I’ve tried the whole “read the Bible through in a year” thing about four or five times in my life.
When I was about seven my dad and I made a pact to read the Bible all the way through in a year. We had it all scheduled out. He reminded me to do it every night. Come April or so he realized that I hadn’t kept up with my daily readings, and confessed that he hadn’t either. We devoted half a day to catching up to the book of II Chronicles. I think I made it to Numbers. I’m not sure how far he made it, but I could tell he realized this task was beyond the both of us. Or maybe he realized how difficult it was for my attention span, and just pretended he couldn’t do it either. Reading the entire Bible through in a year wasn’t a necessary goal to set, not with all he wanted me to learn. I didn’t finish, and he didn’t finish, and that was okay. Since then, we’ve both managed to do it, and that’s okay too.
After two or three of those failed attempts as a little kid, I tried it again when I started college. I bought a Bible-in-a-year book and read through it. I skipped some passages and skimmed others, but I finished. Of course, I didn’t apply it seriously and merely did a lot of it just for the completion of it.
I tried one more time before I graduated college. This time I copied a list of verses to read chronologically and read from my bible that way. The success was much the same as the time I had the Bible-in-a-year, though I did have this new chronological perspective as I read.
I think the problem for must of us who try to do it is that we don’t know how. We set it as a yearly goal sometimes and just read it in chunks. It wasn’t meant to be read in chunks (except the psalms and the like). Oh, it’s fine for us to do that, but don’t we do it too much, just read it in little chunks?
So this year my church encouraged us to do the “read the bible in a year” thing again, and I thought about it. I hope a lot of people shoot for it and accomplish it, but I also like to try out different ways of doing it other than just tackling an equal verse each day for 365 days. People have different kinds of literacy, and so it’s important to adapt these reading challenges to our needs. Don’t do it just to say you did it. Make sure you get something out of it.
This year I decided to grab a simplified translation in modern English (contemporary, that is) and read through the New Testament, giving a day to a book. I found a dollar copy of Good News for Modern Man, a “Today’s English Version” of the New Testament and psalms. I’ve decided to read a psalm from it a day for 150 days, and from then on set aside 27 days throughout the rest of the year, one each to read a New Testament book. I may end up still dividing the Gospels and Acts into a week each and taking a letter from Paul a day, but that’s the idea.
You may be concerned that I’m choosing such a “loose” translation, and I’m aware of that. I am not meaning to engage in a word study, but to focus on grasping the narratives in my native version of English. Also, I don’t plan for this to be my only Bible study this year either. I would never recommend reading the Bible through once in a year to be a year’s singular scriptural nourishment. We should always try to soak up the word as much as we can through public reading and teaching, fellowship and group study, and private study and meditation. A commitment to read through the Bible from front to back is but a challenge that is one of the many ways we can do that. Getting to Heaven is not dependent on having read the Bible front to back, but most certainly won’t hurt you to try and do it. If you focus and read earnestly, it can only help you.
A beautiful video of N.T. Wright on “The Whole Sweep of Scripture” and reading the Bible as an orchestral movement:
(sorry I couldn’t embed the video for you)
I do challenge you to challenge yourself with a commitment to Bible study, or just Bible reading, that you have not tried yet, or that you’ve always wanted to do, or be curious about. But make sure you get something deep out of it. Don’t just set it as a superficial milestone. If you choose a passage a day for a year, for example, really focus on what’s written, and don’t be afraid to read ahead of schedule. There’s no harm in reading over a passage several times. It won’t kill you. More than likely it will bring you life.
Also, find someone to study with, or a group of people. Seek out those who study more than you. If you are not a Christian but are curious about study, seek Christians out. If you read this blog and like to correspond with others online, drop a comment below and we can contact one another. May God bless your studies.