Saturday, January 27, 2007

Book Review: How to Master the English Bible by James M. Gray

Semicolon referred to an article in her blog which really captured my interest. Entitled "How to Change Your Mind", the article outlines an approach to Bible study known as the synthetic method. The inverse of studying verse-by-verse, the synthetic method calls for reading a book of the Bible in its entirety at one sitting. Over the course of a month, this is repeated at least twenty times. The goal is to master the content; to understand the big picture, purpose and theme of a particular book.

One of the reasons I was so interested was because this was the method of scriptural study advocated by the most godly woman I ever knew. An elderly woman, Mrs. Hannah mentored my husband and me when we were but newlyweds in our mid 20's. She positively radiated love and was a vibrant, intelligent conversationalist. Often, she encouraged us to choose a book of the Bible and to read it over and over again until it became a permanent possession of the heart. The pages of her own Bible were tear-stained; the proof of the suffering she had endured as a young woman when it had been her lot to become a bride, a mother, and a widow all within the space of one short year.

I have used Mrs. Hannah's secret of Bible study on occasion; especially when preparing a series of lessons for speaking. I have found it to be fruitful and fulfilling. So why haven't I made it my long term goal to study each and every book of the Bible in this way? I am ashamed that I have held this simple secret so long and done so little with it.

The women's Bible study that I lead will be using the synthetic approach this year instead of studying verse-by-verse, as has been our practice. I think both methods have merit; but it seems for me the time has come to complement the one with the other. Short books of the Bible are the obvious choice for beginning. We have completed the book of Ephesians this month and will go on to study Colossians next time.

My Bible study journey has led me to a resource which nicely describes the blessings, benefits, and means of studying synthetically. Entitled How to Master the English Bible by James M. Gray, it is a quick read (69 pages). Written in 1904, used copies are easy to find. A new paperback edition is also available from Amazon.

James M. Gray, the author of How to Master the English Bible, was a contemporary of D.L. Moody and was invited by Moody to teach this method of Bible study to his congregation. Classes became so popular that they engaged up to 4,000 participants. Apparently, there was much fruit in those days. I long to see that kind of hunger for God's Word in our times, don't you?

Lord, make me hungrier still for Your Living Word.

Another excellent review of the book may be found here.

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