Over the past week-and-a-half I’ve been spending time reading the early stages of Luke’s gospel. I’m not reading aimlessly or randomly but have begun using Search the Scriptures - which is a book first published in 1934 and revised in 1949 and 1967 that seeks to encourage regular, systematic Bible reading and study.
The material in Search the Scriptures covers the entire Bible and contains studies to take exactly three years if it is used daily. A day’s study involves reading a portion of Scripture and then answering two or three questions about that day’s reading.
The readings within Bible books are consecutive, but sections jump around between Testaments and genres. At least one gospel is covered each year; the Old Testament history books are read in sequence, and the New Testament letters are interspersed. Many of the Old Testament prophets are read in the third year. Where a book comprises more than 25 studies it is broken down into segments that are read sequentially but not consecutively. For example the first eight sections cover:
- Luke 1 to 9:56 (25 studies)
- Genesis 1 to 26 (19 studies)
- Luke 9:57 to 19:28 (22 studies)
- Genesis 27 to 50 (23 studies)
- Luke 19:29 to the end (16 studies)
- Psalms 1 to 12 (7 studies)
- Acts 1 to 12 (20 studies)
- Exodus 1 to 20 (14 studies)
These sections would take around five months to complete if one reading/study was completed every day.
When the passage comes from the New Testament an average of two-thirds of a chapter is read each day. When the reading is from the Old Testament it jumps to a little less than one and a half chapters at a time1. Luke is studied in more depth than the other gospels, and two chapters of Job are read at a time. The other gospels are tackled at roughly half a chapter a day, and many of the epistles are read at the rate of a chapter a day.
I’m not committing to stay ‘with the program’ for 3+ years but intend to complete the first 25 studies from Luke 1-9 and then see how it is going. I can envisage committing to a section at a time and perhaps taking a break in between sections.
What are the advantages of the ‘system’? Well, it is systematic. All Scripture is read over the course of the course [!]. Whilst two or three questions cannot hope to plumb the depths of the reading, they can point the participant to consider some of the major themes or issues raised in the text. The fact that the course jumps from Testament to Testament means one is reading from a variety of genres every month or so.
It takes me around 20-30 minutes to complete each study. I begin with prayer, read the portion of Scripture from a paper-based Bible (currently the ESV Study Bible) and then seek to answer the questions by typing them into a computer-based text file. Whilst I don’t intend to ‘do’ anything with the answers, I can review and re-read what I wrote at any stage.
rough approximations. ↩︎