Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Do You Prefer Your Bible Fast or Slow?


Despite the fact that it is probably the most read book on earth, one New Year's resolution many people have is to read the Bible, either all the way through, more, or some permutation thereof.  One way to do that is to pick up your Bible, or go to a website like and read.  Another way is to subscribe to one of many "readings of the day" email lists.  A way that has gained popularity the last few years is via podcast.  Today I'm going to review two podcasts I listen to--one fast and one slow.

The Ten Minute Bible Hour

The Ten Minute Bible Hour  is hosted by Matt Whitman.  According to what I've been able to figure out via Google, Matt used to be the pastor of an Evangelical Free Church.  He was a history major at Trinity College in Chicago, and then went to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  Now he is a podcaster, Youtuber and speaker.  

In The Ten Minute Bible Hour podcast, Matt is going through the book of Matthew, one piece at a time.  How long is a "piece"? It depends, but anywhere from a sentence to a paragraph, or sometimes he takes a bigger chunk but spends more than one day on it.  To put things in perspective, the podcast is now on episode 298 and he is on Matthew 13:24-30, the parable of the wheat and tares, and this is the second day he is talking about it.  The podcast has five episodes per week, and Matt takes off for a week when there are five Mondays in a month. 

Matt's background as a historian comes out in that he is purporting to tell us how the original audience would have received this text--both the original audience who heard Jesus and the audience who first read Matthew.  What he does not do is follow up with "and here is what it means for you today and what you should do about it".   He mostly leaves listeners to draw their own conclusions about the message that passage has for them.  It's Matt's basic thesis that Jesus came to establish a new Kingdom with new "Kingdom Values" as listed in the beatitudes.  

I've been listening to this podcast from the beginning and it has given me historical insight into Matthew and the Bible in general that I did not previously have. 

Matt generally starts the podcast with a life story or similar and then says "Likewise, in Matthew chapter..." He can be funny at times and serious at others.  Each episode is about 10 minutes long.  

Matt Whitman is also a Youtuber.  His channel is called The Ten Minute Bible Hour, though most of the episodes go well over ten minutes.  He has done video series on the Book of Luke and on The Acts of the Apostles.  He has also covered various topics related to reading the Bible and Bible versions, but my favorite of his videos cover his visits to various churches.  He has toured and spoken with clergy from Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist and Assembly of God churches (and probably some other ones I can't remember off the top of my head).  He also has a series where he speaks with a Catholic theologian from a college near his home.  

Fr. Mike Schmitz:  Bible in a Year

The Bible in a Year podcast of Fr. Mike Schmitz moves through the Bible much more rapidly that Matt Whitman does.  It follows Jeff Cavin's Great Adventure reading plan. The basic thesis of the plan is that the Bible is the story of our salvation history, and that rather than trying to read it from front to back, to put things in the proper context we need to read by historical periods.  The first such period is "pre-history" and covers the first few books of Genesis, through the tower of Babel.  The second is "the patriarchs" and goes through the end of Genesis.  

Each day's episode is 20-30 minutes long and in it Fr. Mike reads from the narrative books and some complimentary texts from elsewhere in the Bible.  You can download a copy of his reading plan.  In the episode I listened to today, he read from Genesis, Job and Proverbs. 

Fr. Mike reads quickly and well.  Following the reading, he gives a short reflection which pulls a lesson from the text.  In response to the story of the Tower of Babel, he talked about the difference between striving for excellence and striving for glory.  With respect to the story of Job, and Abram, he talked about trusting God.  

Before beginning each of these historical periods, Fr. Mike is going to have Jeff Cavins, who developed the Great Adventure series, on for a "bonus" episode where they give an overview of what to expect during that time  

Fr. Mike is also on YouTube and when my high school daughter walked in on my tonight when I was listening to him, she said she thought she recognized the voice--her religion teacher uses his videos in her class.  I've watched a few and they are interesting and engaging.  

My Comments:

I'm enjoying both of these podcasts.  If you happen to be like I was not too long ago, and need to know what a podcast is or how to access it, podcasts are pre-recorded audio programs that are uploaded to internet sites so that you can download them and listen to them when you want. You can use any number of apps to do so--I use Spotify, but you can use Stitcher or Google Play or .....

Listening to Fr. Mike read is like listening to an audiobook and it slows me down, as opposed to the speed at which I read to myself.  I like his reflections and I feel reasonably confident that what I'm hearing from him comports with Catholic teaching.  

On the other hand, I've never delved as deeply into any book of the Bible as I have into the book of Matthew during the last thirteen months.  I've learned about Pharisees, about Capernaum,  about the organization of Matthew around four big speeches by Jesus and even about the acoustics that would have helped Jesus be heard when he went a short way offshore in a boat to speak.  

I'm sure Matt's beliefs color some of his interpretation, but he's pretty open about when he is interpreting.  He purports to be talking to people who are "all in" to Christianity and to those who are interested in the Bible but don't believe there is a God behind it, and to be leaving it up to us what to make of it.  

In short, I recommend both these podcasts for different reasons and give them both and "A".  

I have received no compensation for writing this review--and you can get your free review copy of either or both podcasts simply by downloading them--actually there is no charge for either one whether you review them or not.  Matt would like you to support  him on and I'm sure Fr. Mike (or more precisely the sponsor of the podcast, Ascension Press) would like it if you would purchase Great Adventure Bible materials.  I reviewed some years ago. 

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