There is no greater substitute for knowing the Bible than simply reading and re-reading the text. Sermons, Bible classes, commentaries, and other theology books have their place. They can be beneficial for bringing understanding, but they should supplement Bible reading and not replace it.
How many times should I read a text? Good question. I’m glad you asked.
Lately, I have mostly been teaching Old Testament historical books (Pentateuch and History). My general practice is to try to read the text three times before the start of class and then read the text in preparation for each week’s lesson. I remember Bob Waldron, an excellent Bible teacher, suggest reading the text at least three times in preparation, to see what it says, what it means, and its relationship to the overall theme of the Bible.
I heard one teacher that had been intending to teach Ecclesiastes state that he had determined to read the text 1,000 times before he taught it. I know this man, and those are not just empty words. He will certainly do as he says. If you are counting, that is under 3 years of reading the book once a day. Wow!
I love reading books about the Bible and theology, but I need to do more reading of the Bible itself. Reading a text 1,000 times seems a little out of reach for me, but I think I would like to try this on a smaller scale. In addition to my daily Bible reading, I’m going to set a goal of 100 times with one of the following possible texts:
- Genesis 1-3; Creation and first sin
- Exodus 19-24; The Giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai
- One of the Minor Prophets
- Matthew 5-7 and Luke 7:17-49; The Sermons on the Mount and the Plain
- The Epistle to the Galatians (or any of the Prison Epistles)
So, that’s my goal. I’m leaning toward starting with the Exodus passage. Do you have any other suggestions for potential passages that you feel are foundational?