In your Christian walk so far you have almost certainly been a regular reader of the Bible. If you are a typical Christian you have read some parts many times, usually from the New Testament, and other parts perhaps never (Leviticus, for example). As a student of the British Bible School you should expect to read the Bible even more: it is, after all, the most important way of learning from and about God.
It is a good discipline for all Christians to read a portion of God’s word every day. Many of us follow a programme so we do not restrict ourselves to just our favourite passages. It is certainly a good challenge to try to read the entire Bible from cover to cover at least once in your lifetime and no bad thing to do it again. Many Bibles have a reading plans at the back and there is a good selection at https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans. 1 You have to register to get any of them but there is currently no charge.
There follows a short reading programme that takes you through some of the highlights in the Bible in thirty passages. At a passage a day you will finish in a month but there is, of course, nothing to stop you reading more than one a day. You can approach this merely as a reading exercise and revisit some passages that we are confident you have read before. This is also a quick introduction to genre as the passages are examples of different types of writing. And if you are enrolled as a student and working for BBS credit there is an assignment based on the readings (see detailed instructions here).
If you have not yet enrolled on the programme, you will find instructions for enrolling here.
1. “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:1 – 2:3). God creates the heavens and the earth in six steps. The description of each day follows the same pattern, not unlike a poem, with the refrain “And God saw that it was good”.
2. The Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:4 – 3:24). Sadly the state of sinless perfection was not to last.
3. God tests Abraham (Genesis 22:1-14). Abraham’s story is in Genesis 12-25. He was born ten generations after the time of Noah and lived in Ur, the greatest city of the time. God saw something special in Abraham.
4. The Burning Bush (Exodus 2-3). Abraham’s descendants settled in Egypt as welcome guests of the pharaoh who knew Joseph but eventually the ruling dynasty changed a there came a pharaoh who hated the Hebrews.
5. The Great Escape (Exodus 14). Having been chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt Moses rose to the challenge.
6. At Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20). In the Wilderness of Sinai God starts to turn a rabble of escaped slaves into a nation.
7. “Be Holy” (Leviticus 19). The Ten Commandments are the most famous example of God’s laws but here in Leviticus we get much more detail.
If you are doing this assignment for BBS credit please submit your first seven answers for assessment so we can respond as soon as possible and identify any problems (usually writing too much or not enough). Full instructions for this assignment are given here, and instructions for submitting assignments can be found in the Module Introduction.
These first seven passages come from the Torah, the Law of Moses (and there is more on Torah on the DVD presentation “The Right Place”). You will see that we have omitted a great deal and totally skipped over two entire books, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The following readings take us further into Hebrew history. Joshua led the conquest and then God sent Judges to guide His people and it is at this time that the short book of Ruth fits in. However we are going to jump to the time of the first king:
8. David meets Goliath (1 Samuel 17). It was Moses who took the people to the border of the Promised Land but it was Joshua who took them over the River Jordan. Times passes and now Israel is ruled by King Saul but the king has a problem: his army is facing the Philistine army but no one dares to fight the Philistine champion.
9. Elijah calls down fire (1 Kings 18). Having killed Goliath David marries Saul’s daughter Michal and eventually succeeds him as King of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. However after David’s son, King Solomon, the tribes split. The southern tribes took the name of David and Solomon’s tribe, Judah, and the northern tribes reverted back to the name of their shared ancestor, Israel. Judah was always ruled by a descendant of King David from his capital city of Jerusalem and, generally, remained faithful to the Lord God – at least at first. In the north dynasties came and went and many of the kings were evil, none more so than King Ahab and his wife Queen Jezebel but God remained faithful to His people and continued to send prophets to warn them.
10. Elisha and Naaman (2 Kings 5). After Elijah comes Elisha, another prophet for the northern kingdom but in this story we see that God’s concerns are not confined merely to descendants of Israel.
11. “The LORD is my shepherd” (Psalm 23). The history of Judah and Israel is recorded in the Books if Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Then come the Poetic Books (Job to Song of Solomon)so in this reading we have travelled back in time to the life of David, the second king. We know that David was a shepherd of sheep (1 Samuel 16:11) before he became a shepherd of God’s people but we do not know precisely when he composed what is the most famous song in the Bible.
12. David repents (Psalm 51). In 2 Samuel 11 we read of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of her husband Uriah in an attempt to cover up what he had done. God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke David and to tell him that the child born from this relationship was to die (2 Samuel 12). Finally the king realises what he has done and pours out his feelings of remorse in this penitential psalm.
13. Wise words (Proverbs 17). David and Bathsheba later had another son who grew to succeed David. This is Solomon who was a writer and collector of wise words and this chapter contains some excellent examples of practical wisdom.
We now leave the historical books but not the historical record as the Prophetic Books exist within history and often contain historical data. We have space for just five extracts from the seventeen books from Isaiah to Malachi
14. Isaiah is called (Isaiah 6). Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah. King Uzziah died in 739 BC by which time the northern kingdom of Israel was in terminal decline.
15. “Comfort my people” (Isaiah 40). Isaiah outlived good king Hezekiah and saw that his wicked son Manasseh was going to lead Judah to destruction. But the prophet knows that God is in control.
16. The suffering servant (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12). Centuries before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem God showed Isaiah that the Messiah would suffer for the chosen people.
17. The valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). In 597 BC disaster struck Judah as the Babylonians took away Jewish independence and forced many Jews into Exile. But the prophet Ezekiel saw that Judah would be reborn.
18. Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6). Like Joseph in Egypt, Daniel makes a successful life for himself in a foreign court. And he makes enemies too. At some time during the reign of Darius the Mede, probably about 541 – 540 BC, a plot is made against Daniel.
Eighteen passages to cover the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament? Just so long as you remember that is the merest sketch and that you will be returning to fill in some of the gaps over the rest of this module and beyond then you will have made a good start. Ezekiel and Daniel are the last of the so-called Major (or Longer) prophets but not the last chronologically as several of the twelve Minor or Shorter Prophets come after them. However between the final Old Testament prophet, Malachi, and the opening of the New Testament there is a gap of several hundred years. But when the time was right God sent His Son, preceded by His messenger, John the Baptist, and recorded by the four Gospel writers (or “Evangelists”, meaning those who share good news), Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
19. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7). At the start of His ministry Jesus, like Moses before Him, climbs a mountain and delivers God’s Law to His people.
20. Jesus the healer (Mark 5). Jesus demonstrates His power over sin, disease, and death.
21. Jesus is crucified (Mark 14 – 15). Passover, AD 30 (or thereabouts). God’s great plan of salvation is completed.
22. “He is risen!” (Luke 24). It is well worth reading all of the Resurrection accounts (Matthew 28, Mark 16, John 20, and 1 Corinthians 15) but Luke’s is the most comprehensive.
Seven chapters from the four Gospels. Not enough but it is a start. Read more! Luke continues his story to cover some of the acts of some of the Apostles of Jesus, starting with Peter and John and then shifting his focus to Paul and it is Paul who writes the most books in the New Testament from Romans to Philemon or, perhaps, Hebrews. We then have letters from James (one), Peter (two), John (three) and Jude (one) followed by the most mysterious book in the Bible: Revelation.
23. The Ascension (Acts 1:1-11). Forty days later and the next chapter of the greatest story is about to begin.
24. The Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Jerusalem, fifty days after Passover in the year 30 (or perhaps 31).
25. On the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-31). Trying to suppress Christianity by persecution was like trying to put out a bonfire by kicking it – the sparks fly everywhere. The chief persecutor is about to get a life-changing surprise.
26. A storm at sea (Acts 27). It is now close to AD 60 and Paul is on his way to Rome to plead his case before Caesar. The storm shows how he acted under pressure.
27. Love (1 Corinthians 13). Written by Paul about five years before his voyage to Rome. Surely the best-known definition of love ever written.
28. Christian living (Ephesians 5 – 6). As well as writing many great truths that help to explain what we believe (see Romans for example) Paul gave good practical advice on Christian living. These two chapters will have to stand as one example from many.
29. Christ the firstborn of Creation (Colossians 1:15-23). As well as explaining what we believe and telling Christians how to live Paul gives us examples of how and why we worship Christ.
30. A new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21 – 22). The end of our journey.
If you are seeking BBS credit there is a written response required based on these passages. Instructions are here. You should already have submitted your responses to the first seven passages. Once you have completed the remainder, please submit them for assessment also.