Pilgrim’s Progress

In case you have never read Pilgrim’s Progress, here is a nudge from me to put it on your reading list for 2010.  I’ve read it maybe five times, which is a pitiful showing compared to Charles Spurgeon who read it 100 times. It is considered among the top half-dozen books in the English language, and it has been translated into 120 languages. Dr. John Owen, the great Puritan theologian, was asked by Charles II how he could stand to listen to an illiterate tinker preach (Bunyan was a mender of pots), and Owen answered something like, “Could I possess the tinker’s abilities for preaching, I would willingly relinquish all my learning.” Next to the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress has outsold every other published work. So these facts alone should persuade you to read this important cultural and religious artifact.

Be careful that you don’t settle for a paraphrase or modernized edition that has messed around with the content rather than simply updating spelling or punctuation. (Banner of Truth had a nice hardback that they reprinted from an 1895 edition, but that is simply one of many possibilities.) And don’t give up after the first page or two. Stick with it and soon you will get the hang of the allegory. It is well worth it. Bunyan had a pastor’s heart, and he describes characters and situations common in every age. In other words, it is a spiritually rejuvenating and refreshing book, full of insight and encouragement. Which, judging from the way things are looking, we could all use.

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18 thoughts on “Pilgrim’s Progress

  1. Thank you for the reminder.

    There are certain books that I just love and need to read several times, and certainly I haven’t read this one (the full version) in a long time.

    Have a joyous reading!

  2. if anyone finds read Pilgrim’s Progress daunting, Hark has an AMAZING unabridged Audio Book – it has blessed our whole family tremendously!!! – great for long car rides!

  3. Thanks for the ideas Nancy and Annie, my kids really like audio books, we listen to them while we’re running errands. I’ll see if they can “follow” this (ages 5 & 9). My mom has the audio version and she’s coming to visit so I’d better go email her to stick it in her bag.

  4. My daughter and I are reading and discussing Pilgrim’s Progress together this year. It is so rich in wisdom that we can only take little bites at a time! The volume we use is a very old oversized one published in the 1800’s; it is complete and unabridged, has large easy-to-read print, and is filled with the most marvelous illustrations.

  5. My husband is taking our student ministry through Pilgrim’s Progress in preparation for our snow retreat where he’s going to be speaking on Bunyan’s life of faith. We are all really enjoying it! The poem at the beginning was the hardest part to get through, at least for me, and then I had to take a couple of days off before really starting or I kept trying to read the whole book like a poem, lol. Thanks for posting this!

  6. Oh, we’re using the Penguin Classics edition since the Banner of Truth one was a bit too expensive to purchase for all of our staff…it doesn’t seem modernized, but does anyone know for sure if it is or is not? It has some great illustrations as well.

  7. I know that it is a great Christian work, but do you honestly think that Pilgrim’s Progress has outsold the Illyad, the Odyssey or the Koran?

  8. Valerie, thanks for the audio link!

    This book was read to me once in fourth grade, but I’ve never read it myself. Terrible. And my husband even teaches a segment on this book in his class, so I really have no excuse. Time to plug in the iPod and give it a listen.

  9. our church ladies’ book club is reading it right now. we plan cap it off with a listen to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ opera Pilgrim’s Progress. his melodies/harmonies express the emotions, dangers, and joys of Christian’s journey so perfectly, and the text is pulled straight from the book. it’s one good way to get the book to sink down deep into your bones. hear a bit of it here:


  10. About kids being able to “follow” it, my first time was when I was three, and I adored it. My dad would read it aloud to us on Sabbath evenings while we ate yummy food. I think allegories sometimes come even easier to little kids, or they did to me anyway. When I read it myself several years later, it was like coming back to old dreams in real life.

  11. (Madeline Story: Daughter of Jenny)

    It is an amazing book! After reading the chapters assigned for Mrs. Wilson’s class, I would listen the the unabridged audio book version for the rest of the evening! So… enjoyable. Thank you John Bunyan and Mrs. Wilson!

  12. The Sr. Traditio students just finished reading Pilgrim’s Progress. I have to confess that I’ve only read abridgments up to this point and was surprised to find the original so taking. And it is an excellent read aloud: Bunyan had an attentive ear such that the words flow very smoothly aloud and he’s quite good at characterization in dialogue. I bet that there are a lot of children’s books out there far more awkward for reading aloud.

  13. We are with “The Bean” clan, getting ready for snow retreat. I remember my dad reading this to us 40-ish years ago and it was great then and is still great.

    Such a constant reminder of the life we live as we walk by faith, though weak and small at times, and we know that we win in the end, if we persevere. Interesting to think about which characters are you today and hope who you might be tomorrow.

    Go Nancy and keep encouraging our ladies. And keep being Douglas’ helper so he can continue to make me think so much that my head hurts.

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