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A Tremendous Undertaking

Have you ever considered reading the Bible? I don’t mean reading sections, but committing to reading it from cover to cover. I believe many people have thought about it! The sad reality is that many people don’t have the ambition to complete this task or have trouble getting started. It is a monumental task.

I have read the entire Catholic Bible! It took me at least two substantial attempts to accomplish this feat. I made my failed attempt back in the summer of 2006. During this try, I became bogged down in the book of Leviticus, which I will talk more about later. For many years I didn’t get back to the task until my dad found a Christmas idea on the internet in 2019.

Advent had started in 2019. Dad had read that the Gospel of Luke has twenty-four chapters. If a person started reading a chapter a day, and began on December 1st, they would finish reading the Gospel of Luke in time for Christmas. I was asked if I would be interested in doing that, and I was. Dad and I read a chapter a day, completing the Gospel of Luke on December 24th.

After finishing that task, we decided that we would continue to read books in the Bible. What we did was take turns selecting books to read. Such as before, we read a chapter a day. To help us out, I created a spreadsheet on my computer. It listed all the books in the Bible, and had a column where I typed the word, “yes” for all the books I read, and “no” for everything else. I also created a formula that would give me a percentage of the Bible that I had read. The formula was simply the number of books read divided by seventy-three, the total number of books in the Bible.

Eventually we decided that instead of reading one chapter a day, we would read three chapters a day. Dad also figured out that it made sense to read the books in order. This would help in references made to prior books. It would also put the events in perspective. Since I had completed the books of Genesis and Exodus, and part of Leviticus, we started with Numbers (early on I went back, and reread Leviticus in its entirety since I wasn’t sure how far I had actually read.) I found Numbers difficult to read because of all the names. Some Biblical names like Thomas, and David are classic, and are still common today. Other names, though common at the time the book was written, aren’t used today. I became bogged down pronouncing these names. This slowed down my reading.

Of course, this isn’t a new phenomenon. I had similar issues during World Cultures class back in 9th grade. The class featured the history of peoples from various countries. People from non-European places tended to have names that I had trouble pronouncing, and again it slowed down my reading of the text.

By the time Dad and I reached Deuteronomy, I was fatigued from reading the Bible. We were in the middle of a lockdown due to the pandemic, and my morale was down. I had been praying for an end of this pandemic, but of course my prayers weren’t answered. The pandemic is still going on, though better than back in 2020, and I guess we still don’t understand the purpose of it. Events that happen on Earth are God’s Will, thus they have a reason and purpose. Similarly, though we can influence what happens with the pandemic as well as our life, God ultimately makes the decision of when this pandemic will end. We may never know the purpose of it!

The book of Deuteronomy was basically a retelling of the book of Exodus, which I had read before. This part of Salvation history I was familiar with due to my previous attempt at reading the Bible as well as the Religious Education classes I was enrolled in as a child. I really wanted to read about later events of Samuel, and King David. We were reading the Bible in order for logical reasons, so I really didn’t want to stray from that. What happened then, was I took a break from reading the Bible; Dad continued along. I was having a personal struggle due to the pandemic.

Now it just happens that for my birthday that year, I received The Great Adventure Catholic Bible. My mom was in the process of becoming Catholic, and requested a new Bible of this type. She was Protestant before, and their Bible has only sixty-six books compared to the Catholic seventy-three. When looking through it, I liked the extra information this version offered, including information about key events, as well as how the events of Salvation history fit in with secular history. It even gives dates as of when events happened, both Biblical and some secular. I also received a nice green case to put my Bible in.

One day later in the summer, I decided to get back to reading the Bible. I started with the first book of Samuel as I thought the reading about Samuel and Eli was interesting from church. I continued reading the books in order from there. Eventually Dad and I were trying to figure out who was farther along in the project. By now we had decided that we wanted to finish at the same time. It was hard to tell who was ahead, as we were at different spots. Once I finished books such as Ezra and Nehemiah which told about the Israelites during the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, I went back and read Deuteronomy and the books about settling in the Promised Land. With the completion of the book of Ruth, I was caught up, and Dad and I moved along together. Both of us working on a similar goal helped keep each other accountable for completing our goal.

As the percentage of completion climbed into the eighties and nineties my motivation went way up. When we went on our cruise to the Bahamas, I took the Bible along, and continued to read daily.

During the eleventh hour I ran into a problem, that set me back for a while. In the evening of October 5th, I became sick. I was home for only a few days. I had a virus that had many of the symptoms of Covid-19. It was not Covid though. I took two Covid tests to make sure. Also, I retained my sense of smell and taste the whole time, and had no problems with breathing. For most of the month of October I felt terrible. I had no energy. Eventually, I finished the final book, Revelations in two sittings, reaching the goal. I finished the Bible! I completed a task that many people would like to do, but few actually get around to doing.

I told my priest and deacon about my accomplishment. My priest told me an interesting fact. Now in the Catholic Church, we read the readings and gospels in three cycles. Simply put it takes three years for the Church to get through all the readings. In the fourth year the cycle repeats itself. In the three-year cycle, we actually only read eighty percent of the Bible. So, most Catholics would only listen to eighty percent of the Bible through the span of three years!

For me, not all of the Bible read the same. Various books were written in different styles. I enjoyed the historical books of the Old Testament. I liked reading about Jesus’ life, and the founding of the Church in the New Testament. On the other side of the coin, I found books that were heavy in genealogy, and featured difficult names to be harder to read. Specific instructions I found tedious to read.

The book of Job had its own issue. The book itself was stylistically easy to read. It had a good flow, and didn’t take much time to read the chapters. What I found a challenge was the subject matter, since I found the book to be sad. A vast majority of the book was about Job’s challenges he was given, and his interaction with his friends. Only at the end when God saw Job’s steadfast faith, did the book become uplifting as God restored Job’s fortune. Job had proven himself where it mattered most!

There’s an interesting sidenote about the New Testament. The beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, also gave the narrative of Jesus’ birth. As Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I enjoy Christmas Eve Mass, this was an easy section to read. When I was reading this part, it made me think about listening to our priest reading the gospel to the congregation on Christmas Eve. I felt really good when I finished this part of my journey through the Bible. Mom said that I should have gone to bed for the night when I was feeling so good, as I often have sleeping issues. Unfortunately, I had a few other things to do, and completed them, causing me to get a “typical” night’s sleep for me, not the kind I could have had if I would have gone to bed when Mom suggested.

Something else that I enjoyed was recognizing the content from the readings and gospels in church, in their proper context in the Bible. It is one thing to listen to them at church, it’s another to come upon them in their natural position. Sometimes the wording was slightly different, though it was easy to know it was the same passage. It was also nice to know some of the extra details of pieces of text from the readings from when I read them in the Bible in their context.

So, in retrospect, reading the Bible was a journey for me, and a highly successful journey. It might have taken me well over a year, but I succeeded. I might have taken a long break in the middle of reading it, but I started back up. I took a few shorter breaks as well, but nothing similar to the one in the middle of 2020.

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