Our church is going to read through the Bible in 31 weeks, using an abridged version of the Bible called The Story. An abridged Bible? Jay, are you getting loose on us? I believe every word of the Bible is inspired, true, and valuable, but we have chosen to read The Story because it is not claiming to be the full canon of Scripture and because it allows a reader to hit the high points of the gospel story as it unfolds across the entire Bible. I would not even call it a cliff notes version. That would make it sound like we really don’t need to bother with the whole Bible. We just need the summary. No, we do need the whole Bible. But, as a supplement and solid learning tool, we thought that The Story is a great book to read together, with the actual NIV text of the Bible, to get an understanding of the entire plot line of Scripture.
Having said that, one of the most important things one can do as a Christian is to understand the Bible. And, in order to effectively understand the Bible, you need to know how it all fits together. It does fit together, you know. While written over thousands of years by perhaps 60 different writers, it is a unified and literarily masterful story. In fact, one of the reasons I have confidence in the Bible as divine revelation is the literary and theological unity I find in the book that would be humanly impossible to attain given the length of time it developed and given the number of different authors. It must be inspired!
So, when reading the Bible, you are constantly asking the question: what is the context here? We often answer that with the close context. But, then you’re supposed to ask: what is the context of this entire section, or book? Then overall section of that Testament? Then what is the main idea of that Testament? Then, where does this fit in the whole Bible? In order to be able to deal with those questions, one must have a grasp of the entire story line of the Bible.
I think our common commitment to read The Story will help us grow in this way as a church.
Here are a couple of other books I recommend as we grow into whole-Bible Christians.