My Lenten reading was going to be Paul Johnson's book, Jesus. But it turned out to be written at a 6th grade level and very simplistic. I suppose it would be useful to someone who didn't know what Christianity is all about. And come to think of it that would probably be more than half the population of the US.
Johnson counts things, like parables - so many in Mark, so many in Matthew. And miracles. And how many times Jesus told the person whom he was healing or raising from the dead that they weren't to tell anybody about the miracle. Johnson does explain differences in approach and in details between the gospels and lays out which ones tell what stories.
Most useful is his New Testament's 10 Commandments. The emphasis in Jesus' preaching is on mercy rather than the justice and punishment in the Old Testament. That's a bit of a generalization but he does a good job of showing exactly what Jesus did to demonstrate mercy. Mercy to everybody, including the Samaritans.
It took me about 24 hours to read Jesus. So I got thinking about what else I could read for Lent and it dawned on me that I would have been better off re-reading the Bible rather than Johnson's summing up. I usually read the daily lectionary but that is pretty broken up. It is time to re-read the whole Bible starting from page 1.
And that's what I'm doing. King James Version, of course. Starting with Genesis. There are so many lively stories in that first book. And so much memorable language. "And God created great whales." A favorite verse for New Bedfordites. "There were giants in the earth in those days." Rolvaag picked up on that one.
And the spiritual: "God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water but fire next time," which provided the title for the James Baldwin book of essays.
Resolution: I will not get bogged down in the begats and the detailed rules in the books ahead. Once I'm through the Pentateuch I'm home free.