Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Recommendation

I've been reading a lot more this year. These things are cyclical: I go months without picking up a book, then I pound out several in a flurry of prosaic activity. Even my Bible reading is that way.

At any rate, I decided to finish Volume 25 of Darby's Collected Writings, so I've been working at it off and on since February. Vol. 25 is an "expository" volume, so it's mainly exposition of Scripture. I find topical writing a lot easier to read, but I've been reading Darby in order, so I just had to muscle through it.

I'm glad I did.

The last two "articles" in the book are an exposition of John's gospel (Part 1, and Part 2) and "Meditations on the Acts of the Apostles" (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 , and 5).

These are well worth the read.

It's interesting that my actual Bible reading caught up with me on this one. So I read the "Meditations on the Acts of the Apostles" today, having read Acts last weekend. And I started reading Darby's notes on John just before I read John, and finished a few days after I finished it.

What I love about reading Darby is, he really knows his Bible. Inevitably when I read Scripture I sit upright and say, "I didn't know it said that." I mean, every time. You'd think by now I'd know what it says. But Darby always seems to hit that phrase or verse I didn't know existed.

So when I was asked a few weeks back about when specifically Paul was wrong, and I responded: "I realize I'm in a minority here, but I've examined this one time and again, and I keep concluding that he should have left well enough alone." It turns out I'm in good company.

This last read through Acts, I noticed Acts 21:4, "And having found out the disciples, we remained there seven days; who said to Paul by the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem." Notice the disciples by the Spirit told Paul not to go to Jerusalem. But Paul goes anyway, and it all unravels from there. So I'm still sure Paul was wrong to claim his Roman citizenship, and he was definitely wrong to rail against the high priest. But really, the root cause was that he went to Jerusalem in the first place. Darby notices this, and really demonstrates how this mis-step leads Paul into several problems. But at the same time, he points out God's sovereignty in the whole situation, and Paul's courage and faithfulness when caught in a bad situation; even though it was his own fault.

But even disregarding the last few chapters, it's worth reading this paper. It's not too obtuse, even though it's long.

In his comments on John, he makes some interesting conclusions about John 21 with regard to the roles of the Apostles. I noticed several years ago that John really wraps up the Apostolic era by writing the last seven epistles to the seven churches in Asia. Paul had been in Ephesus for three years, and had written at least two epistles to Ephesus (Ephesians and 1 Timothy, possibly 2 Timothy); and we know from Colossians 4 that the Laodiceans were in possession of at least one, probably two of his epistles. So they were Paul's turf, so to speak.

Darby notices this too, and points out the unique character of John's epistles as being the epistles of the "last days". Paul looked forward to the "last days" in Acts 20 and 2 Timothy. John wrote during those last days, exhorting and encouraging us who live in them. (As a side note, I equated the "last days" in Hebrews 1 with the "last days" in 1 John a couple years ago, but I now think I was wrong. I think Hebrews is talking about something else.) I found Darby's comments on this very insightful, if not very detailed. I intend to look more into this later.

Finally, I finished reading my Bible today. I get to start a new Bible reading project now, which is always exciting. I have an idea what I want to do next, but I want to consider it very carefully before going public. I'm making it a policy to read each of my Bibles through from Genesis to Revelation at least once... I still have a couple I haven't read through completely, but I think I'm going to go back to my ESV for this next round. I've already read it through once, but I want to use it for my next experiment. Of all my bibles, it's the easiest to read. Not the best to study from by any stretch, but the easiest to just sit and read several chapters at a time.

I essentially stopped "Bible study" several years ago in favour of reading from Genesis to Revelation very quickly and repeating the process. I've tried to read through every year, with mixed success. I once read Philippians through Revelation in a single sitting: that might have been too fast.

I've found reading as much as I possibly can in a single sitting is invaluable to really understanding what the Book says. I keep a pencil crayon with me and mark up the pages madly. It's a lot easier to see connections between passages when I read them in large chunks. This way I haven't forgotten what Ezekiel says by the time I get to Romans.

George Mueller supposedly read his Bible four times a year. I've never gotten anything like that pace.

No comments: