Aside from daily Mass and a commitment to silent prayer, the most important spiritual practice I’ve adopted as a Christian has been spending time in Scripture every day. Even having read the Bible 12 times, I still have to read with a pencil in hand. I’m always finding new insights, being shown new connections, and falling more in love with the Lord as I come to know him better. For me, it’s not enough just to read the books that I enjoy or the readings offered me by the liturgy–I need to wrestle with the hard stuff and find meaning in the boring stuff. And I need to know it all–not just so I can argue with it but so that I can live and breathe and love it. I need to replace the Beyoncé in my head with some Baruch and the Frozen (much though I love that movie) with Philippians. The only way that’s going to happen is if I’m in the Word every day. So that’s what I do.
The first time I read through the whole Bible, I started at Genesis and read till Revelation. It took me 5 years. Every subsequent time, I’ve managed it in a year. The problem with my cover-to-cover approach (among others) was that I’d get bogged down in Leviticus or Ezekiel and it was hard to motivate myself to keep going. When I switched to a yearly Bible schedule, I had a few chapters of Numbers each day but also a Psalm and half a chapter of a Gospel to keep me motivated. Plus the readings were associated with dates, so I couldn’t afford to get behind. I’ve used that schedule1 ten times and it’s served me well, particularly since it’s loosely linked with the liturgical year.
But people have been asking me for years how to start reading the Bible, and my trusty old schedule wasn’t it. I began to realize that zipping through all of the Epistles in a month and then trudging through the Pentateuch wasn’t the best way to get much out of either. So I sat down and wrote out a whole new schedule. This one still gets you through the whole Bible in a year (and the Gospels twice), but it goes chronologically through the Old Testament (more or less) with New Testament books and fun books like Ruth and Jonah interspersed throughout to mix things up. It also gives you a chapter of some poetic stuff every day instead of dragging you through Proverbs for 200+ days. This schedule is more user-friendly, more reasonable for those who haven’t read the Bible before, and can start any day of the year. So now I’m passing it on to you!
I will warn you: I didn’t start with the easy stuff. I can ease you into the Bible by giving (relatively) simple, pleasant stuff first. My approach here wasn’t to leave the hard stuff for the end but to put it in an order that made sense. So if you’ve never read the Bible before at all, you could take two days for each day on the schedule or start with just the Psalms and the Gospels. The important thing is to start.
If you print this schedule double-sided, you can fold it up to fit in your Bible. And when you print it, do yourself a favor and print out my Bible timeline, too. It’s one piece of paper that I keep in my Bible at all times–a quick explanation of how everything in the Old Testament connects to everything else. So when you’re reading Hosea, you can take a quick look and see that Hosea was prophesying to Israel before the Assyrian Exile. And you can even see that there are two kingdoms in the Old Testament, a fact that I missed until my third time through the Bible.
Halfway through Lent (Laetare!) probably isn’t the best time to hand this to you guys, but Easter doesn’t mean the end of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving. Maybe you can start this schedule on Easter? Or any other day of the year. Or read the Bible through using some other schedule. But if you’re a Christian and you haven’t read the whole Bible, I really think you need to change that.