Re 3 Unusual Tips for Better Bible Reading

Last week Desiring God’s blog published a little piece I wrote called “Three Tips for Better Bible Reading.” They’re not the sort of tips you’d expect.

Here are some supplementary thoughts:

  1. In the article I advocate macro-reading. But this is not mutually exclusive with micro-reading. Both are invaluable. Both macro- and micro-reading should contribute to our hermeneutical spiral. On micro-reading, see especially Tom Schreiner’s “Tracing the Argument,” which revolutionized how I read Paul. I agree with Scott Hafemann that the best part about knowing the biblical languages is tracing the flow of the text’s argument. You can’t do that well at macro-reading speed.
  2. I share in the article, “I’ve found it to be incredibly profitable to listen while following along in a different English translation (or in the original languages).” If you can read the original languages to some degree, I highly recommend that you listen to an English translation while following along in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Yes, you’ll miss all sorts of nuances, but you’ll immerse yourself in the language and get a better sense for how the language works. I did this with the entire New Testament over about 13 weeks at the end of 2013 (in conjunction with teaching a course on the message of each NT book). Highly recommended.
  3. In the article I recommend my family’s favorite audio-Bible. I review that here.
  4. The article includes a graph showing approximately how long it takes to listen to each book of the Bible. I used the ESV Hear the Word audio-Bible as a benchmark.
  5. My editors wisely toned down my language under tip 3. But my original draft shows how I really feel about this (!): “I abominate chapter and verse references in the Bible.” That became “I am not a fan of . . . .”
  6. One reason “I am not a fan” of chapter and verse references is that they often miscue readers to stop reading when they’ve reached the end of a “chapter” and to think of “verses” as self-contained units. I’ve written some reviews that explain this in more detail.
  7. The best audio-Bibles don’t announce when new chapters begin. They just keep on reading.
  8. There are many more resources than I mention in the article. Two examples: (a) The ESV site has both free audio and a “Reader Mode” that eliminates chapter and verse references. (b) My Dad highly recommends the YouVersion Bible App. He told me, “It’s free and includes hundreds of translations in dozens of languages. Many of the versions include an audio track. The app also has many useful features.”
  9. A few years ago my friend Mark Ward wrote a tongue-in-cheek manifesto about getting rid of chapter and verse references. I signed it.
  10. If you haven’t watched this less-than-2-minute video about Biblica’s The Books of the Bible, you should:

Update on 2/14/2015: Why Bible Typography Matters (video)

Update on 9/11/2015: Why Bible Typography Matters (blog post)


  1. says

    I liked your DG article, Andy. I especially agree with the advice to read books in one sitting.

    Any idea what the approximate reading times for each book are based on? By my counts, Jeremiah, Genesis, and Ezekiel have more words than the Psalms. I’m not sure why the Psalms would take so much longer.

    Well, unless you stop for a musical interlude at every Selah.

      • John T. Jeffery says

        I would emphasize the word “approximate”. The times indicated allow 3+ minutes per chapter on average. Faster readers can easily cut these times in half. This should encourage those with better than average reading speeds to “take the baton” you are holding out! For example my times for Acts averaged between 35-45 minutes for the 28 chapters in a variety of translations (KJV, NASB, ESV, HCSB, NIV, NLT, RSV, NRSV, NEB, and MLB) rather than the 135 minutes indicated in the graph (2.25h @4.82 mins. /ch.). Similar results (2 mins./ch. or less) were documented for Matthew (Naselli – 2.5h/150 mins. @5.35 mins./ch.) and Revelation (Nasseli – 1.25h/95 mins. @3.86 mins./ch.). With the discipline of faster reading comprehension increases due to the required focus. This works much better, as you correctly point out, when an “uncluttered” Bible is used (no notes, footnotes, marginal references, etc.).

    • Garry Lay says

      In the early 1970’s I had the privilege of attending a one week workshop led by Dr. Howard Hendricks from Dallas Theological Seminary, held for staff members of The Navigators. The workshop taught us how to do what he called “synthetic Bible study”, a method for studying entire books of the Bible. One of the key points emphasized was the reading of the book in one sitting, no matter how long that book was. This was followed by a process of charting to give a visual overview of the author’s argument. In the context of his teaching he said that if we would spend at least one hour daily in this discipline, we would over time come to know the Bible better than 75% of the people in the ministry. I have followed that advice for the past 40+ years.

  2. says

    I like your choice of “abominate.” :-)

    I’m very grateful for you, Andy. And I’m grateful that in spite of your busy work and family schedule you take the time to use your gifts through this blog. You bless me and many others. God bless you for this!

    I actually didn’t know that the ESV site has a “Reader Mode.” That’s great, I’ll probably use it, but I’m a “book-in-the-hand” kind of girl. Do you own any Bibles that don’t have the chapter and verse references? Which would you recommend? I would really like to buy one.


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