a day’s worth of ritual prescriptions from Leviticus Feb. 22.
Second, I am not sure about the 20 minutes. The average day’s readings span three and a half to four and a half double-column pages. When reading material as rich as Genesis 1-2 and Matthew 1-2, 20 minutes seems hardly enough to do those foundational texts justice.
Third, I wish the editors had suggested a commentary. We do not want people just to “take and read,” but also to understand. For that (and to avoid the “personal interpretation of Scripture” that has been the Uranium-238 of Protestantism) a good commentary to “think with the Church” is needed.
With those reservations, yes — if you want to read the Bible systematically in a year — this book will help you.
Polish author Roman Brandstaetter’s essay, “Lament of an Unread Bible,” is a fitting recommendation for this book:
“I stand on the top shelf of your home library, quietly meditating on my unhappy fate. Man, why did you buy me? Why? To flit through some of my pages, reading a few select verses superficially and randomly, looking at me with a pious tremble and religiously putting me on the highest shelf of your bookcase?”
Take. Read. Understand.
John M. Grondelski, Ph.D., writes from Falls Church, Virginia.