Sunday School with J. I. Packer, Part 2
Helps, Resources, Methods for Coming to an Understanding of the Internal Unity of Scripture. J. I. Packer's suggested method for beginning to understand the "the Bible from the inside with all it’s links and connections" is to read through the Bible in one year.
I don’t mind how you do it, but I am anxious, friends, that we, all of us, should do it. You should decide how you’re going to do it, but I cannot commend those who don’t do it. We need to read scripture daily. As I say, we need to read it in a way that will get us through the Bible every year, and then go back to the beginning and read it again. We need to soak ourselves in what we are reading.
- The One Year Bible. You can get The One Year Bible in at least three versions. J. I. Packer himself uses the NLT version of it, but it comes in the NIV and the ESV as well. This is the pattern of reading the scripture through in one year that he recommends most.
. . . The One-Year Bible goes through the Old Testament broken up into appropriate units for the 365 days of the year. It takes you through the New Testament in shorter parts--again, the New Testament is broken up into 365 days of the year. It take you through the Psalter twice--all 150 psalms: the first journey, January through June; and the second journey, July through December. . . . [I]t also breaks up the book of Proverbs into very small units, so that you have a bit of Proverbs to read on all of the 365 days. Sometimes it’s only one verse. . . . [Y]ou have these four strands of scripture and you read them together. They have obviously been very carefully put together and you will find yourself amazed, I think, if you follow this method of Bible reading, at how the four passages, again and again link up with all kinds of illuminating insights.
- Robert Murray McCheyne's Calendar for Reading through the Word of God in a Year. (There is a revised version of this plan done by Donald Carson, published in two volumes: For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word, and For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Treasures of God's Word.)
There was an older way of reading through the Bible in a year, produced by the 19th century Scotsman [Robert] Murray McCheyne, and you may be acquainted with that. It’s been going for longer than The One-Year Bible pattern. McCheyne gives you four chapters of scripture to read (or something like a chapter) each time round, for reading all the way through the Bible in a single year, and, well, it’s good. I think The One-Year Bible is better, frankly. . . . I don’t want to discourage you from the McCheyne version, but I do want to recommend the One Year Bible pattern along side it.
- The Lectionary of The Anglican Prayer Book. (You'll find a PDF version of the Lectionary here. Scroll down; it's the third item under Table of Contents: "Concerning the Service of the Church, including the use of the Psalter, and the Order how the rest the Holy Scripture is appointed to be read ix (1928 Version)")
- What does this passage (or what do these passages) tell me about God--his works and his ways, and his nature and his holiness, and his love and so on?
- What do these passages show me about life--people practicing godliness, people practicing ungodliness, people getting it right, people getting it wrong?
- Having answered those two questions to the best of my ability, what then have these passages to say to me to guide me in the living of my life today?
An outline of the historical sections of the Old Testament:
- Era of Disruption
Genesis 1 and 2: Creation and Goodness
Genesis 3-11: Sin and Judgment
- Era of Hope
Genesis 12-50: Choice and Covenant
. . .[T]he exodus from slavery in Egypt and the ordering of national life to be lived in the promised land, with morality, piety, liturgy, and faithful worship--faithful and obedient worship as the life-style of Israel, God’s family.Exodus-Deuteronomy: Rescue and Re-formation
- Era of Failure
Joshua, Judges and Ruth: Lack of Leadership
Samuels-Chronicals: Triumph and Tragedy of the Monarchy
Ezra-Nehemiah: Return and Restoration
The other books of the Old Testament are like so many ribs attached to the backbone at the appropriate place.
- The Prophets
fit into the historical story. You need to know just where they fit in in date terms. . . .[W]hat they’re . . . doing is recalling God’s people to holiness and hope, warning folk that if they fail to practice righteousness, they’ll miss God’s blessing, and holding out anticipations of a kingdom and a reality of shalom going beyond anything that they’ve known thus far.
- The Wisdom Literature
Proberbs and Ecclesiates: Prudence
Psalms: Path of Prayer and Praise
Song of Soloman: Pleasure in One’s Privilege
All through, as you can now see, God is nurturing his covenant people, Abraham’s family, for a destiny. A destiny [that] is related to the practice of holiness, the life of obedient faith and hope and worship.More suggested reading to help in understanding the Bible (Given in answer to a question after the lesson was over):
- Ryken’s Bible Handbook: A Guide to Reading and Studying the Bible (Bonus: contains one year bible reading plan.)
- How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (A book by book survey)