I was out at Azusa Pacific University recently talking about The Voice Bible project. It is a terrific university for anyone interested in studying at a world-class Christian institution. Highly recommended! Dr. Kenneth Waters, who served as a reviewer on this translation, helped to set up the events. Many thanks to him and his excellent staff!
As I was talking there, it dawned on me how we read Scripture today and why it is we just don’t get the “Big Idea” behind Scripture. Put another way, why we don’t see the grand story of love and redemption—what scholars call the “meta-narrative”—located in the Bible.
If you're interested, keep reading and see if you agree.
Typically, we read the Bible a verse here or a chapter there. We skip around from place to place. Imagine reading a novel that way. Try this for an experiment. Pick up a novel you want to read. Then read it one page at a time. Read a page. Put it down. Read a page. Put it down. It will take you 400 days to read a 400 page novel. How well do you think you will be able to track the story? Would you be able to understand the plot, the themes, the characters? Would you enjoy the experience? What would you get out of it?
I enjoy reading the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva. There are 11 novels in the series and I have read every one of them. Sometimes, however, I’ve been frustrated by the experience. Often I try to read at night right before I go to sleep. After a 16-18 hour day, I get ready for bed, lie down, start reading, and then, just a few pages in, I begin to fall asleep. I try but I can’t keep my eyes open. So I put the book down, turn off the light and give in to my body’s call for rest. When you do this a few days in a row, you lose track of the story and forget the big picture. Soon, you think, what’s the point of trying to read, so you stop reading altogether. Is that why some people start but don’t continue to read the Bible?
Contrast that with what I did flying back from Ontario airport in California to Houston, a 3 hour flight. I turned on the Kindle—when the captain said it was OK—and started reading. I read for about 2 ½ hours. I read chapter after chapter, in order, as I sipped by ginger ale. I didn’t nod off. I was able to keep up with Silva’s magnificent prose. I had a great time and enjoyable experience. I love to read on airplanes because I have hours of uninterrupted time.
When John composed his Gospel, he didn’t write it to be read a page at a time or a verse at a time or a chapter at a time. He wrote it to be read in big chunks. He put in there literary features which the alert reader/hearer will be able to appreciate. The same is true for every book of the Bible. The very best way to read any book of the Bible—with the possible exception of Psalms—is to read it a book at a time, in one sitting. When we translated The Voice Bible, we had this kind of reading experience in mind. We translated it with the story in mind. Some Bibles may be good for word-studies. We think The Voice is great as a story-study Bible. That is one reason why we put several reading plans in the back matter of The Voice Bible. Realistically, most people cannot sit down for 2 ½ hours to read the Bible. My counsel would be this: choose one of the reading plans in back and follow it. Find a time when your mind is sharp and you’re not too tired. Read a chunk, several chapters at least in one sitting. Think about the big picture. What does this book tell us about the One, True God, ourselves, and how we ought to live? What do you think God is up to now based on what you have just read?
Isn’t it time you stepped into the story of Scripture?