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How and in what order should a pastor read the books of Holy Scripture, so that he is rightly adept for

his office?
(A conference paper, submitted by resolution of the concerned conference.) Since Scripture is the only means that can instruct a person unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every sent good work, then this means should be used diligently and constantly by all mankind. Therefore it is written in Colossians 3[:16]: "Let the Word of Christ dwell among you richly in all wisdom." This is said to all Christians, even to craftsmen and laborers. God's Word should not be unknown among Christians, not be a strange guest, no, it should dwell among them and therefore be well known to all; everyone should handle it daily, read it, to hear or contemplate, let it be read aloud or read it to others or teach it or preach it. God says to His children Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-7: "These words that I give you, you should take to heart. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." It is impressed upon Joshua: "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night." And it says in Psalm 1:2: "Blessed is he who has his delight in the Law of the Lord, and speaks about His Law day and night!" What is so necessary in this regard for every Christian is certainly doubly necessary for every servant of Christ, for a public preacher of the Word. He should be adept not only by the constant use of the Word of God to walk the path of life blamelessly, but also to teach others this way. Therefore the holy apostle Paul calls out to [Timothy]: "Persist with reading!"1 Therefore he should persistently read Holy Scripture. The question now is: How should a preacher read the Scriptures? Where should he begin? But which part of Scripture should he read above all others or at first? Or how the question was really asked: How and in what order should a preacher read and study the books or parts of Holy Scripture in order to be rightly adept for his Office? The conference has instructed me with the answer to this question and wished that at the same time Dr. James M. Gray's "Method How to Master the English Bible" be used. But much of the answer depends upon what purpose or what specific goal the pastor has in mind. If one has set the goal to be a true Bible scholar who can master Scripture, "to master the Bible", as Dr. Gray calls it, then there is hardly a better way that which he advises: to read Holy Scripture from beginning to end, and indeed often, to read very often, and to read in such a way that one always takes a book in front of him and not go on any farther until one entirely possesses the book in question. For whomever this way is possible, it will be worthwhile for him. But I was afraid that there are not many even among pastors who can take this approach with success. A memory, as not everyone has it, would be required for that. Dr. Gray says on

1 Timothy 4:13.

page 21: "The plan was to read and reread each book by itself and in its order, as though there were no other in existence, until it has become a part of the very being."2 And previously he had said how he did it: "I read Genesis through in the English at a single reading, and then repeated the process again and again until the book in its great outlines had practically become mine." That sounds very nice. I will gladly believe that Dr. Gray is honest and does not exaggerate; but for the small amount of my comprehension what he says is still almost too much. However, there are always exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions really should not be established as a rule. I will say that there are heroes who can achieve more than other ordinary children of men. But those who cannot ask, also did not expect that these choose to follow them. Dr. Gray, as far as his reading, must be such a hero, to which not many can emulate. I speak from my humble experience. I have read through Genesis, as the Old Testament, more than fifty times (the New Testament certainly much more often), but have never managed the single reading through of Genesis in one sitting, but in the process stopped and started again probably five or six times. How one can read five or six hours without interruption, without tiring, is not clear to me. I have always needed five or six days for that, in order to read through Genesis only once, i.e. about a week. And if I had read through it four times, according to Dr. Gray's method, i.e. after the end of a month, I would still not hold it as Dr. Gray himself claims it and I also gladly believe that he has also really accomplished it. But now one considers that Genesis is one book of 65 canonical books of Holy Scripture.3 While some books are quite small, others are even bigger and more difficult than the first book of Moses, for example the third and the fifth book of Moses and other books. Anyway, it requires three to four years to read through all of Holy Scripture in the manner as specified, provided that one can use no more than one hour a day on it. But suppose one also adds that one must repeat what they read from time to time in order not to forget it. But what has been said is sufficient in order to show that the Bible is a fountain that cannot be exhausted overnight, not to mention by a deeper entering into the sense of Holy Scripture. Far be it from me to want to take courage and boldness from someone by the properly accomplished description to read diligently Holy Scripture. This also has no danger to those who have diligently and persistently already begun to read Holy Scripture. For Holy Scripture is a book that the more one reads it, the better it reads again, a true honeysuckle. The saying: "Those who eat me will hunger for more"4 applies to Scripture. I wanted to seek to prevent by my argument only this: that, on the one hand, one does not build castles in the air and, on the other hand, is not despondent when one sees that one simply cannot do that which another boasts. Whoever can be able to do it can perhaps amount to something. But I consider that fact that when the Savior says in Matthew 13:52: "Every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old" He must not have thought it necessary only to those teachers of the law who are teachers of the Law according to Dr. Gray's method. Not everything fits precisely for everyone. Even Scripture itself does not claim that one must do the same, but only claims
2 3

All quotes from Dr. Gray are in English in the original. DMJ Evidently the presenter must not hold that Revelation or another book is canonical Scripture. DMJ 4 Sirach 24:21 (v. 28 in German).

that we read and study it in the fear of God with prayer, devotion, and diligence, and thereby calling on God for enlightenment through the Holy Spirit. The phrase: "how to master the Bible"5 sounds a bit strange, but is surely meant well. He certainly will not say that people would be allowed to behave as masters of Scripture and to set themselves over Scripture, as the higher and, for that matter, the highest critics do, who cut Holy Scripture, as the tailor cuts a piece of cloth in order to make it a tuxedo, then a man can cover his nakedness with it. Dr. Gray will surely say only this: We should thus acquaint and familiarize ourselves with Holy Scripture that we are quite at home with it and always have it close at hand whenever a serious and difficult question comes to us. The equally serious question comes to an upright preacher: How am I adept to administer my Office so beneficially as it is only ever possible? How do I learn the most from Holy Scripture? What book of the Bible should I read first, and then what? One cannot give an answer to this question that would be fit for everyone. For we do not all have the same needs in equal measure, not all have the same knowledge. One lacks more in one respect, the other in another. But again we presume it the case that one memorizes and wants to make his own as soon as possible the chief characteristics of upright preachers and pastors6. He makes a beginning with the letters of St. Paul to Timothy. He reads and studies it with devotion, and indeed often, until the contents are his own. He also at the same time underlines the most important words or sections, for example, 1 Timothy 1:12 for his consolation and also as a warning, and 1 Timothy 1:14-16, where the main content of a good sermon is given, 1 Timothy 2:1, from which one sees that one has to begin first of all with prayer if one wants to have blessing on his work. He should memorize well the third chapter from the first verse to the last. He should then underline chapter 4:11-16; 5:19-21; 6:11-14, 20; 2 Timothy 1:7-14; 2:1-4, 7-8, 14-16, 24; 3:14-17; 4:1-2, 5, 7. Note for Chapter 2:1. A preacher who does not exercise himself in prayer above all things, will be either a reckless boy or a wretched man, he should study what and how much he always would. A true preacher must above all things and first of all pray, first for himself, when he reads and studies the Scriptures, when he prepares his sermon, when he ascends the pulpit and opens his mouth, when he practices private pastoral care or otherwise wants to perform an official act. But he should also pray for other people, in particular for those who are under his pastoral care, whether they are high or low, old or young. If he does not pray, then he is not surprised when he, despite his ongoing reading, does not have much success. A preacher watched a man who knocked stones with astonishment and then said to his companion: "How easily the man smashes the hard stones that they are suitable, as I often with the greatest difficulty can smash a heart." "Yes", said the companion, "but the man also does his work on his knees." The preacher understood the hint and took it to heart. Now if one has completely appropriated the two epistles to Timothy and now wants to learn in particular the art to extol God's grace rather sweetly and lovely, then he should read and study further the epistle to Titus in the same way. And in order to be able rightly to comfort

5 6

In English in the original. DMJ Seelsorgers.

repentant sinners, he should yet add 2 Corinthians and the Gospel according to St. John, as well as 1 Peter. If one has set himself a goal to improve in eloquence, then he should read Ecclesiastes and Isaiah. Or if one wants to become rightly adept publicly to lead prayer, so that even the hearts of the hearers are swept away for prayer, then he should read the Psalms, particularly the Psalms of Prayer and Thanksgiving, as well as the prayers of other children of God that are recorded in Scripture, for example, the prayers of Moses, Jeremiah, Daniel, Nehemiah, and quite in particular the Model Prayer7 and the High Priestly Prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ. Another has perhaps contemplated Dogmatics and would like to be very firm in it, particularly in the important doctrines of justification, conversion, election from grace and in other doctrines. Such a person first of all reads Galatians, then Romans. Yet another is perhaps shy of the cross; he is startled when he thinks about the possible consequences of his preaching or of his actions that he establishes according to God's Word, but would like to be brave against persecutors. Well then, he should study, besides the history of Christ's suffering and death, the passion history of Moses, Daniel, and other men of God. Holy Scripture is equal to a pharmacy, in which is found all sorts of healing medications, but that may be found by the one who is like him, who is familiar with the entire layout of the pharmacy, but not by the one who only knows one subject in it. Therefore the Savior says, "Search the Scriptures!" without telling us in what book or chapter we might find Him. Holy Scripture is not like a catalog in which individual things are sorted alphabetically and therefore are easy to find. Holy Scripture is like a orchard, in which there are all kinds of good fruit. It is not like an exchange bank with a full coin holder, but an extensive gold mine that has the advantage that its treasures are not so soon out of stock. In order to summarize it all over again, beginners would thus be given this advice: After one thus knows the four Gospels, that one is really familiar with the person and with the life and work of our Savior, whose words he also has appropriated, then one begins his further study of Scripture with 1 and 2 Timothy, then adds Titus and 1 Peter. Then one takes Galatians up to 2 Thessalonians, then 2 Corinthians, in order rightly to practice in consolation. Thereupon one might study Romans in order to exercise himself in the dogmatics and rhetoric of God, but above all in self-knowledge that one is nothing in himself, but all the good things one has, he owes to the unmerited grace of God. Further, it is strongly recommended to every pastor that he cursorily reads, in addition to the specific study of individual parts of Holy Scripture, specifically every book, one after another, beginning with Genesis and closing with Revelation, in order to be able to start again with Genesis. This reading should be regularly every day wherever possible. For if one runs up several days, then the danger exists that one strays entirely from it. The following plan is recommended for this reading of Holy Scripture. One buys himself a book that is marked with the alphabet so that one can access any letter with one's finger as soon as one opens the book. One thus lays this book next to him or before him on the table so that one can open it easily while reading. Then when one maintains devotional reading of Scripture often and asks himself: What does this place, this chapter, or this verse contain? To what end can I use it? Then one briefly writes what he finds in the respective letter section and thereby points to the location.

Mustergebete = The Lord's Prayer.

Thus one can collect a treasure that is more precious than the best lexicon. Because in such work the matter comes not only in a book, but it also impresses itself on the mind and on the memory better than it could be done elsewhere. But this perhaps really no longer belongs to my task, and I will therefore close here. A more skillful man may solve the problem in a better way. God must also give the right knowledge of the Bible. C. Steege8

A Rev. C. Steege was Pastor of Immanuel Church, East Dundee, IL in 1911. This could be the same man. DMJ