1) The Bible Project
My first experience with the Bible Project was being shown their animated cartoon+handwriting videos by teachers in church and in school (if you’re like, isn’t that illegal?, don’t worry—my teachers are law-abiding citizens, it’s because I go to a private school).
They have these overview videos for every book of the Bible, but I personally don’t like them. The animation is slightly hyptonizing to watch, but the amount of information is overwhelming. I don’t retain any of it afterwards.
It’s like some of those elaborate study notes people make—they’re pretty but it would be difficult for me to actually use them to study. Which is an unfair comparison because the study notes create a satisfying Instagram feed while the videos help people learn more about the Bible, but that’s how I feel about them.
My second experience with the Bible Project was listening to one of their podcast episodes. I don’t remember which one it was or what series it was a part of, but I remember it talking about sacrifices and where Kosher rules come from.
I’m not sure if I even finished listening to it. I really struggled to follow the conversation because so much of it just went over my head. I think I listened to an episode that was in the middle/end of a series, so I was very lost. It was also during a road trip, which means I might’ve been half falling asleep too.
I think that was two years ago? I didn’t listen to any more of their episodes until this past Christmas break during another road trip. It was an episode in their Sabbath series, and like the first time, a good amount of it went over my head. But I have now realized that it’s like that for every episode I listen to.
I would say there’s two reasons why something clicked the second time I listened to the Bible Project podcast and not the first.
1) Right after I subscribed, they started a series about trees, and I was hooked because I had just listened to an interview on the podcast That Sounds Fun with this fascinating guy who wrote a book about trees in the Bible.
2) I finally understood what the structure of the show was. Tim and John are the hosts of the podcast. In each episode, Tim explains an idea, and John processes it in real time. Tim is literally brilliant—he’s one of the smartest people I know, and I don’t even know him. John is really good at asking clarifying questions and explaining things again in his own words.
Their current series is on Jesus’s parables, and so far all the episodes are still a combination of blowing my mind+going over my head.
Listening to the Bible Project podcast is how I found out about their online classes two or three weeks ago. They only have one course right now called Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (when they say Hebrew Bible, they’re talking about the Old Testament), but it has two paths: a prep class and the full course.
The prep class is supposed to take 1-2 hours, and that sounds right—I would say more on the lower side. It has four five-minute-or-so videos and super straightforward true-fale/matching/etc. questions after each one.
The full course is a bit more intense—there’s a PDF of handouts they give you to print out, and it’s over 60 pages. While the prep class is a combination of animated Youtube videos from their channel, the full course is 20-30 minute videos of Tim talking to six people around a conference table. They’re kind of like John except whereas John is having a conversation with Tim in the podcast episodes, this is much more like a class. Usually they only ask questions at the end.
After I finished the prep class, I texted seven of my friends about it and told them to check it out. Now I’m telling you guys about it. It’s so interesting. I’ve learned things about the Bible that I’ve never heard of—like how the Jewish Bible is in a different order than the Protestant Old Testament and why that’s significant. Currently I’m in the middle of Unit 1 of the full course. Several more courses are coming out this year about Genesis, Exodus, and 1 Corinthians, and I am excited!!!
2) She Reads Truth + Enduring Word
I bought my first She Reads Truth book last year. It was their Advent 2019 reading plan, and I got it because of the podcast I mentioned earlier, That Sounds Fun. Every year, Annie F. Downs has on the founders of She Reads Truth (Amanda Bible Williams—that’s not a typo, that’s part of her name—and Rachel Meyers) in the spring and in the winter to talk about their Lent and Advent guides.
If you’ve never heard of Lent and Advent before, I’m going to try and explain. There’s this thing called the church/liturgical calendar. (Oh great, this is already hard.) The liturgical calendar isn’t explicitly a thing anywhere in the Bible, but it’s created out of important biblical events.
Lent is the forty days before Good Friday, and Advent is the four weeks (I think) before Christmas. Epiphany (AKA extended Christmas) comes after Christmas, Easter and Eastertide (AKA extended Easter) comes after Lent, and in between there’s Ordinary Time (AKA nothing’s happening).
Also, I just learned from Google that the three days between Lent and Easter are called the Paschal Triduum and that Pentecost comes right after Eastertide. My church isn’t super into the liturgical calendar, so a lot of this is new for me.
I think that’s one of most confusing part about the liturgical calendar—different churches focus on the church calendar in different amounts. My church is denominational, and besides Easter and Christmas, we do Advent candles. That’s basically it. Tsh Oxenreider on her podcast, Simple, said her Anglican church has Ash Wednesday where you go and the priest touches your forehead with ash. It just depends.
Okay, that was a sidebar about the liturgical calendar. Back to She Reads Truth. After their Advent plan, I ordered their Romans plan. I did that through January and February. At the end of February, I started their Lent 2020 plan (which was the book of Jeremiah plus Holy Week—AKA the week leading up to Easter), and I have two more days left in it. Next I’m doing their Genesis one.
For you, buying the She Reads Truth plans might not make sense because it’s like, what’s the point of it, it’s literally just the book of Genesis or whatever but separated into 35 days with pretty packaging. Why not just get a Bible and read a chapter a day?
For me, the biggest pro of the buying the plans is that I have so much more room to write stuff. What I’ve been doing is reading the free online Bible commentary, Enduring Word, and copying stuff down in the margins. There’s no way I would have enough space to do this in a regular Bible.
Enduring Word has been super helpful—Jeremiah is now one of my favorite people in the Bible, and I highly doubt that would’ve happened without all the insight. I would’ve missed the sarcasm scattered throughout it, the historical context, and so many other things. But I do have a note: it definitely has a slant on some things like for example Catholocism, so just be aware.
3) Talk to your friends
Yep, I made my friends help me write for a blog post again—and will be doing so again in the near future as well. Dear Breaker of Hearts and Jack, thanks.
In the coronavirus diaries, I said that I love reading what my friends write, but hearing my friends talk about God and how they reading the Bible is a really close second. It’s really encouraging to know that my friends are also reading these ancient words and trying to figure out what they mean for us now, and it’s also helpful to see what works for other people.
How do you decide what to read?
RILEY: I’m reading through the Bible this year, so I just do 5 chapters a day, in order.
JAEL: I am reading a Bible plan that is on the Youversion Bible app that is in canonical order.
Follow up question. Which ones were hard to get through, and which ones were the most interesting?
LEVITICUS IS THE HARDEST BOOK I THINK
all of the other books are ok
Hardest book exodus cause I had 2 bsf years over it
Favorite Ruth or 1 Samuel
What are you reading right now?
RILEY: I’m in Proverbs.
JAEL: I am reading 1 Samuel currently.
What Bible do you use?
RILEY: The NIV Journal the Word Bible. It has space on the sides to add notes/annotate.
JAEL: I use an NIV study bible.
Do you use a devotional or a journal?
RILEY: I journal my thoughts.
JAEL: I use a journal to record any notes.
Do you mark/write in your Bible?
RILEY: Yes, I will underline/highlight things that seem meaningful to me and take notes on what the passages mean.
JAEL: What I do is kind of weird cause I use another Bible which is my everyday church bible and every time I find something I want to highlight then I go to the smaller everyday bible and highlight the verse.
When and where do you read?
RILEY: I read before going to bed and just in my room.
JAEL: I read it at night and at my desk in my room.
What has your this looked like for youin the past, and have you ever failed to continue the habit?
RILEY: YES, last year I tried to do the same thing as I did this year, but I only got through about 3/4 of the Bible.
JAEL: I have tried to make a goal last year to read the entire bible but then I didn’t make it past February, but this year I am doing it with my dad so he is keeping me accountable.
What’s the most helpful thing you’ve learned about reading the Bible?
RILEY: I like using lots of colors and just trying to do it at the same time every day is helpful.
JAEL: The most helpful thing I learned is to find a spot to read every day that is designated for reading the Bible and assign a time that you have to read your Bible.
Have you heard of the Bible Project or She Reads Truth before?
How do you read the Bible?
Does your church follow the liturgical calendar?