A System of Bible Reading

   Every Christian ought to read the Bible.  Reading it together with other Christians is as important as reading it on one's own.  It is worth remembering that the average English-speaker (to look no further) could scarcely read the New Testament on his own before 1525 because there was no printed New Testament in English for him to read.  It is reckoned that 15,000 English New Testaments were smuggled into England between 1525 and 1530.  Personal Bible-reading began among those who could afford it!  For many years personal Bible-reading was an 'upper-class' activity!  How many Christians had a Bible to read on their own?  Only a minority.  Personal Bible reading is really quite a modern invention!

  We need to work through whole books of the Bible.  There are many way in which it could be done and I suggest two of them here.  Some others are rather too heavy for my liking.    

My method

   The Bible-reading system I have used the most is one that I devised for myself many years ago which is designed for maximal variety and flexibility.  In a more programmed manner I also used it in Know the Bible (Hodder and Stoughton).

   My plan is to read the bible daily in a mixed up order.  You read it at your own pace.  Slowly when you want to spend time in a small portion, or speedily when you perhaps have already recently been reading (or preaching!) this book or you want an overview rather than a detailed study. 

 My order is:

Genesis, Matthew, Joshua, Romans, Isaiah, Proverbs, Hebrews, Psalms 1‑18, Hosea, Psalms 19‑28, Joel, Psalms 29‑34, 1 Corinthians, Jeremiah, James, Psalms 35‑40, Exodus, John's Gospel, Judges, Song of Songs, Psalms 41‑49, Ruth, 1 Peter, Lamentations, Psalms 50‑55, Ecclesiastes,  2 Peter, Psalms 56‑64, 2 Corinthians, Esther, Daniel, Psalms 65‑76,  1 John, Mark, Ezra, 2-3 John, Psalms 77‑82, Leviticus, Jude, Psalms 83‑89, 1 Samuel, Galatians, Nehemiah, Psalms 90‑104, Ephesians, Psalms 105‑111, Luke, Philippians, Ezekiel, 1 Chronicles, Colossians, Psalms 112‑118, Numbers, 2 Samuel, 1 Thessalonians, Job, Amos, Psalm 119, 2 Thessalonians, Obadiah, 1 Kings, Jonah, Psalms 120‑132, 1 Timothy, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Psalms 133‑141, Deuteronomy, Acts, 2 Kings, 2 Timothy, Zephaniah, Haggai, Titus, Zechariah, Malachi, Philemon, 2 Chronicles, Psalms 142‑150, Revelation.

Here are some of the ways of reading whole books of the Bible.

1.  You may simply read through the book and not do much more than pray over what you read.  A good analysis of the thread of thought is valuable.  Big books like Isaiah and Jeremiah come alive when you have a good analysis of the thread of thought[1].  

2.  You may read a biblical book, on your own, a few verses at a time making notes of thoughts and lessons that you learn.  Use an A5 notebook.   

3.  Sometimes you may use an exposition as you read, perhaps by J.C.Ryle[2]  or some of the writings of John Stott[3] or those by D.M.Lloyd-Jones[4].  Spurgeon's Psalms is worth reading in this way.  So are the writings of J.A.Motyer[5] — and there are others.  But if you do this, read their works critically.  Make a point of disagreeing with them occasionally and thinking for yourself!

*4.  You can also work through the Bible in family devotions and (if you are a pastor).  Or you can do it in prayer meetings (but not more than 7-8 minutes long or it will no longer be a prayer meeting!)  If you do this, make a notebook of your thoughts that you are sharing. 

5.  If you are a preacher, you might go through books of the Bible in your preaching — but break your series down into small bits and don't weary your people by preaching for months on one book (unless you are exceptionally gifted in which case you don't need to be reading this!)  I once preached to teenagers 44 sermons on Ephesians – but in three different series at different times, each mini-series being about 14/15 sermons. 

6.  If you are a travelling preacher you might work through a book of the Bible and preach it in different places as you travel.  You will be surprised at how often a message preached in this way is given at the right place at the right time!  Only you yourself get the whole lot.  Others get single sermons or mini-series on your chosen book.

If you do all of these things you will soon find you have notebooks on every book of the Bible.  You might even do all of these things in the mixed up order (Genesis, Matthew, Joshua, Romans, et cetera) that I have suggested.  

There is one more way of doing these things which a few people should follow.  Different people have different callings.  I personally reckon that I ought also to work through books of the Bible reading everything I can find to give me some help, using every commentary I can find in every language I can read plus the articles in the specialist journals available in the universities.  This is the life of a university professor – but done in churches not in a university!  There is need of a few Christian scholars who will be scholars-in-churches  rather than following a prestigious academic career!  Luther was never bothered about his academic career.  He preached in the Wittenberg University in the same way in which he preached in the church of Wittenberg parish!  He treated students as sinners needing God's Word; and he treated ordinary people as needing the rich exposition of the word of God as much as anyone else!

The ASV system

An easy Bible-in-a-year system is the one printed in the ASV translation of the Bible (if you can find one).  It is not my main system of bible-reading (see below) but I have sometimes used it, and I still do when I want a 'lucky dip' kind of reading of the Bible (an 'I-wonder-what-the-ASV-passages-say-today kind of system!).  I often find God uses it!  

The total system of readings goes like this.  


[1] See my recommendations in The Gift of Prophetic Preaching and some my own analyses in Know the Bible. 

[2] See Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (various editions) which is magnificent for daily devotions. 

[3] I think of his works on the Sermon on the Mount, Acts, Romans, Ephesians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus.  His Galatians I think is weak!

[4] Especially From Fear to Faith (Habakkuk) and 2 Peter.  His other works should be read but are perhaps too detailed for daily bible reading.    

[5] Including his Amos, his Philippians and James (IVP).  In the New Bible Commentary Revised his Psalms is excellent.  His works on Isaiah have to be read slowly.