The Bible is the word of God, but can’t speak to you through it unless you pick it up and read it. Unfortunately, picking up and reading the Bible isn’t easy. For one thing, most Bibles run more than a thousand pages. Additionally, the design of the Bible—two columns, chapter and verse numbers, cross-references references, and footnotes—makes the Bible feel more like an academic textbook than a life-giving text. And those problems pale in comparison to the complexity of reading God’s word itself, which is composed of 66 books by multiple authors written originally in three different languages between 2000–3000 years ago!
To help people read the Bible more easily, Tyndale House Publishers partnered with the Institute for Bible reading to produce Immerse: The Reading Bible. Immerse breaks the Bible up into six volumes:
- Messiah: Matthew–Revelation
- Beginnings: Genesis–Deuteronomy
- Kingdoms: Joshua–2 Kings
- Prophets: Isaiah–Malachi
- Poets: Job–Lamentations
- Chronicles: 1 Chronicles–Nehemiah, Daniel
Immerse recommends starting with Messiah, the New Testament, then moving through the sections of the Old Testament. The Hebrew Bible is typically divided into Law, Prophets, and Writings, and Immerse groups the Old Testament into that order: Law (Beginnings), Prophets (Kingdoms and Prophets), and Writings (Poets and Chronicles).
Immerse uses the New Living Translation of the Bible, which is geared for ease of reading in English. On the scale between formal equivalence (word-for-word translations) and functional equivalence (thought-for-thought), the NLT is on the functional equivalence side of the spectrum. This makes is especially helpful for first-time Bible-readers.
Each volume in the series provides a short introduction to the volume as a whole, as well as short introductions to the books of the Bible in that volume. Each volume concludes with a brief essay on how the Bible works, alongside another on the Bible’s literary forms.
To make the Bible-reading experience feel more like reading a normal book, Immerse presents the biblical text in single-column format. Additionally, it moves chapter and verse numbers from the text to the header, and eliminates cross-references and footnotes entirely.
One of the most innovative things the book does is change the order of the books. This isn’t apparent in Beginnings,Kingdoms, and Chronicles, where canonical order follows chronological order. It is very apparent in Prophets and Messiah, however.
Prophets presents the writing prophets in rough chronological order. It divides them into four categories: prophetic writings (1) before the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, (2) after Israel’s fall but before the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah, (3) during the period of Judah’s fall and the Babylonian exile, and (4) after the return of a Judean remnant from exile.
Messiah groups New Testament books around the four Gospels. Luke-Acts comes first, and is paired with Paul’s epistles, which are presented in chronological order. The reason for this is that Luke was the companion of Paul. Mark is presented with 1–2 Peter and Jude, largely because of the association of Mark and Peter. Matthew is presented with Hebrew and James, largely because they all are explicitly written for Jewish Christians. And John is presented with 1–3 John and Revelation.
For me, the advantage of grouping the New Testament books this way is that Luke is connected with Acts, which is how Luke wrote it; you don’t have the repetitive experience of reading the synoptic Gospels one after the other; and, especially with regard to Paul’s epistles, you’re forced to encounter them in a new way. As it is, they are currently arranged by length, so arranging them in rough chronological order makes sense.
Although I am reading each volume as an individual, Immerse is designed for churches, Sunday school classes, small groups, and/or book clubs to read corporately. Each volume comes with a card that has a “Quick Start Guide” on one side, and a “8-Week Reading Plan” on the other. The reading plan has four questions about the week’s readings that groups can discuss.
If you have never read the Bible, Immerse is a good way to dive into it. Start with Messiah, then follow the order of the remaining five volumes. If you’re a veteran Bible reader like me, consider reading Immerse as a way of approaching the Bible from the perspective of a different translation and ordering of the biblical books.
Immerse: The Reading Bible, Vol. 2, Beginnings (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017).
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