Notes for Sanger Bible Reading Group

Find this page at https://tiny.cc/lsanger

Hello!

This is just a (I hope) helpful explanation of what I’m doing, with instructions if you would like to do join me.

The program I hope to embark on has the following components (see the rest of this post for all details):

  • Read the Bible in one year, following a plan to be found in the YouVersion Bible app. In particular, to read the OT in a year, and the NT twice.
  • As I read it, also read/skim all of a commentary or study Bible.
  • Ask questions about bits read using Hypothes.is, and discuss possible answers.
  • Watch all the “Bible Project” videos corresponding to the books being studied. Also, watch the “Bible Project” videos on Biblical topics especially relevant to some bit of the text being read. Also, watch the David Pawson lectures on the Bible, and perhaps some others.
  • Finally, I will probably also keep writing occasional blog posts about theological matters.

What follows are some instructions for doing this.

The Reading Plan and Group

We are following the “Solid Life ‘Whole Bible’ Reading Plan.” This involves reading the OT in a year while reading the NT twice. The OT is read chronologically, so that books will be rather different from their usual order; for example, we will read the first ten chapters of Genesis, then read the book of Job, and then come back to Genesis. Psalms is spread out throughout the year.

Here are instructions for joining us:

  1. Download the YouVersion Bible app (one of the most popular Bible reading apps).
  2. Make a YouVersion account on the app or on Bible.com, if you don’t have one already.
  3. Only then, click here to join us, make sure you’re logged in using your new account.

Your basic task is to do the reading…and check it off when you’re done. You can do that by selecting Plans at the bottom of the mobile app screen, tapping the Solid Life plan, tapping the number of the day you’re working on (if necessary; if you’re keeping up, you’ll be there automatically), then pressing the circle next to the bit of the Bible you have just read. Another way is to tap the chapter (e.g., “Genesis 1”), read the selection there, when you’re done, either swipe left to go to the next chapter in the Reading Plan, or press the little right arrow, on the bottom right of the screen.

We can discuss the day’s reading simply and informally via the mobile app (and also on Bible.com using your computer). You don’t have to discuss the day’s reading that way, but you certainly can. I will use that interface by way of making group announcements, and you can do the same.

Here’s how to get to the discussion thread in the app:

  1. Open the app.
  2. Click on Plans at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Tap the “Solid Life” plan.
  4. Make sure you see a square around the current day. For example, on the first day of the reading, Mar 18, you should see “1” and “Mar 18”.
  5. At the bottom of the list, you will see “Talk It Over”. Tap on it: that’s where we’re talking.

Handy notes on using the YouVersion Bible app:

  • You can change your preferred transation by pressing the abbreviation of the translation at the top of the screen (e.g., “KJV” or “NIV”).
  • If, in the list of Versions, you see a speaker icon, that version comes with a free audio version.
  • To play the audio version, go to any page of the Bible and press the same speaker icon in the upper right of the screen.
  • More instructions on YouTube!

How I Read Commentary

I don’t know about you, but I find the Bible frequently confusing. Names, places, concepts, etc., can be quite confusing in no small part because they reflect a quite foreign conceptual scheme. To help better understand the meaning of the text, I do two things.

First, I frequently look at alternative translations. This is especially harder if you use a more “literal” (word-for-word) translation of the text, like the KJV or NASB versions. The YouVersion Bible app makes this easy. Just tap a verse, then press “Compare.” Other Bible reading apps have a similar functionality, but this is one of the easier ones.

Second, I use commentaries and study Bibles. Unfortunately, the YouVersion Bible does not include any commentaries. But the Tecarta Bible app is one of the best for purposes of both reading the Bible and commentaries. The commentary I intend to focus on is the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, which is built into Tecarta for free. Another widely-recommended one, which I also recommend and use, is the ESV Study Bible (not sure how much it will cost you; $20?). Obviously, your taste, beliefs, and preparation may dictate other options to you.

The big advantage to reading commentaries on the Tecarta app is that it the commentary and the Bible text are matched. You can read them side-by-side (harder on a phone, easier on a tablet) very handily. Of course, there are plenty of other Bible study apps. You probably already have one you use, but I thought I’d share this just in case you didn’t.

Building Our Own Commentary Using Hypothes.is

OK, we’re not really building our own commentary, we are (or at least I am) selecting bits of the text and asking questions about it, and answering the questions ourselves or inviting others to help. This way we can have a more in-depth discussion of the text. I think it will be a very rewarding way to engage with the Bible. I hope you’ll join me.

How to join Hypothes.is and add or respond to Bible annotations:

  1. Make a Hypothes.is account: go to Hypothes.is and click “get started”.
  2. Go back to the “get started” page and install the Hypothes.is Chrome extension (using Chrome or any Chromium-based browser, such as Brave). Now your tech should be ready. You just need to know where to go and what to do. (Note, you can use Hypothes.is on mobile. Instructions below.)
  3. Go to the “Sanger Readers” group invitation link.
  4. From here you can click on any item in the “Matching Annotations” list and see an annotation I have made.
  5. Consider bookmarking the page you’re on. Then, click on “Visit annotations in context”. This brings up a BibleHub.com page.
  6. Almost ready now. On the sidebar (which Hypothes.is adds to the BibleHub.com page with the extension you installed in (2)), click on “Log in”. Probably, you will be automatically logged in; if not, put in your Hypothes.is username and password.
  7. You might be automatically switched to the Sanger’s Reader group. If so, then you will see an annotation or two of mine in the sidebar on the right. If you don’t see any annotations on the sidebar yet, then go to the top of the sidebar (still on the right) where you’ll see the word “Public.” Click it and then in the dropdown, click on “Sanger Readers”. Then some annotations should come up.
  8. To add an annotation yourself, go to any page (please stick to Bible chapter pages though, for consistency’s sake; and I’m using the NKJV), highlight some text with your mouse, and press Annotate.

Corresponding Videos

Even with a study Bible, if you do not get background under your belt, you will be greatly confused. I think there are at least two kinds of basic supplementary that you need to be exposed to, in order to make sense of the text: about the Bible’s theological concepts and about the books of the Bible generally speaking.

Here is a list of introductory lectures and videos. As with commentaries and study Bibles (not to mention translations), the choice of supplementary materials can be quite personal or “political” if you will. So, obviously, the following materials may not work for you. Take it as an example. There are a lot of free Bible study materials online.

Note: I have put my own video watching schedule online here. I’m not saying I’m going to watch all of that…but I might. Note also that “BP” stands for “Bible Project” (see below), “Pawson” means the two “Unlocking” series below, “Dust to Glory” is as it says, and “BiblicalTraining.org” is the “Old Testament Survey” videos. I am likely to update this.

OT only:

Unlocking the Old Testament, lectures by David Pawson, M.A. (in theology from Cambridge; pastor, chaplain, purportedly a Calvinist theologian), 60 lectures averaging around 35 minutes apiece, YouTube. ~35 hours. Looks very detailed, covers all major books (if not all of them, period). Biblical traditionalist (e.g., believes in eternal punishment in Hell).

Dust to Glory, lectures by R.C. Sproul, Ph.D. (and other degrees; distinguished and well trained, a true religious scholar), 30 lectures, about 25 minutes each. 12.5 hours. Not long, but I would expect them to be among the more erudite lectures about the Bible given from a Biblical/conservative Christian point of view.

Old Testament Survey, lectures by Douglas Stewart, Ph.D. (from Harvard, pastor, and professor at Gordon Conwell Seminary, a nondenominational evangelical seminary), 30 lectures, avg. 34 minutes per lecture. 17 hours. Billed as “advanced.”

Understanding the Old Testament, lectures by Robert D. Miller II, Ph.D. (Ordinary Professor of Old Testament at The Catholic University of America), The Great Courses Plus. 12 hours. This appears to be a scholarly introduction in 24 half-hour lectures—so, by itself not nearly enough. As such, it is not focused so much on strictly Biblical and traditional interpretations of theological questions, but it should give a great deal of reasonably sound background information. Seems to be a slightly broader survey of the OT than Levine’s course (see next).

The Old Testament, lectures by Amy-Jill Levine, Ph.D. (University Prof. Of NT and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School), The Great Courses Plus. 12 hours. In terms of perspective, everything I said about Miller’s course, above, applies here. Nearly a third of the course is about Genesis and half of the course is about the Pentateuch, leaving relatively little time for coverage of most of the OT.

NT only:

Unlocking the New Testament, lectures by David Pawson again, 38 lectures averaging around 38 minutes apiece, YouTube. ~19 hours. Looks to be similar to his OT lectures.

The New Testament, lectures by Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D. (from Princeton Theological Seminary, named professor at Chapel Hill), The Great Courses Plus. 12 hours. A scholarly and partly meta-study of the NT, covering the text to a certain extent and the context and side-issues almost as much. Point of view looks to be pretty liberal and possibly even skeptical.

Understanding the New Testament, lectures by David Brakke, Ph.D., M.Div. (from Yale, a historian, named chair at Ohio State!), The Great Courses Plus. 12 hours. A scholarly introduction to the NT, not in canonical order of the books in the NT but more focused on the text than Ehrman’s lectures. Based on a sampling of one lecture (about John), he seems to have contempt for traditional interpretations of the Bible and speaks only from and to an academic, rather than religious or ecclesiastical, point of view.

Both OT and NT:

The Bible Project, short but numerous videos by Tim Mackie (seminary professor) and Jon Collins (writer). Many hours of content all together, with separate videos on every book of the Bible, some books having several videos. There are also many excellent “explainer videos” about theological and Biblical concepts. The production values are quite excellent and, speaking as a homeschooling father and co-founder of WatchKnowLearn, I would count them among the better educational videos on any subject I have ever seen. The sensibilities are, theologically, neither quite conservative nor wholly liberal; they really do make a concerted effort to be all things to all people. One thing that allows them to do so is basically to be noncommittal on questions that divide conservatives and liberals and, as far as I can tell, to sidestep many questions entirely.

Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, lectures by Chuck Missler (no special religious training, just a lot of Bible teaching), 24 lectures averaging around an hour, YouTube. ~24 hours. Without special training, as popular as Missler is, I’m not sure this really counts as a standout.

Thru the Bible, audio talks by J. Vernon McGee, Th.D. (from Dallas Theological Seminary). 23 hours on Genesis alone, so, too much. Since he averages about 25 minutes per chapter of the Bible (if not more), it would require 90-120 minutes of extra time just listening to McGee to keep up with this while reading the Bible daily. So, no. Maybe at some later date.

The Whole Story, sermons by Scott Smith at Wellspring Church. 33 hours (when finished). The two problems here are that these are not primarily Bible studies or scholarly lectures, but sermons by a pastor speaking before his congregation of regular folks, and (of more practical importance) he is covering the Bible in order meaning he won’t start going through the New Testament until a good ways into the 12-month period, but we’ll be reading the NT twice, indeed beginning on the first day.