(Originally Posted 23 December 2009, Edited and reposted on 30 December 2010)
I am four bites away from finishing eating this year’s elephant. Boy, oh boy was it good eating!
There is a simple children’s joke that starts like this “How do you eat an elephant?”. The answer is simple “One bite at a time.” To some the Bible might seem like a large elephant too large to eat or read. There are two testaments, 66 books, 1189 Chapters, and over 31,000 verses. Committing to read the Bible from cover to cover is a lot like eating an elephant. We will have to do it one bite at a time.
But where should one start and what sized bites should we take? We could divide the 1189 chapters by 365 days and then plan on reading 3.26 chapters each day. That might not work in that the longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119 at 176 verses while the shortest chapter is Psalm 117 which is only two verses long. We could simply divide the 31,000+ verses by 365 and then plan to read 84.931 verses each day. But that might not work, one verse can be as short at John 11:35 “Jesus wept” or as long as Esther 8:9 which runs on for 81 words.
In my eight attempts to read through the Bible in a year I have tried three methods:
1. Read it straight through: Start in Genesis and read 3 – 4 chapters each day until you get to the end of Revelation. Here is a link to a reading plan that tries to make a reasonable reading plan for each day that tries to avoid you hanging in the middle of a significant story or concept. For example, you will not split the Ten Commandments between two days just because it worked out that way. PROS: easy to follow, easy to keep track of. CONS: It some sense you can get lost in some of the heavier parts of the Old Testament, day after day, week after week. Lacks variety.
Example reading for January 1: Genesis 1 – 3
Here is a link to plan for this comprehensive reading plan.
2. Modified Straight Through: With this plan you start the Old and New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs all on January 1. This means you read about 2 chapters of the Old Testament, 1 chapter of the New Testament, a Psalm and 2 -3 Proverbs. This is the first plan that has worked for me. PROS: variety to different parts of the Bible each day, they even sell a Bible that is already laid out for this plan. CONS: very complicated, lots of jumping around to different parts of the Bible, you need a printed plan sheet to help you on your way.
Example reading for January 1: Genesis 1 – 2:17, Matthew 1:1-25, Psalm 1:1-6
Here is a link to a tool to run with this plan; it even allows you to start any day of the year… http://www.biblica.com/bibles/dailyreading/
3. Chronological: This is my favorite plan. I used it successfully in 2010. Some scholars took the time to put the reading plan in the order the events occurred. For example, Nathan’s confrontation of King David after his sin with Bathsheba occurs in 2 Samuel 12, David’s Psalm of confession occurs in Psalm 51. In other reading plans you might not read these two passages for weeks or months. In a chronological reading plan you would read 2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51 together as they occurred. PROS: may help you get a greater understanding on the unity and history of the Bible, they even sell a Bible that is already laid out for this plan. CONS: very complicated, a online or written plan is a must, some days could have you jumping to many different places, and sometimes you will read the same story of Jesus’ life 3 or 4 times in a row.
Example reading for September 26th: Matthew 2:1-23, Luke 2:41-52, Mark 1:2-8, Matthew 3:1-12, Luke 3:1-18, Mark 1:9-11, Matthew 3:13-17. Luke 3:21-22
Here is a link to a tool to run with this plan; it also allows you to start any day of the year… http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com/oneyearweeklychrono.php
4. Last resorts: If you are not ready to commit to a full year plan, I found this site that will give you a chronological overview of the Bible in 61 days. This could be a great way to start for those who are new to the Bible.
Another interesting, but longer plan (121 days) could be this one that covers Biographic stories of key figures through Biblical history.
Additional tools can be found here… http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com/
You have to make a decision which one will most suit your needs. Personally, I will follow a Chronological plan again this year. As a student of history, I prefer to have things laid out for me in historical context. I have found it brings the Bible to a fuller life. It definitely helps my understanding of the times and situations of the Major and Minor Prophets.
So my final challenge to you is to pick a plan and work your way through it.
If you have had success with any plan, you can hit the comment link below and share it with others. That would be a great encouragement to all of us.