The 20 Day Bible Reading Challenge

20DAYS

This reading plan breaks the Bible up into six manageable sections of twenty readings each. It doesn’t go through every book chapter by chapter, but chooses some readings from almost every book to provide you with a broad picture of the Bible story.

Can an ancient book, written by primitive people, and unlearned men, have anything to do with modern problems and a modern world?

Dare to read the Bible and find out.

I will be posting the first challenge starting on May 1st.

Get your Bible, a notebook and pen, and read with me!

How to Read the Bible

TAKE TIME: Have a regular spot in your daily routine for reading. For most people mornings are better than evenings.

BE COMFORTABLE: Reading should be enjoyable and you should look forward to reading. So pick a comfortable setting. Sitting at a desk for reading can be more productive and comfortable.

SELECT A TRANSLATION: Select a translation. You may want to have more than one on hand so you can compare them when you come across something you don’t understand.

PRAY: Start out by asking for God’s help in understanding His Word.

READ SLOWLY: Be patient. Don’t try to read too much at once and read through your selection slowly.

CONCENTRATE: Try reading aloud. Reading aloud doesn’t solve the problem of the wandering mind but it helps the mind to focus.

HAVE AN OPEN MIND: Let the Bible teach you. Ask questions and be prepared for new ideas.

KEEP IT IN CONTEXT: If something doesn’t make sense, look in nearby chapters for clues.

TAKE NOTES: Keep a pen and notebook handy and write down questions you may have, interesting points, connections and anything else you discover.

Is the Bible Reliable?

Could a book written over a period of a more than a millennium, by many different authors, two thousand and more years ago, be a reliable source of information? And what are the chances of something like this surviving intact over that length of time?

In fact, there are good reasons to believe that the Bible has not changed in any significant way from its original form.

God began the process of revealing His Word by giving Moses the Ten Commandments, written in stone by His hand. For people to know what God wanted, and know that it hadn’t changed, it had to be written down.

The first five books of the Bible, known as the Book of the Law or the Pentateuch, are also called the Books of Moses (because he was largely responsible for writing and compiling them). These foundation books were kept in the Tabernacle and the priests were to teach the people of Israel from them, reading them aloud to the people every seven years during a special celebration.

Various other books in the Bible mention being recorded in writing and it is likely that by 300 BC, the Old Testament books had been collected and were recognized as the words of God.

Although there are no remaining original manuscripts of the Old Testament, the scrolls were carefully copied when the older ones wore out by the Jewish people. In fact, the Scribes, whose job it was to copy and preserve the texts, had very strict rules to follow. For example, they could not write words from memory, and if they made more than three mistakes on a page, they had to destroy it and start again.

There are around 3000 Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament, and several thousand more manuscripts of translations of the Hebrew Old Testament. The oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible has been dated to around 1008 AD, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (which did not contain the complete Old Testament, but at least fragments from many of the individual books) discovered in 1947 are dated from 250 BC to 135 AD.

Scholars have compared the texts available and found only a small number of differences and of those, a very small portion that make any significant difference. Most modern translations make note of these differences where they occur and because of this, the Old Testament that we hold in our hands today, is a document that can be considered completely trustworthy.

The New Testament, having been written later, has manuscript evidence much closer to the original copies, ninety-nine having been produced before 400 AD! In fact, out of all the writings from antiquity, it is the best attested set of writings. Early on it was translated into a variety of languages and there are between 20,000 to 25,000 handwritten copies of the New Testament in various languages.

Due to the overwhelming number of manuscripts available, there are consequently also an abundance of textual differences. However, most of these are spelling and nonsense errors, minor changes such as using “the” or not, or where it is obvious from the majority of other texts to be an error.
Only a very small number of differences actually change the meaning of the text. However, these are noted in modern English translations and it is unlikely that we are missing any significant reading.

It is reasonable to conclude that the Bible we have today can be counted on to be an accurate representation of the original.

Five things the Bible can provide for you…

Meaning and purpose: We all know that life ends. Few of us live longer than 100 years, many live for a much shorter time. Our lives are transient – no matter who we are or what we accomplish in life, it has an end. Is there any purpose or meaning to our short existence? The Bible suggests that there is meaning and purpose in human life. It tells us that God’s purpose in creating men and women was to show them His love and have them return it – to Him and to each other.

A vision for the future: Sometimes all the problems in the world (oppression, brutality, pollution, disease, flooding, famine) can be overwhelming. We all want the world to be a beautiful place to live for everyone and many people work hard to try and make it so. Having a vision and hope for the future helps us to cope with the difficulties of the present and reason to work toward something better. The Bible tells us that this is God’s plan – a beautiful world ruled by a just ruler and peopled by those who love Him.

Enduring values: The Bible is full of stories of loyalty, love, courage, forgiveness, humility and other lasting values. It offers nuggets of wisdom on most situations you may find yourself in. It offers a “simple and powerful law that each man shall have the right to possess what he can lawfully acquire, modified by those other laws that require him to consider his neighbour and to contribute to the well-being of the whole [and this] is the sure basis of social order and civilized human life” (The Law of Moses, R. Roberts).

Appropriate self-esteem: The Bible doesn’t beat around the bush when it talks about human nature. We are disposed to being selfish and therefore often do what we feel benefits us the most in the moment regardless of anyone else. But we also have an innate sense that this is not always right. Sometimes we hurt other people, sometimes we hurt ourselves. The Bible explains the right way to treat others and offers a way to find forgiveness for our faults and know that we are loved.

Mental health: The Bible can help to bring about peace of mind. It shows how God has been working with people down through the ages through difficult circumstances (although they may not have been able to see it at the time) and assures us that He continues to do so although it also may not be obvious to us. We can be confident that God is in control and learn to say like Paul
“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)

Five good reasons to read the Bible if you haven’t already…

Perhaps you wonder how an ancient book, written by primitive people, can have anything helpful to say to you today. Perhaps you think it will take too long to read and you don’t have the time.

Perhaps you think it looks boring and you don’t like reading anyway. Perhaps you have heard that it is full of contradictions and horrible deeds. Well, all of those are possible excuses, but are they valid ones? If there was a book that told you what to do so that you could truly enjoy life and gave you answers to all of your questions, wouldn’t you be tempted to have a look?

The Bible is much too long to read in one sitting, but it can be read a bit at a time. Here are a five reasons to at least give it a try.

1. One cannot completely reject something one has not read for oneself. It is easy to use other people’s opinions as reasons to avoid the Bible, but they cannot be your reasons until you have weighed the evidence yourself.

2. Although the Bible was written over a period of at least 1000 years it is improbably consistent. This gives it a ring of truth that compels investigating.

3. The Bible has stood the test of time. It has been around for a long, long time, and is still read and enjoyed by people today. For it to be relevant to people over thousands of years, it must be a special book.

4. Whether we like it or not, the Bible has helped to shape our culture and impacted our history. It has been translated into many languages and spread around the world. Many people know something of the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the seven days of Creation which is the origin of our seven day week. Something this influential must be worth reading.

5. The Bible claims many, many times to be the word of God. Whether or not you believe there is a God, it cannot be completely discounted as a possibility and this should be reason enough to check it out for yourself.