If my greatest reading accomplishment in 2020 was reading 100 books in a year, my reading accomplishment for 2021 was finally reading my entire Bibliotheca set in a little over nine months.
For those unfamiliar with Bibliotheca:
Bibliotheca is an elegant, meticulously crafted edition of the Bible designed to invite the reader to a pure, literary experience of its vast and varied contents.
The text is treated in classic typographic style, free of all added conventions such as chapter and verse numbers, section headers, cross-references, and marginalia.
I received the set way back in December of 2016 and despite picking it up on occasion never really read it in any serious way.
I don’t really have any deep spiritual/theological nuggets of wisdom to offer as my approach was really about getting lost in reading scripture as literature. So instead, allow me to offer my thoughts as tracked via Goodreads:
Volume I: The Five Books of Moses & The Former Prophets
I would give the design and materials of Bibliotheca 5 stars but I am not going to lie, by the end of this volume I was slogging through the kings and their continued insistence on doing evil in the sight of God. Seems almost sacrilegious to give the Bible 3 stars but hard to say “I really liked it” given the content… ;-)
A few things struck me while reading in this format: it really reads like the ancient text that it is, there is a lot of violence, and there is very little obvious doctrine or theology. My perspective leans heavily in this direction, but I was struck by the narrative drive of scripture. It is about the relationship of the people of Israel with their God. It is not abstract theology but often blunt and ugly history but with a God who is faithful.
Volume II: The Latter Prophets
Again, I feel sheepish “reviewing” the Bible but I have to say I am really enjoying Bibliotheca. Just a joy to hold and handle. They lay flat and are easy on the eyes. It was interesting to read the latter prophets in the second volume but once I got into a rhythm it was fine. I had to remind myself of the background of some of the lesser know prophets but in reading in large chunks without interruptions like verses, notes, etc. you begin to see the more natural style and syntax of the texts; a collection of oracles. And you see the pattern of YAWH calling his people to faithfulness and to a return to the land but the suffering of punishment that will come first as a result of their idolatry and straying. You can feel the tension that is there in the New Testament as well; will God be faithful and rescue his people.
Volume III: The Writings
It really has been a joy working my way through the Bibliotheca collection. Beautiful books with a nice heft, beautiful design, and perfect for reading and eliminating distractions. I feel like I have improved in my ability to concentrate and read for larger chunks of time. One thing that struck me was the constant cycle of God’s people praising him for His loving kindness and forgiveness only to go right back to their sinful ways and reap the consequences. Rinse, repeat as they say. On to the Apocrypha!
Volume IV: The Books Commonly Called Apocrypha
First time reading the apocrypha so that was interesting in itself. Wisdom literature is hard to read in large chunks. Reading the Book of the Maccabees was fascinating and a little disturbing. Just the NT left to accomplish my goal of reading Bibliotheca this year.
Volume V: The New Testament
Well, I read the entire Bible plus Apocrypha in a little over nine months so I got that going for me… 😀
The NT is much easier to read in large chunks than other sections. I was particularly struck by how easy it was to read the epistles in one sitting.
Committing to reading large chunks of the Bible everyday in this format was easier than I thought once I got into the habit. Highly recommended. Bibliotheca is such a joy to read. The way it feels, how easy it is on your eyes, the way it removes distractions, great way to read ancient literature.