Back in January, I set out to read the Bible in one year. This January I’m here to tell you that after many failed attempts in years past, I finally did it. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I highly recommend reading the entire Bible in a year’s time (or two). One can’t help but be changed by reading the Word of God each day. Sure, it takes discipline and effort, but it’s doable and very rewarding. The Scriptures are truly living and active.
I recommend the reading plan I used, based on Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible Book by Book. It simply takes the reader straight through from Genesis to Revelation. I adapted the plan from a two year plan to one, averaging four chapters per day plus one Psalm or Proverbs chapter. There are also many helpful catch-up days built in. I read the whole Bible once and the Psalms and Proverbs twice. Note that this plan is in distinct contrast to the M’Cheyne plan, which prescribes one chapter from four places daily. Reading straight through provided much more continuity, big-picture perspective of each book as well as the whole Bible, and more focused reflection throughout the day on what I read.
Early in 2011 I would post reflections on what I was reading, but got out of the habit. Finishing a degree and having a newborn apparently takes up a lot of time. So to catch up, here are some things that I might not have noticed or learned if I hadn’t read the Bible straight through in a year.
-Many reading plans meet their doom somewhere in Leviticus or Numbers. But I honestly enjoyed them as a beautiful picture of the Old Testament’s shadows of Christ. However, my goal was in serious jeopardy in the minor prophets. One downside to reading straight through the Bible is that there’s no breaking up those minor prophets.
-James is also a book with a bad rep, albeit for different reasons. Martin Luther called it the epistle of straw, and many Protestants are afraid of its emphasis on works. But I was blown away by its similarities to the wisdom literature of the Old Testament – especially Ecclesiastes. Being one of the earliest epistles, and written by the leader of the Jerusalem church, I guess this makes sense.
-Reading the gospels back-to-back-to-back-to-back was a great experience. I can’t wait to do it again. Reading them this way, I could see their similarities, quirks, and emphases. John was my favorite (Mark is great, too), and he fills in many of the gaps that the three synoptics leave unsaid. For example, John provides the full texts of many of Jesus’ sermons that made the Pharisees and Saducees furious enough to kill him. Reading John easily puts away the notions of Jesus as meek and mild, merely a good moral teacher, or primarily a social activist. I like to think that C.S. Lewis was thinking especially of John’s gospel when he wrote that Jesus was either insane, a liar, or the Son of God.
-Hebrews solidified itself as my favorite book of the Bible. Read it out loud in one sitting if you can, as it was originally a sermon. It overflows with comfort, power, and joy. Reading through Hebrews also shows the “Hall of Faith” as a frequent victim of decontextualization. Hebrews 11 isn’t about how great the patriarchs were or how great their faith was, but primarily about how great Christ is, given the context of the preceding 10 chapters.
-Proverbs ascended my list of favorite books, and is probably now in the top five (don’t ask me to name them; it’s hard).
-It’s nearly impossible to not look at life differently after reading the Psalms and Proverbs twice in twelve months.
-I loved reading straight through book by book, but I’m still interested in reading it chronologically. If anyone has read the Bible that way, would you recommend it?
-I didn’t use study aids or the notes in my Bible this time around, as they bogged me down. I do hope to make it a habit to continuously read through the Bible my whole life, slowing it down to a two-year pace. Read and repeat. Join me?