I recently heard some commendable words regarding James Martin Gray’s book, “How to Master the English Bible.” Since it was published in 1907, it is in the public domain and can be read for free here. So, I tracked down an electronic copy and read the first paragraph out loud to my wife. It was so intriguing that I read the next paragraph to her. Then, the next page and the next chapter, and eventually I read the entire book to her. (It’s a short book–less than 100 pages).
Gray makes the argument that the best way to master the Bible is to read it. The failure of many is that they read too many books about the Bible, while not reading the Bible itself. Another common failure is to focus one’s study to narrowly without keeping the whole in mind. So, he encourages the repeated reading of the same book of the Bible until its contents become well-known. Then, press on to the next book and read it over and over again until it becomes familiar. Continue to do this throughout the entire Bible. When finished, you will be a master of the English Bible. It is then, and only then, Gray argues, that you are prepared to really study it. If that last sentence had you scratching your head, consider Gray’s words, …
There is a sense in which the Bible must be mastered before it can be studied, and it is the failure to see this which accounts for other failures on the part of many earnest would-be Bible students. I suppose it is something like a farm; for although never a farmer myself, I have always imagined a farmer should know his farm before he attempted to work it. How much upland and how much lowland? How much wood and how much pasture? Where should the orchard be laid out? Where plane my corn, oats, and potatoes? What plot is to be seeded down to grass? When he has mastered his farm he begins to get ready for results from it.
As I reflect upon my own reading and studying of the Bible, his method rings true to me. In my study of the Bible, the most beneficial thing for me has been the reading and re-reading and re-reading (and yes, even memorizing) books of the Bible until their contents have become second nature. I have then turned my attention to another book of the Bible and repeated the process. … I can’t wait until I’m ready to really study it!