There are many ways or “systems” to help you read the Bible. All can be useful if you actually use them. Too often, Bible readers just skim the top and do what they’ve always done.
If you want to read through the Bible in a year or six months or three weeks, you can find schedules to do that. Far too often these have you jumping hopscotch style all over the place. Frankly, this is madness. In the long run, it destroys any contextual awareness of the documents being read. There is nothing wrong with reading the Bible in a year; but if that’s what you want to do, respect the documents as you read: read them contextually, beginning to end, without jumping around.
A More Excellent Way
To be a good Bible reader, you don’t have to read the whole Bible every year. In fact, most of the time, it is better to slow down and focus on particular documents for that year—–to read deeply, carefully, and closely.
PROBE is an excellent way to do this. It takes the best of the Bible reading concerns and puts them into an easy to remember, step-by-step (5 steps) approach so that you don’t forget anything. It simply encourages good reading habits. PROBE is an acronym (see below).
I’ll use an example to illustrate. Jude is an excellent letter to practice PROBE. Each day you read with a different agenda in mind:
Step 1: Monday: Pre-read and Preview the text, surveying it.
You skim through it, trying to pick up some highlights. You take a few notes. And you pray about it all, of course (as with every reading).
Step 2: Tuesday: Read and Recap the text in your own words: just you and this text.
a. You read the whole text through, beginning to end. As much as possible, in one sitting. (For Jude, this is easy.) This is where you read the text multiple times and in multiple translations. At this point, you ALWAYS stay within this one document, not allowing your reading of it to be contaminated by other texts or ideas.
b. When you finish reading, you recap. By recap I mean you actually try to provide a “summary” in your own words of what this text says.
Step 3: Wednesday: Observe the text: Turn your reading into a conversation with the author.
a. Taking notes, Asking questions, Challenging the Author, Going back and re-reading the text to find answers.
b. You might do word studies here, using resources like Young’s Analytical Concordance, or better, Bible Software (like BibleWorks, Logos, or Lumina) to help you examine the text. (Just stay away from commentaries. That’s next step.)
c. Also, how is this text related to other texts outside of this one? If it quotes other texts, read those too. Not just single verses, but whole contexts.
Step 4: Thursday: Brainstorm: Now, and only now, you’re ready to talk to others.
This is where you invite others to the table: Bible commentators, encyclopedias, and dictionaries; or friends, or a preacher or teacher. Just don’t start here! (That is one of the biggest mistakes Bible readers make, starting here.) Now that you’ve done your own reading work, you can converse with others. Only now, you invite them as conversation partners.
Step 5: Friday: Engage: Here you focus on “what difference all of this makes for my life!”
What can I do today that will put into practice what I have learned from this document.
This might take hours, days, or weeks to do this. And Jude is a very good document to practice this with because it is so short. Even so, this is appropriate for every document (book, letter, Psalm, etc.) of the Bible.
This PROBE idea is not a new thing: it is actually the best of Bible reading practices brought into one place—an easy, step-by-step approach that helps you cover all the bases in the most helpful order. It is reading with a goal in mind: to put into practice what you read in conversation.
Here is again. . .