If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Bible Reading Plan

I posted this piece some time ago, but after thinking about it, I thought it might be helpful to some readers if I posted it again.

I read at least two chapters each morning from the Old Testament (OT) and two each evening from the New Testament (NT). Each sitting takes about 15 minutes, or 30 minutes/day. That pattern gets me through the OT once a year (maybe 13 months if I am slow), and the NT three times in a year. I place a check mark in my Bible’s table of contents to help me keep track of what I’ve read and what I need to read.

For new readers, I recommend only partial readings of books such as Exodus, Numbers, and 1 Chronicles because the chapters that I don't list below contain pages of laws and family genealogies, etc, that can become tedious to read – and (more important) possibly discourage continuation. I deleted Leviticus from the list for the same reason. Furthermore, I did not list below all of the various chapters in several OT books that include litanies of names, regulations or laws. As you read, you will find them for yourself. I suggest you skim through them your first time or two through the Bible.

I am NOT suggesting those chapters/books are not valuable. I have read those entire books many, many times. But for a first-read, I think it more important to first get the “big picture.” On your second and subsequent readings year by year through the Bible, you can read the chapters you omitted here.

I suggest you read the books in the order I have listed them. Doing so will help coalesce your understanding of important events and people. You might also find it helpful to print the following list and keep it with your Bible.

Old Testament

Exodus (chapters 1-24, 32-34)
Numbers (chapters 10-25)
1 & 2 Samuel
Psalms 1-72
1 & 2 Kings
Psalms 73-150
Song of Songs
Proverbs 1-15
Ezekiel 1-40
Proverbs 16-31
1 Chronicles 10-21, 28-29
2 Chronicles
1&2 Maccabees

New Testament

1 & 2 Corinthians
1 & 2 Peter
1&2 Thessalonians
1&2 Timothy
1-3 John

The Jewish priest, Ezra, "Set himself to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel" (Ezra 7).

May God help us do likewise.


Paul Schratz, Vancouver said...

Thank you for this, Richard! What a wonderful Christmas present. I've been feeling the call to get back to Bible reading lately, but needed something to move me. This has done it! Have a blessed Christmas.

Richard Maffeo said...

I am so glad my post is useful for you, Paul. Thanks for letting me know. A blessed ChristMass to you and yours, too.

Anonymous said...

Why in this order? Is it the chronological order in which they were written? What if I do not have a Catholic Bible and therefore do not have some of the above books?

Richard Maffeo said...

Good questions, both. The list is in a VERY loose chronologial order. I placed them as I did because a familiarity with the books earlier in the list (the Old Testament) will help in the understanding of the latter books of the Old Testament. I listed the New Testament books as I did more for variety of length and subject matter than for chronology.

But it is certainly not necessary to read the books in the order i suggest. I know people who start in Genesis and read straight through to Revelation. Whatever works for the reader is best. The point is, two chapters in the morning and two in the evening will get a reader through the entire Bible in less than a year.

THAT's what I really tried to accomplish by posting this list. Apart from the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconcilliation, I think the most important thing for Christian growth (for those who have access to God's word) is familiarity with Holy Scripture(for example, see Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 119:105). St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." For those with access to God's word, to avoid reading, meditating, contemplating and studying it, is a sad thing.

As for not having a Catholic Bible, the order I suggest reading works just as well with Protestant (and Jewish) Bibles. Just omit the deutero-canonical books (e.g. Maccabees, Sirach, Baruch, etc).

Thanks for asking.

writergirlmel said...

Being someone who has abandoned more than one attempt at reading the entire Bible when faced with its drier chapters (particularly the so-and-so begat so-and-so lists), I understand the reasoning behind omitting Leviticus. However, I'm curious as to where you would place Leviticus in the list if it hadn't been omitted.

Richard Maffeo said...

What I usually do when I recycle through the OT is I read Gen and Exodus together. Then I skip around the OT where I might feel like I want to read next. Then a couple of books later, I will read Leviticus, then a few more books like some prophet(s) or psalms, and then will often read Numbers and Deuteronomy together. It's not a hard and fast template, but pretty close to how I do it.

As for reading through, though . . . I think of it in terms of "how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." If we are persistent and consistent, the Holy Spirit will teach us and reveal to us many wonderful insights through our reading . . . even in Leviticus. Has happened for me many, many times.


Anonymous said...

Very practical approach. I like it. Thanks very much.

Richard Maffeo said...

Anonymous, you're welcome. Hope it helps.


Margaret said...

Dear Richard,
I came across your article while searching for a chronological plan for reading the Bible. I have just completed reading through the Bible for the first time. I began by reading a chapter from Old Testament, a chapter from the middle (beginning with Psalms), and a chapter from the New Testament per day. I noticed as I read through, that stories about some events were described in different books, and I wanted to somehow get this information in an order that would make it easier to understand. Thank you very much! Margaret

Rich Maffeo said...

Margaret, congratulations!!! for reading through the Bible for the first time. You have accomplished what MOST Christians never do in their lifetime.

I think that some events are described in different books is, in fact, an asset to our fuller understanding of the Scripture for a couple of reasons -- all of which lead me to suggest you not try so much to read those texts one after the other, but rather you space out your reading over a few months so that the information does not get 'stale' in your mind.

For example, there is the story of David bringing the Ark back to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6 which is repeated in 1 Chronicles 15 -- but in greater detail, which helps explain why God struck Uzzah dead.

Another example is in 2 Kings 21 about King Manasseh, but details about his repentance doesn't come to light until 2 Chronicles 33.

Similar events occur in Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel which we also find further explained in the books of history.

There are simply too many examples throughout the OT and NT that make a coherent list of readings quite cumbersome (in my mind. I believe those lists have been created by others, but I have been following my method so long that those other methods wouldn't be helpful to me).

I think the best advice to give you would be to continue reading the OT and NT as you are doing. In a short time -- couple of years only -- you will find yourself quite knowledgeable about God's word, and growing in that knowledge.

I would not stress at all over the idea that the same stories are told in different places. Use that to your advantage and realize, as I said earlier, you will read the stories again during hour annual trek through the scriptures.

If you have a bible with references in the margin(s), you can use that tool to help you find parallel passages in other books.

I hope what I have told you will be of help. Always feel free to ask me for any help with the Scriptures.