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Bible Alive Aloud
Reading the Whole Bible Outloud as a Community

          Ruth Musical           Lynn Maudlin           Blue Letter Bible

Did you know that you can read the entire Bible outloud in approximately 75 hours? It's true— in 1985 Lauralee Maudlin conceived of a program called Bible Alive Aloud in which members of the congregation signed up to read half-hour portions of specific verses at a specific time. They started at noon on Palm Sunday, 1986, and read until 6:00 p.m. that day; they continued Monday through Saturday of Holy Week, starting at 6:30 a.m. and ending each evening at 6:00 p.m. They read 150 half-hour segments, Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21, not including the Apocrypha.

Lauralee's church did this every three years through 2001. Folks would come early and read before work, some came during their lunch hours. The church was open to the community for anyone who wanted to listen and there were occasionally as many as ten people simply listening. Lauralee made a point of being present for the entire reading; this way she could step in if someone was delayed or didn't show (a rarity!) and everyone had an "audience" appreciating their labor of love.

This project was always a blessing to the church. It does require that someone will act as the coordinator (ideally a lay-member of of the congregation, since clergy is usually overloaded with responsibilities) and facilitate the presentation: promoting the project, soliciting readers, keeping track, and providing oversight. Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday) is a good time to do it but a church could organize it around different dates and seasons to suit their own needs and schedule.

The breakdown of readings is here - it can be downloaded and printed, for use in signing people up for their 30-minute reading. In the years since, Lauralee has been reading the Bible outloud in fifteen-minute segments, keeping notes on the various versions (the Amplified Bible, since it adds many words, is obviously the major exception to the rule). We invite you to let us know if and when you present Bible Alive Aloud in your church or community; you can contact us here.

When you look at it this way, it's surprising that so many people are so daunted by the thought of reading the whole Bible in the course of a year. It's a great discipline and feeds our souls. Blue Letter Bible has an assortment of reading plans, in addition being an excellent free online resource (although they will gladly take donations to offset costs), with many translations, interlinear concordances, commentaries, and teaching aids, etc.

Observations from Lynn Maudlin:
One of the oddities of the Bible is that you shouldn't try to read it cover-to-cover like any other book, at least not the first time you read it (my suggestion: start with the gospel of Luke). But, ironically, it's a great way for serious Christians and Jews: start at Genesis 1 and read it straight through, read it quickly, at least half an hour or more at a sitting, like you would read a novel. And while reading the law (much of Exodus, most of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) it helps to ponder the world in which the Hebrews found themselves and how God set them apart and made them distinct from the surrounding peoples, by use of the law.

In the last decade or so I've been enjoying listening to the Bible via the Word of Promise Complete Audio Bible which employs a wonderful cast of actors and takes about 98 hours in its entirety (there are some sound effects and music added, which extends the length). Because of its size it used to download in 17 "parts" but now is apparently downloaded as a single enormous file, so it's hard to find specific locations within the Bible unless you have the breakdown by chapters or "parts" This breakdown by chapters also works for the excellent in-an-entirely-different way Complete Audio Bible recorded by David Suchet (yes, the actor who played Hercule Poirot for many years); he does a spectacular job reading the NIV (New International Version); this one runs about 83 hours.

A great related tool is Dr. Chuck Missler's Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, a tongue-in-cheek title to his excellent overview of the Bible; the 66/40 radio program occasionally podcasts parts of it. And my favorite website: Blue Letter Bible, with wonderful search tools and online concordance so you can follow a Hebrew word (or Greek, for the New Testament) through every occurrence in scripture.

One of my personal favorite ways to soak in God's word is to read the books of Proverbs and Psalms in full each month. This is easily done; Proverbs has 31 chapters so you read the chapter which corresponds to the day of the month and chapter 31 simply isn't read every month. The book of Psalms has 150 chapters (the Coptic church includes Psalm 151, as do most Catholic Bibles) so my preferred method is to read the psalm which corresponds to the day of the month, plus 30, 60, 90, and 120. So on the first, I read Psalm 1, Psalm 31, Psalm 61, Psalm 91, and Psalm 121. I save Psalm 119 (all 176 verses!) for the 31st of the month.

Why do I care? I grew up with computers as dinner table conversation but the Bible and church were the central core of our home life but the Bible got cut off at the knees in my early childhood; I'm not sure that all our ministers actually believed in Jesus as Savior: God-incarnate, sacrificed in our place to pay for our sins and make a way for humanity to be reconciled to a holy, righteous, perfect God. It wasn't until life started to smack me around the head that I realized I didn't have a saving faith; God graciously showed me the deeper way - and that opened the Bible to me. Suddenly, reading the Bible wasn't like eating sawdust, it was alive and vital. If you don't experience the Bible as alive and vital, I encourage you to pick it up (I recommend the New American Standard Bible as perhaps the most accurate modern translation but the best Bible translation is the one you actually read!) and ask God to open His word to you and open you to His word. That's a prayer He loves to answer!

House of Bread is a musical based on the Bible's book of Ruth written by Lynn Maudlin over the course of four years.

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