This very short 100 year old book was great! I had heard this recommended a few times and was intrigued by the (near audacious) title and finally decided to explore this one.
Honestly, there is not a lot that’s profound about this book, but it does hone in on the obvious in a marvelously striking way. The author’s primary task is to show how to read Scripture with the most profit for knowing it well. The plan is actually very simple. He recommends that the reader start with Genesis, read it, and re-read it until the reader can generally outline it, and judge they have an excellent grasp on it.
From there, the task is to simply move through each book of Scripture in order – ignoring the artificial chapter and verse breaks. Gray urges that the reader read each book in a single sitting if possible. As the reader gets through this – they should also attempt to make a rough outline of each book – further revising it with each read.
I had heard much of this practice before – but Gray’s argument for going in canonical order I had not heard before – and it was actually pretty convincing. I’ve experimented with the re-read process a bit and have found it remarkable for what it allows me to see and understand that I had not before. It also works to give the reader a macro-view of each Bible book – if you will. After this read, I’ll be adopting this process more regularly from now on.
The second half of the book is an exhortation for preachers to preach and teach expository sermons through each book of the Bible. The plea is a good one. Gray argues 1) that contemporary society (over 100 years ago) didn’t read their Bibles – and were so busy that they usually wouldn’t learn them on their own, 2) that the Bible was no longer taught in schools – so wouldn’t be learned there, 3) that the Bible typically wasn’t taught from the pulpit – it was more or less moralistic life lessons or interesting oratory – but not expository teaching through the Bible (sound familiar?..), and 4) that the Bible wasn’t even taught in Sunday school classes – but those were mostly just games or fun things to keep children occupied or maybe even topical lessons for adults (sound familiar?..). His plea, is that if the Bible isn’t taught and exposited through in the pulpit then where would it be? Where was anyone to go to learn it? His question is a good one. And I find myself baffled just the same at the general lack of expository preaching in most churches.
Gray ends by warning his readers that if Christianity didn’t change this process, authentic biblical Christianity would be near unrecognizable in the coming generations. I dare say his words may have been a bit prophetic. This part struck particularly close to home for me after having recently left a church for a turning away from expository preaching (among other things), and now having a near hour drive in order to be part of a church that does preach through scripture (driving past dozens that do not on the way).
I’d highly encourage pastors read this, especially if they don’t preach expository sermons through whole books as their regular bread and butter in the pulpit. If nothing else, simply to see the issue from a different perspective.
Excellent book! And I’m excited to start the journey and tackle the book of Genesis (a whole bunch of times).
I loved Glenn Paauw’s main argument in this book, which is that our Bibles are long overdo for a makeover so that we can actually enjoy reading them like we can do with any other book. I did have some misgivings about the book when the author started getting into theology, however this book was still absolutely great.
Paauw points out that the cheap way most Bible’s are mass produced, the overwhelming presence of tiny numbers and cross references, tiny print, thin pages, and the over-all poor appearance contribute to the general abandonment of Bible reading in our culture.
Paauw makes his point with elegant, winsome, and sometimes hilarious writing. He even puts his book together to image in a way what a beautifully crafted Bible might look like (with colorful headings, quotes or poetry set apart and formatted correctly). He also builds the structure of the book in a Hebrew chaism. The book was a pleasure to read because of these as well as his gifted writing ability. There was also some fascinating history that Paauw gave, like the fact that the New Testament was originally set in 3 parts in order to match the “First” Testement’s 3 parts: 1: Gospels & Acts, 2: Pauline Epistles, 3: Catholic Epistles & Revelation in the NT, to match 1: The Law, 2: the Prophets, and 3: the Writings in the OT respectively.
However I also did have some reservations about the book. At times the author presents his theological views as simply correct without much engagement of the Bible on them. For example, he seems critical of justification by faith alone, and supports the new perspective on Paul in a way that doesn’t really engage Scripture, or those on the other side. It also appears that he posits the monistic soul sleep after death position as opposed to a belief in heaven after death. He presents the view of heaven as more or less rediculous and only from Greek philosophy as opposed to the Bible. He quotes Alistair Begg here as an example of wrong thinking. He doesn’t in all this speak of the alternative, and more biblical position of heaven as an intermediate state, which is after death, but before the creation/restoration of a new earth and the future resurrection. He also in places seems to undermine preaching itself and as far as I can tell, instead endorses only public Bible reading in it’s place. He seems to denigrate study of detailed specifics in Scripture in favor of reading whole books in one sitting and looking only at the themes. All this being said, this is the flavor of the book while reading. However I don’t want to emphasize these points too strongly, because Paauw is always a little cryptic about his own beliefs. I couldn’t in the end get a sense of what theological tradition Paauw himself was from, or whether he was or was not evangelical, or orthodox in his Christian views. Not that any of these things matter as far as his main argument is concerned. But when he starts getting into theology it seems to me he could present his position with more clarity and evidence and with more fairness to the other positions.
However, as long as the reader knows their convictions on these theological issues this book is a marvelous read. Paauw’s observations on the Bible and the publishing industry – and the history of these is fascinating. Paauw’s considerations and suggestions were, I think, one of the driving forces behind publishers adopting the modern reader’s Bibles – for which I am very thankful to him.
Over all, this really was a great and engaging read, and Paauw had some excellent wisdom on how we can be better at crafting the good book. I changed my Bible reading habits as a result of this book (more reading of whole books!). A worthy read for anyone interested in the Bible, our intake of it, and it’s physical form.