Monday, December 19, 2011

reading through the Bible in a year (or two)

I'm doing something I haven't attempted since I was at university, many years ago. I'm reading through the Bible in a year. Make that two years: after twelve months, I'm half way through my Bible reading plan.

There's something exciting about reading the Bible in big gulps. I feel well-fed, like I've been at the richest of banquets all year long. I've discovered long-forgotten treasures, and I've seen familiar verses shine with unexpected colours in their setting. I've been reminded how, verse after verse, chapter after chapter, the Bible tells the same story. I can't wait to turn the pages and watch the history of salvation unfold.

I know you may not be in a season of life where you can read or listen to the Bible in a year - or even two.1 If your circumstances make it difficult, but you're still reading a small amount regularly, then I thank God! But perhaps you can manage more. With the new year approaching, you might like to consider using one of these plans:

Here are six of the best, trialled by me or people I respect.2 (Whichever you choose, you'll find it more meaningful if you read or listen to an introduction to each book as you come to it, especially with tricky books like the prophets.3)

  • My friend Melanie likes the ESV Chronological Bible Reading Plan, where you read a few chapters in one place a day. The chronological order means you can see, for example, how the different psalms fit into Bible history. I'm looking forward to trying this one!

  • Meredith enjoys the ESV Daily Reading Bible plan, where you read in three places a day - Old Testament, New Testament and a Psalm (she talks about her experience in my Bible reading plan, mid-year review and this interview-with-self).

  • Justin Taylor recommends the ESV Study Bible Plan, where you read in four places a day: Psalms and Wisdom, Pentateuch and History, Chronicles and Prophets, Gospels and Epistles (you can even print out four snazzy little bookmarks to mark the places in your Bible!).

  • John Stott faithfully used the M'Cheyne One Year Bible Reading Plan, where you also read in four places a day, chosen to give the big picture of salvation history. He said, "Nothing has helped me more to gain an overview of the Bible, and so of God’s redemptive plan". Don Carson's For the Love of God gives you daily readings to use with this plan.

  • I'm using the NAV Book-at-a-Time Bible Reading Plan, with two readings a day: a short reading from the wisdom books or Isaiah, and a longer reading which swaps between testaments and spreads the gospels through the year. I like the variety and the focus on one book at a time, and it's very forgiving, with twenty-five readings a month; similarly forgiving is the four-places-a-day NAV Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan.

  • A great method to get young Christians started (it got me started) reading through the Bible is the three-year Bible reading plan from Tim LaHaye's How to study the Bible for youself, which is designed to introduce newcomers to regular Bible reading (first year gospels and epistles, second year wisdom and epistles, third year the lot).

Happy reading!

1. When I had babies and toddlers, a shorter passage was all I could handle; I enjoyed using The Daily Reading Bible.
2. If you want to know more about the different plans available, I recommend Justin Taylor's Bible reading plans.
3. Try Mark Dever's book-at-a-time overview sermons, one for every book of the Bible: you can download the audio versions at Capitol Hill Baptist (search: the message) or read the print versions in The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made and The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept. Another option is to read the introductions to each book in a study Bible or William Dumbrell's The Faith of Israel. Graeme Goldsworthy's Trilogy and According to Plan will help you see how the different bits of the Bible hang together in Jesus.

This post first appeared at The Briefing.

image is by jjreade from flickr


David McKay said...

G'day Jean. I've enjoyed reading through the ESV Study Bible, adapting their plan. It took me well over a year to read through the ESV and all the introductions and notes, but it was well worth it.

I was particularly impressed with Jack Collins' notes on Psalms.

But the best plan I've used is my own Excel file, which tracks the proportion of Old Testament, New Testament and Psalms, so that I can read a similar proportion of each, and not have read 50% of the NT but only 3% of the OT, which is surprisingly easy to do.

I'm currently reading through the HCSB, which is like a conservative and rather quirky version of the NIV, I think.

Still puzzled by its penchant for translating YHWH as Yahweh *and* LORD, frequently in the one verse, and its predilection for translating Christos as Christ *and* Messiah, also often in the one passage.

I know the NIV also translates Christos by both, but not so confusingly.

Let's all sing a rousing chorus of Bucks Fizz "Making Your Mind Up."

Despite this quirk, the HCSB is worth reading through because it is an original translation and is not in the KJV-RSV-NIV-ESV tradition, and often translates a well-known verse in a fresh way.

Jean said...

Hi, David, and thanks!

Where are the notes on the ESV - do you mean the ones in the study Bible? Sounds worth a look. I think we just have an everyday ESV on the shelf; I read NIV so haven't really looked at it. Study ESV sounds worth checking out.


Bec said...

I recently downloaded the YouVersion App for my iphone, which includes heaps of Bible reading plans. I'm currently using a chronological one, as I've always wanted to see how the Old Testament books really 'fit' together historically. The great thing about having it on the phone is that I can read ahead or catch up when I have spare moments when out and about. I always have my phone, so I always have my Bible!

Bec :-)