I am re-posting this blog as one of my recent graduates wanted to know how to read the Bible. He was accustomed to reading it one-word-at-a-time. I told him about this blog and decided to re-post it. It was written in 2014 originally, but it is still up to date.
This blog was inspired by a sermon given by Jim Mehler at the Gathering service at Covenant Presbyterian Church last Sunday who showed us a part of a video interview with N. T. Wright, a Bible Scholar from England who has written a number of well-known books. The video is How to Read the Bible, the Whole Sweep of Scripture. Mr. Wright’s suggestion was completely different from what I had ever heard before. Some of the people on Facebook believe that reading the Bible means taking a quote out of context to say “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Some of the people who resist our training are Bible readers who believe that reading the Bible means memorizing it as they go word-by-word, which you can’t do when you read fast. But the definition of reading is really about getting the meaning and adding it to what you already know.
Mr. Wright acknowledges that the psalms are meant to be read individually but compares reading the books of the Bible to experiencing a symphony. A symphony is to be experienced in its entirety, having you get swept up in it. You wouldn’t want to hear ten bars of the music and then have it stop. That takes away the experience. He suggests to make the time to read a book of the Bible, such as Romans in its entirety–get swept up in it, experience it as a whole. Then if you want, you can go back to the verses and passages that are particularly meaningful to you to go after those details.
I thought, “Wow! That’s what we teach!” We teach that comprehension is better by seeing the information as a whole, instead of assembling the parts. We have written other blogs about this concept–it’s a foundation of what we teach. We help our students who have started to hate reading because of English teachers who have them dissect the novel bit by bit to learn to enjoy reading again by first experiencing the novel as a whole and then to make their teachers happy and delve deeper into it by going back to some of the parts for their assignments and annotations.
I was recently sent an article published in the London School of Economics and Political Science written by Josh Korbel, in the U. S. Defense Intelligence Agency on the need to think big in making major decisions before getting caught up in the details that come to them. Big mistakes can be made when details are reacted to before they are seen in the context of the whole.
Our speed reading course teaches how to get the Gestalt and through faster reading; our graduates have the time to read the whole and then concentrate on the parts they need. How neat to get an affirmation of that in a video at church. It works.