Reading the Bible in a year

In the past I've tried reading the Bible in a year. Once or twice I've failed to complete the plan. Once I completed the plan, but it took 18 months. I've also used Search the Scriptures and read the whole Bible in three years. 2013 was the first year I actually read it in a year.

I suspect lots of Christians will feel a similar dilemma to me. We're often encouraged to follow Bible-in-a-year plans. We're challenged by those who have read Scripture many times. But when faced with the daily task of ploughing  through significant sections of the Bible, we find it hard to keep up and even harder to understand. So commonly the best intentions of end up running out of steam.

So should we read aim to read the Bible in a year?

With the important caveat that we shouldn't be legalistic about our plans and programs, let me suggest some reasons for and against.

  1.  A plan to read the whole of the Bible is a good thing because it is all God's word (2 Tim. 3:16) and is especially important for elders who are to teach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
  2. This kind of plan forces you to read parts of the Bible you might not read very often otherwise.
  3. Reading the Bible in a year makes you read quickly and get an overview and a context. This counters something of a tendency to read just a few verses and so the risk of missing the wood for the trees.
  1. The scale of each day's reading can be too daunting, especially if you miss a day and you want to finish in a year.
  2. The speed at which you read the Scripture doesn't necessarily encourage deep study unless you really have a lot of time.
For myself, I found the process of reading the whole Bible in a year both enriching and frustrating.  It was enriching to read those parts of the Bible I hadn't read much before.  It was frustrating because I found my reading and my thinking too superficial because of time limitations.  I found that this had a tendency to leave me feeling spiritually a bit dry.

I think part of my limitation here is that I am a slow reader and I find it hard to get through the amount of text in front of me.  I know other people for whom this would be no problem, but I think we probably need to say that for a lot of people this will simply be too much (possibly me included).  We don't want to turn Bible reading into a miserable drudge.

I also think that just doing Bible-in-a-year plans might be too limited an approach to Bible reading.  Sometimes it will be useful to do deeper or different types of Bible study. I can do that in my sermon and Bible study preparations, but for someone for whom this was the main daily engagement with the Bible, you would surely want some variation.

For those reasons I won't be doing a Bible-in-a-year plan again for a while.  However, the reasons 'for' above  all also apply to a structured plan over more than a year.  In 2014 I've started a Bible-in-3-years, 6-days-a-week plan.  You can generate your own with James Oakley's Bible Reading Plan Generator (I'm planning a 15 year Hebrew OT and Greek NT plan some year soon!).  A month in, I'm really enjoying it and if I do it for the rest of my working life, I'll have read the entire Bible through 10 more times.

As an aside, I recently downloaded an ESV audio Bible (there are various available online or on your mobile app).  I've listen to Genesis and quite a lot of Exodus in the car this January.  Again it's not the deepest study, but it does give you that overview.

What do you think?


  1. Thank you Stephen for your honesty regarding your struggles in reading the Bible in a year. I can also identify with this.

    I'm currently reading the Bible in about 18months (which still involves some big chunks), but one thing I do is to alternate each day between the Old and New testaments. I find this helps me to keep my interest (rather than getting drudged down in hard and less well known OT passages), and also helps me to think about links between the OT and NT.

  2. Thanks James (nice to hear from you!). With the program I followed you read a bit from three sections of the Bible (2 OT and 1 NT) each day, as well as some of the Apocrypha (more later!) and it certainly helped. Last time I did it I went from Genesis to Revelation and that was tough! With my new plan I'm flipping about a bit (So I've read over half of Genesis, half of Mark, Malachi and James so far).


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