Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Family Bible Reading

Today our family reached a major milestone in our family Bible reading. We have finished reading through the entire Old Testament. In addition, we are very close, perhaps a month and a half at most, to completing the entire Bible. More on that in just a bit.

Back sometime in 2003 I began reading a chapter from the Psalms each night with the family at the dinner table before we ate. This reading was the beginning of a second time through the Book of Psalms. The first time we used the New American Standard Bible and we read through Psalms and the Book of Proverbs. We started again, this time, with the English Standard Version. My original idea was to get a feel for how these versions read and compare them by reading them out loud to my family.

After we completed Psalms and Proverbs, I decided we ought to read through the book of Genesis. With those three books under our belt, I got the idea that we could read through the entire Bible. So, we continued reading a chapter from the Bible (or a portion of a chapter if the chapters were too long) before dinner each night. I wanted variety and thought it would be really hard to read the Pentateuch straight through or the major and minor prophets, so I tried to bounce around between the Old and New Testament, between long books and short ones. My one confession is that I summarized the content of some chapters rather than reading each name and line of a genealogy or every detail of a very repetitive section (e.g., descriptions of the tabernacle in Exodus 26-31). For the most part, though, we really did read everything.

I did not keep track of how long it took to finish the Book of Psalms or Proverbs, but I kept pretty detailed records for all the other books. There were several single chapter books that only took one night of reading to finish. Other books, of course, were much longer and took more time. Isaiah, for example, took us 79 days to complete, longer than any other book on our record. We finished the OT today by reading the last two chapters of 2 Chronicles (sometimes I would read an extra chapter just to finish off a book). We have only Romans and Revelation left to read from the New Testament and so I anticipate finishing the whole project sometime in May.

Reading extended passages out loud is a great way to discover the literary quality of a translation. Some places the ESV just flows so beautifully and other places it’s a real dog. Part of it, I’m sure, is due to the fact that it is just plain difficult to create fine prose while translating as literally as possible. My one major regret is that I didn’t keep track of those places where the translation stood out as either exceptional or poor. Overall, though, my impression is that the ESV reads very well, better than either the KJV or the NASB.

My guess is that reading the Bible like this has been more profitable for me than my wife and kids. Normally, they did not follow along with their own Bibles. We just didn’t have enough ESV’s to go around. Besides, when we started the kids didn’t know how to read. They were only 1, 3, and 5 at the time. So, they just listened to daddy as he read the passage. I suspect that the reading, therefore, was more meaningful for me than them. I would try to offer an occasional comment and bit of instruction to highlight the point of the passage. I wanted the kids to learn respect for Bible reading and to learn how to pay attention. It’s been four and a half years now through this project. Their comprehension has definitely increased as they grew older.

I’m not sure what we are going to do when we finish in a couple of months. I doubt we will read through the whole Bible again like we’ve been doing. I like the idea of reading the Bible but I might stick to easier sections, maybe work through specific chapters that deal directly with issues that our children or family are struggling with. On the other hand, I’ve been wondering about the Holman Christian Standard Bible…


At 2:01 PM, Blogger Scott Aniol said...

This is great, Andy. Practical question: Do you set the table, put out the food, and then sit a read while it gets cold? Or how does it work?

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Most of the time, yes, we have everything set at the table, including the food. Sometimes we will start with food still in the oven or on the stove, or we'll cover it until it comes time to serve. I've never thought that the food really got cold to the point that it wasn't as good. So, I would say that food getting cold hasn't been an issue for us.

Doing the reading before the meal has worked better for us since I typically haven't made the kids stay at the table until everyone has finished.

At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


We use this schedule. http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/devotions/

Last year and the year before, we read the Psalms and Proverbs with our boys, who are 5 and 7 now. This year, we are going through the NT with them. I have encouraged John to read the Proverbs section from his own ESV Daily Reading Bible in the mornings.

The plan is for the OT next year.


At 4:08 PM, Blogger MJ said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4:11 PM, Blogger MJ said...

Hi Andy,

Found my way here via the ESV Bible Blog. I'm interested to know how you handled something I blogged about a while back... basically, there are some pretty racy parts particularly of the Old Testament. How did you explain to a 5-year-old (and a couple of toddlers) what it means to "spill his seed" or what was wrong with Lot's daughters getting cuddly next to him in bed?

(BTW... sorry about the posted-and-removed post... I wanted to check the "Email follow-up comments" box but forgot.)

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Andy Efting said...


Thanks for your question. I'm away at a class right now and dont' have a lot of time to respond, so let me just say this very briefly.

I sometimes changed a word to something less provacative. So, for example, from breast to chest in Song of Solomon and in other places. I didn't always do that, though. And I read the section of Lot and his daughters without changing anything.

One memorable section was Leviticus 18. That chapter uses "nakedness" as a euphenism for an immoral relationship. The repeated use of that word made a lasting impression on my kids. They didn't know what nakedness would led to but they knew that it was wrong outside of marriage and they learned an appropriate lesson regarding modesty that they bring up on a regular basis (e.g., they know we should change the channel if we see an immodestly dressed person on TV; the girls know they shouldn't look a their brother when he is getting dressed, etc).

So, long story short, many any times they really didn't know enough regarding some of those sensitive passages for it to be an issue. When I thought I should, I would slightly modify terminology.

At 9:12 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

Good work Andy, your family is blessed. We're also reading through the ESV as a family. We follow a chronological schedule as detailed here. We have inexpensive paperback ESV's for everyone while I use the Reformation Study Bible to help answer questions. So everyone can read. Maybe a verse or two for the very young, up to half a chapter for the teens. For the "mature" subject matter, I read these out loud while everyone follows along. We read the genealogies as well. Makes us realize God thinks the generations are important as He recorded all the details. Blessings, Mark

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Jerry said...

Reading through the Bible as a family is very important.

I am living now in Altamonte Springs, Florida but I spent two
years and half in Roswell, Georgia.

I was part of the fellowship at
the Marietta Bible Chapel when living in Roswell.

A Baptist church from Suwanee came into my first apartment complex with their buses.

I am old now but I learned how to read with the King James Bible in
family Bible readings.

Your family will be blessed with
reading the WORD OF GOD.


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