How to (accidentally) read the Bible in a year
In Advent 2017 I decided to read through the 12 minor prophets in my personal devotions. At the end of this, it seemed to make sense to keep going into the New Testament, with the gospels. I knew I wanted to move away from reading very small chunks to be delved into in great depth, to reading some larger chunks that give a bigger vision of the whole picture. Both are valuable, of course, and I think it’s a good practice to switch between different patterns. If you only ever read the Bible ten verses at a time, (a) it will take you a very long time to read it all, and (b) it will be hard to keep that bigger picture in view so that you can spot some of the patterns and references. Whereas if you only ever read it ten chapters at a time, you won’t be able to linger over every word and phrase in the same way and catch all of the in-depth nuances. So do both!
By the time I got to Lent, with my sporadic reading habits, I was at John 13, so I slowed down and did daily (kind of) Scripture writing until I’d written through to the end of John’s gospel a few days after Easter. I’d enjoyed the faster pace of reading bigger chunks, so I wanted to try that with some Old Testament books. I thought I’d start with the Psalms, since that’s a book we rarely read in big chunks! And then I kept going, through Proverbs (I found I had to take shorter sections here. Ten chapters of Proverbs is way too much to process!), Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and then Isaiah-Daniel).
At this stage I’d realised I was well on my way to reading the Bible in a year and I’d made an actual list of all the books in the Bible so I could tick them off as I went. I’d grouped them into sections that I could alternate OT and NT. And finishing before Advent 2018 was a definite possibility. In fact, I’ve just made a weekly reading plan for all the remaining books and I have a good amount of wiggle room to play with and still be finished in a year.
I’ve tried various Bible-in-a-year plans before now and never stuck with any of them for more than a few months. What I love about this is:
(a) it’s easy. No switching between several books on the same day. No charts needed;
(b) it feels like the normal way of reading a book. Longer, consecutive sections. Slowing down for some more concentrated sections, speeding up for narratives;
(c) it’s not boring. I know the Bible is not boring, but I will admit, the thought of spending five months on the Psalms, if you read one a day, is quite daunting for those of us who always want to move onto the next thing. If you read ten a day, you’ll be done in just over 2 weeks (see above for why this isn’t the ONLY way you should read!);
(d) it’s happened naturally, rather than as an artificially imposed system. I don’t feel like I’m doing this out of obligation, or to say I’ve done it, or some other trivial reason. I’m doing it because I’m loving the way it’s helping me to engage with God’s word and respond to it. It’s okay if I don’t actually finish in a year, if I pause to do some other kind of devotions, or whatever. It is a joy to read with this kind of freedom, I find.
Some things to consider:
- There are 1189 chapters in an English Bible.
- If you read 4 chapters a day, you’ll easily be done in a year.
- If you read 4 chapters six days a week, you’ll still be done in a year.
- I find I can easily read 10 chapters of most Bible books in 15 minutes, reading at a normal pace.
- Some books I can’t read more than 3-4 chapters (Proverbs, Romans), but that’s okay because it’s still within Bible-in-a-year pace.
- Finishing whole books in a few days or weeks is tremendously satisfying.
- Reading in this consecutive way lets you be sensible. If I can see that there are 31 chapters in a book, I’ll either read 10, 10, 11 chapters or 8, 8, 8, 7 chapters. If a book only has 5 chapters, that’s one day’s reading. For some of the shorter NT letters (2 John, 3 John, Jude etc), I’ll read several in one day. I don’t have to stick to someone else’s plan so I can work out what suits me! By reading much more than 4 chapters on most days, I know I’ve got time to take over other books. Like spending 6 weeks on 8 chapters of John’s gospel!