The first time I read the Bible all the way through, I was 11 or 12 years old, and my whole family did it together. My dad found a “Read Through the Bible In a Year” plan online and created a spreadsheet with each day’s reading and each family member’s name so we could check off the boxes as we read. This spreadsheet was prominently displayed on our refrigerator for well over a year.
Maybe that sounds legalistic, but that wasn’t the feeling in our house. It took me a year and six months to finish, and that was just fine. The point was to gain an overview of the whole Bible by actually reading every word. At its most basic, the Bible is a book about God. It’s the book He gave us to get to know Him. And since that first reading, I’ve learned that the Bible is a book you can’t read just once. I wanted to read it over and over again.
Since that first reading, I’ve learned that the Bible is a book you can’t read just once. I wanted to read it over and over again.
In our Bible classes at The Village, there’s an emphasis on reading repetitively. Each week’s homework has you read the entire passage of study and then reread smaller sections as you answer questions. When the study is over a shorter book, such as James or 1 Peter, the homework will actually tell you to read the entire book before beginning to answer questions every week. So, if you follow directions, you’ll read that book of the Bible 10 or more times before finishing the class. When we re-read, we notice things that we missed the first (or second, or even third) time around. And, as we become more and more familiar with a book, what we read takes on a different significance.
For example, if you begin to read your Bible from page one for the very first time, you may get to the end of the book of Ruth (if you make it through Numbers, that is) and wonder why this short genealogy is included: “Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David” (Ruth 4:18–22). For the first-time reader, these people are insignificant. But for the seasoned Bible reader, this genealogy places Ruth squarely in the gospel story, as an ancestor of Jesus. While Jesus isn’t mentioned in this list—it doesn’t go far enough for that—the reader who’s familiar with the whole story of the Bible knows that King David was promised, “your throne will be established forever,” and the answer to that promise is Jesus Christ (2 Sam. 7:16). And without repetitively reading, you may not even remember Ruth’s story when you see her name again in Matthew 1:5.
“I want to read my Bible from cover to cover,” Wes King sings, “Line by line, over and over.” The rest of the song might have questionable theology, but those lines have resonated as I’ve written this article. Since having that spreadsheet on the fridge, I’ve read through the Bible a few times now, following different reading plans. I’m not sure I’ve ever finished “on time,” but I’ve finished, and the more I read the Bible, the more I know, love, trust and obey the One who gave it to us. And I’m confident the same will be true for you, too.
Here are a few quick tips to help you read the Bible within a year’s time:
Consider tackling this with some friends, your Home Group or your family.
Don’t get discouraged. If you fall behind in your reading, it’s okay. Keep pressing forward. You are not taking up this challenge to gain favor with God but to learn more about the favor that is already yours in Christ.
Be prayerful as you read. Don’t just read the text, but meditate on what God is teaching you through the text. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak Christ’s Word to you.
Here are a few suggested plans that you can follow:
10 Bible Reading Plans from Crossway—These options are available in many formats (RSS, iCal, mobile, print, email). For example, if you have a long commute to work, consider listening to the Bible in a year. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear (Rev. 2:29).
You can also purchase the ESV Daily Reading Bible or the One Year Bible.
Consider downloading this Bible app, which has several good plans or The Bible Project's Read Scripture app.
Here is a simple printout for you to track your own plan.