No, It Doesn’t Go Without Saying. The Bible is the greatest book ever. it is the ultimate transforming text. Why should you read the Bible? You should read the Bible, because this book will challenge and educate and change you. It has shaped my mind, my heart, and my life like no other influence. Charles Dickens wrote his son Henry, “I most strongly and affectionately impress upon you the priceless value of the New Testament, and the study of that book as the one unfailing guide to life.” Selected Letters of Charles Dickens (Amazon; .ca; .co.uk, p. 425)
The Bible: A Transforming Text
This post is part of a series of my reflections on transforming texts–the books that have changed my life the most. These books have become conversation parters with me. I credit them with shaping my thinking, my desires, and my life. I think they will change your life too. When I think of the Bible as a transforming text, I adopt the language of Erasmus: “You must acquire the best knowledge first, and without delay; it is the height of madness to learn what you will later have to unlearn.” (Letter to Christian Northoff (1497), as translated in Collected Works of Erasmus (1974))
The Bible: The Composition of Scripture
Dozens of authors spread out access centuries and speaking different languages wrote the 66 books now collected and called the Bible, or the Holy Scripture. This book is the best seller, ever, in any language. The Bible can be purchased (Amazon; .ca; .co.uk), or read for free (Online) nearly anywhere.
Although originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) there are now many excellent English translations. My favourites include 1) the New Living Translation, or NLT (simple reading, great for kids, and great for comparing with the other two), 2) the New International Version, or NIV (solid middle road, which I enjoy reading at home and as a second opinion in study). My main translation is 3) the English Standard Version, or ESV (best for reading, memory, study, scholarship, and church).
The Bible: The Character of Scripture
There are many Scriptures which point to its qualities. St. Paul, the Apostle, provides one of the most striking definitions of the Bible. He reminds us that Scripture is a message “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), “in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). How should you view the words of God? The Psalmist sees God’s words as: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). What could you possibly find as a better read?
The Bible: The Content of Scripture
The Bible has shaped every aspect of my thinking and action of my life. Not only has it shaped my life, it has shaped the whole history of western culture in profound ways. One psychologist, although he does not profess to be a Christian, has written a compelling case for the value of Scripture:
The Bible is a series of books written, edited and assembled over thousands of years. It contains the most influential stories of mankind. Knowledge of those stories is essential to a deep understanding of Western culture, which is in turn vital to proper psychological health (as human beings are cultural animals) and societal stability.
The Bible: The Conviction of Scripture
It’s hard to describe the Bible’s impact on me. Some of my earliest memories are of my father reading and discussing passages with my family. From around the age of six, I memorized chapter long passages every month, and eventually whole books. St. Paul, the Apostle, explained that when Scripture is received as “what it really is, the word of God, [it] is at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
I recommend taking a small book of the Bible (ie. Philippians or 1 John) and attempting to read the whole book in a sitting, every day for a month. Do nothing else. Just read contemplatively and prayerfully and see how God’s word begins “to work in you.”