With calendar year 2019 right around the corner, now is the time to plan and prepare for a structured Bible reading plan for the year. For many years now I have read all the way through the Bible each year. I want to encourage you to do that this year. It isn’t difficult to do if you have a plan. Decide now what you will do and the way you will do it.
I have treasured Your word in my heart, so I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11 TLV).
What About the Torah Cycle?
It is common practice for Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers to follow the traditional Torah reading cycle, along with the Haftarah and often a New Testament reading. All total, if you only accomplish these readings you might read around 15% of the Scriptures – maybe a little more, maybe a little less. And if you continue to read only these weekly portions each year, you might even get complacent in your familiarity with these passages while you completely miss all the rest.
For sake of simplicity in this post, I am going to refer to the Hebrew Bible, the Tanach (Torah, Prophets and Writings), as the “Old Testament.” I will refer to the Gospels and other apostolic writings as the “New Testament.”
For those of us that came from a Christian background, most of our focus was on the New Testament. Then when we began discovering our Hebrew Roots, the Old Testament started to come alive. That can be a difficult transition, and many have found that with increased study of the Old Testament they realized what they thought they knew of the New Testament was skewed. We really ought to consider the whole thing as one. I’ve heard it said that the only uninspired page in the Bible is the one that divides the Old and New Testaments.
Of course we acknowledge they are different, translated from different languages and even written in a different context to a different audience. Someone has said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. But I think that puts too much emphasis on distinction and division. This is all one story; it is the Father’s story of redemption and restoration.
Each year I make it a practice to read through the whole Bible, choosing a translation I haven’t yet read or haven’t read in quite some time. Sometimes I choose a scholarly, literal translation, and other times I’ve picked one that’s an easy read with a contemporary, everyday vocabulary. I’ve used popular Christian versions, and I’ve read through many of the Messianic Bibles. Some of them are good, and some of them, well, not so good. This past year I read through the 2009 ISR Scriptures. If you’ve read any of my posts regarding this version, that might surprise you. What I want to express to you is overall – with a few exceptions – it doesn’t matter what translation or version you read. The important thing is that you do it.
Forever, Adonai, Your word stands firm in the heavens (Psalm 119:89 TLV).
Method #1: Use a Daily Bible
Daily Bibles, or One-Year Bibles, take the complete text of the Bible and divide it into 365 daily readings, usually from both the Old and New Testaments each day. This is from introductory page of the NKJV Daily Bible:
“For each day of the year, there are four portions to read: a portion from the Old Testament, from Psalms, from Proverbs, and from the New Testament. By following this plan, at the end of one year you will have read through the entire Bible in consecutive daily installments.”
A few of the Daily Bibles are designed for a two-year time frame. They have smaller daily portions in both the Old and New Testaments, and some have short devotionals or prayers as well. The previously mentioned introductory page for the NKJV Daily Bible suggests “an alternative two-year plan would be to read the portions from Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament the first year, and then the portions from the Old Testament the second year.” This is completely backwards, as it is impossible to comprehend the New Testament, especially the letters of the Apostles and Paul, without first knowing the Old Testament.
Daily Bibles come in most of the popular translations, although I have not yet seen one for any of the Messianic versions.
Using a Daily Bible is probably the easiest of all the methods outlined here. It is self-contained and very easy for you to find your place. You can leave it on the table or desk where you do your reading, since because of it’s design you won’t be using it for anything besides daily reading.
The drawback to the Daily Bible is that it is a little more difficult to a particular passage of scripture, should the need arise. Most of them have the Old Testament books and New Testament books in the order we know, but interlaced. When Psalms and/or Proverbs are also interlaced, they can be harder to locate. But remember, you have this Bible for reading only, not for your regular studies or to carry to a public convocation.
You can find a list of Daily Bibles here.
Method #2: Use a Chronological Daily Bible
A Chronological Daily Bible is similar to a regular Daily Bible, except that instead of interlacing and Old and New Testament portions and reading sequentially, the Chronological Daily Bible puts all of the passages into chronological order. Of course, this is subject to the understanding and timeline used by the editor of the particular Bible you choose. In most instances the sequence of events is logical and obvious, but that is not always the case.
“Reading the Bible in chronological order will help you gain a unique perspective on the Scriptures that you could not get from reading a regular Bible cover to cover. Unlike a regular Bible, the One Year Chronological Bible places related passages one after another so you can see how they illuminate and complement each other. For example, when you read Psalms 5 and 59 alongside 1 Samuel 18:1-20:42, you will see how David’s faith in the Lord sustained him as King Saul was threatening David’s life. Or when you read about King Hezekiah receiving the envoys from Babylon, you will also be able to read Isaiah’s prophecy concerning this event. When you read the letters of Paul, you will see how they fit into the framework of his missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts.”
This method combines the ease of the Daily Bible with the advantages of understanding the Bible from a chronological perspective. Like the regular Daily Bible, it is very easy to use and to keep track of where you are in the plan.
Because the readings are chronological and not in the familiar book order, it is even more difficult to find a particular passage in the One Year Chronological Bible. There is a list of daily readings (like a table of contents) in the front and an index in canonical order in the back. But again, this is not something that you will use for anything other than the intended purpose – to read through the Bible in chronological order in daily portions.
You can find a list of One Year Chronological Bibles with the Daily Bibles here.
Method #3: Use a Printed Bible Reading Plan
If you want to use a standard Bible rather than buying a Daily Bible, it is very helpful to use a printed copy of a one-year Bible reading. As you progress through each day’s reading, you can check it off. Having a printed one-year Bible reading plan will help to keep you on track.
This method allows you to use almost any Bible. This could be the Bible that you also use for study and public convocations, or it could be one you select specifically for the purpose of just reading. You can use the printed copy of your Bible reading plan as a bookmark to hold your place.
Your Bible reading plan can follow several different paths. Some printed plans follow pretty much mirror the Daily Bible, giving Scripture references for and Old Testament and New Testament reading each day. Some may also include passages from Psalms and/or Proverbs, similar to the Daily Bible.
Likewise, you may have a list of daily readings that follow a chronological timeline. Using your regular Bible, that means you may go to portions of different books on any given day. Doing this, you can see how the many different authors of sacred Scripture contribute to the cohesive story of redemption.
Some plans may follow a historical, canonical or method of reading the Bible text.
Using a printed Bible reading plan gives you the greatest flexibility in how you complete your Bible reading. You may find a plan that does not have the months named, which means you can begin at any month during the year. If your plan has both Old and New Testament, you could separate them into morning and evening readings.
It may not be as easy to make the commitment to stick to the plan when it is printed on a sheet of paper. The Daily Bibles are designed for a specific purpose; this is just a printed schedule. A plan that jumps around without tying things together (for example, Old Testament and then New Testament – not chronologically) might be distracting. You will need to find a plan that works for you as there is no one-size-fits-all.
There are several plans you can download in PDF on the Blue Letter Bible site here.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105 TLV).
Method #4: Read a Certain Number of Pages Each Day
I have used this method several times, and it is the method I have used for the last three years. The idea is very simple: you take the number of pages of Bible text, divide by 365, round up, and read that number of pages every day. Just use a bookmark to keep track of where you are, like you would with any book you are reading.
This year I followed this method using the ISR Scriptures 2009. With 1217 pages, that comes to 3.33 pages per day, which I rounded up to 4. I finished on October 31. Last year (2017) I read the Chronological Study Bible NKJV. It has 1430 pages, or 3.92 pages per day, again rounded up to 4.
As you can see, I was able to use a “regular” Bible and a Bible with passages in chronological order, which means there were no standard book divisions. In fact, this Bible is separated into “epochs” or large time-based periods – but that really doesn’t matter. I just read an average of 4 pages per day until I finished it. This method can be used for Bibles that follow the Jewish canon (like the Tree of Life Version or Complete Jewish Bible), a Bible with books in the standard Christian order, or something totally different like this chronological Bible.
Don’t be too concerned with the number of pages you need to read to finish your Bible. They all are going to have the same amount of text. A Bible with larger font will likely have more pages but may be easier to see and read. One with very small font may only require that you read 3 pages, but will take the same time and might be harder to see.
Using this method allows you to vary the time frame. If you wanted to read the Bible in 6 months, then divide the number of pages by 182. You could even be aggressive and go with 90 days or even 30 days. Or, maybe you want to take two years, so you divide the number of pages by 730. You get the idea.
Another way to use this method is to go by weeks, not days. Perhaps there are some days during the week when you cannot sit down and read (do not feel any condemnation for that!). Or maybe you want to exclude the Sabbath from your “through the Bible in a year” reading plan. Using my chronological Bible as an example, dividing 1430 pages by 52 weeks means you need to read 27.5 pages per week. Round that up to 28, and you will complete the task by the end of the year.
To keep track of where you should be, you should get a calendar or pocket planner that has the days of the years numbered, or if applicable , the weeks numbered. They are pretty easy to find. I use a Google calendar, which I can view on my computer as well as on my phone. I’ve also subscribed to this calendar so it shows in Outlook. Here is the link for a day-of-the-year calendar that you can copy and paste into your Google or Outlook calendar:
This method is adaptable to any Bible. It works best with a simple text Bible (without study notes). It is also very flexible, allowing you use whatever time period works best for you.
To use this method, you need to be aware of what day of the year it is, or what week of the year it is. If you are using a Bible with extensive notes, you might find them distracting. Also, some pages may have a lot of notes and little text, while others may be all text with no notes. It is easier to fall behind with this method than it is with a Daily Bible or printed schedule.
Method #5: Use a Bible-Reading App On Your Phone or Computer
We live in a world governed by our technology. It has become very popular in our society, especially the younger generations, to use an app to read the Bible and other things. Some Bible apps will offer a plan to read through the Bible in one year. However, I do not recommend doing your Bible reading on your phone. I’ll list some of the reasons in the “cons” section for this method.
Perhaps the greatest invention of all time was Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century CE. And as you probably know, the first major work to be printed was the Gutenberg Bible. Printed works are almost permanent, mistakes and all. It is pretty easy to find a printed copy of a Bible from 40, 50 or even 100 years ago. And nothing inside those Bibles has changed since they came off the printing press.
I have The Bible on cassette tapes, including the King James Version read by Alexander Scourby and the New International Version read by Stephen Johnston. I haven’t played a cassette tape in years, and I’m not even sure I have a working cassette player. I’ve also got CDs of several audio Bible versions, but CD players are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Technology advances, and old technology becomes useless.
Who knows how long you will be able to read a Bible on a phone? Apps change. Phones become obsolete.
But now I’ve strayed from the topic of one-year Bible reading. So, let’s get back to that.
Reading with an app is convenient. Most people always have their phone nearby. The app will remind you that you need to do your daily reading, it will tell you what you need to read and it will take you right to that spot in the text. Since I have never done a one-year plan on a Bible app, I can’t tell you what happens if you fall behind.
These are numerous, but here are just a few:
1. Reading on a device leaves you open to the interruptions of alerts, social media, text messages, and even calls.
2. You are less likely to “mark” anything in your phone or to jot down a note.
3. You are less likely to remember where a passage is located later on.
4. Unlike a physical Bible, you lose perception of where a book is located in the canon or how long or short the book is. In other words, you will never “know” your Bible.
Some Things to Consider
When you chose the Bible you will use for your one-year reading, you will want to make sure it is something that you will read. Pick one with a comfortable font, both size and style, that won’t give you eye strain or cause you to go back and re-read a line because you lost your place. Pick one that has a printed page that is easy to read – do you want the text separated by verses or by paragraphs? Do you want one column on the page or two columns? Are there study notes (not footnotes) that will get in the way of your reading?
Choose a translation that you want to read. If it is difficult to read or you don’t really want to read it, you probably won’t. Personally, I would struggle with doing a one-year read through the King James Version or any of the others in old English. Even the ISR Scriptures I read this year was difficult with its banned words, awkward substitute word choices and half-transliterated Hebrew. (I just wanted to read the 2009 version to see if it was better than the 1998 version. I give the 1998 one a D- and the 2009 one a D+.)
Keep a notepad handy so that you can jot down thoughts or things you want to look up or study later. Remember, your purpose here is simply to read, but no doubt there will be things that pop into your mind. Write them down, then keep reading.
You could use a separate Old Testament and New Testament in order to read one that does not contain both. For example, if you wanted to read the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh or The Stone Edition Tanach, you could par it with the Jewish New Testament or some other version, as New Testaments are readily available. That works well with a printed Bible-reading plan, but not so well with the pages-per-day method unless you read them together with a certain number of pages in each one.
For something a little different than you might normally read, visit your local thrift store. You can find some unusual things there. I actually got my ISR Scriptures 2009 at a thrift store for free (they did not “sell” Bibles.) I even found a Messianic Edition of the Living Bible at a thrift store.
And when you finish one that you got for just reading and no longer need it, donate it back to the thrift store so someone else can read it.
You may also want to listen as you read. You can find audio Bibles on the internet that you can play on demand or download, or you might find some CDs – or even cassette tapes like I mentioned above. But if you choose to listen, be sure to open a printed Bible and follow along. You will comprehend it better and your mind will have less of a tendency to wander.
I rejoice in Your word, as one who finds great spoil (Psalm 119:162 TLV).
My Concluding Recommendation
If you’ve gotten this far, the let me give you my recommendation to get you started in 2019. If you haven’t read it yet, choose the Tree of Life Version. This is a recent Messianic Bible translation from the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society. A relatively inexpensive simple text edition is available, laid out in paragraph format with 2 columns on the page. All 66 books of the Old and New Testament are there, but be aware that the Old Testament is in the order of the Jewish Tanach.
It has a total of 1198 pages of Bible text, so that calculates out to 3.28 pages per day. By reading 4 pages each day, you will finish on day 300 (October 27). Or, average 3.5 pages and finish in early December. Or, read about 23 pages each week if that is easier to track. You could also choose any of the printed Bible-reading plans.
Whatever Bible you select, do it now and determine now what plan you are going to follow. Then when the new year (at least, the Gregorian new year that you can follow on your calendar) rolls around, you will be ready to go.
Be blessed in your reading.
The grass withers, the flower fades. But the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8 TLV).