During 2017, I did something interesting. I read the entire Bible, from Genesis 1:1 all the way through to Revelation 22:21. Back on January 1st, 2017, I downloaded a smartphone app that laid out a very specific daily schedule. By reading 3 or 4 chapters each day, the Bible can be completed in exactly one year.
To be honest, when I began this endeavor, I suspected the odds of finishing it were slim. You see, I’ve never been a very good New Year’s resolution kind of guy. For example, it is now February 2018, and at the beginning of January I made a resolution to lose 10 pounds. Well, I've only 15 more pounds to go!
So, I’m rather surprised I completed the task of reading the whole Bible. And I’m very glad I did it. While reading the grand saga of God’s dealings with His beloved yet rebellious creatures (that would be us), I learned many things I never knew before. I also refreshed my memory on numerous aspects of salvation history that I hadn’t thought about in years. But I have to admit, my eyes glazed over on more than a few occasions, as I was more concerned about completing a particular day’s chapter assignment than comprehending the words I was reading.
All in all, it was a beneficial exercise to read through God’s Holy Word. In addition to discovering some new things about salvation history, I learned a few other important lessons. First, the Bible can be very difficult at times. It was written over the course of many centuries, by dozens of different writers, all of whom had a unique writing style. For every Luke (“This is exciting and fun to read!”) there was an Ezekiel (“What in the world is THIS supposed to mean?!”)
Also, I learned that many Bible instructors are correct when they say, “Never read the Bible from cover to cover, as if it were a novel.” If I didn’t have the daily regimentation of the phone app schedule, and instead just tried to plow through the whole thing on my own, I probably would’ve given up around Groundhog Day.
Another thing I learned is that all parts of Scripture are not of equal importance. Now, don’t get me wrong. Every word in the Bible is divinely inspired and is part of the message that God wished to communicate to us. But there’s no doubt the parts of the Bible that describe Jesus’ ministry, His passion, and His Resurrection are far more important than, for example, the details of how the ancient Israelites were to weave cloth used in the dwelling for the Ark of the Covenant. (If you’re curious, it was woven using fine linen, with violet, purple, and scarlet colors, and images of cherubim embroidered on it.)
The most important lesson I learned from my year-long exercise is that the Bible is not a self-interpreting document. It can be exceedingly confusing at times. Therefore, we need the teaching Magisterium of the Church to explain what the Bible means and how it applies to our lives.
There is a popular notion nowadays called “Sola Scriptura,” which means the Bible alone. The idea is that the Scriptures are all we need to know God and live our lives according to His will. Besides the glaring Catch-22 contradiction that this concept does not appear anywhere in the Bible, it’s not a coincidence that the people who believe in Sola Scriptura have splintered into over 40,000 different denominations and sects, with each group convinced its particular interpretation of Scripture is correct.
For 2,000 years the Holy Spirit has guided the bishops of the Church to understand and teach the message of the Bible correctly. Which is why my project for 2018 is to read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church. Maybe by December 31st I’ll finally learn what in the world Ezekiel was talking about.