You Can Read the Bible in a Year
Note: Following this plan, you will read some of each testament every day.
1–2 Peter, Mark
Proverbs, Genesis, Exodus (skim chapters 25–30; 35–40), Leviticus (skim chapters 1–7)
1–3 John, John
Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Deuteronomy
1–2 Corinthians, Titus
Isaiah, Numbers (skim chapters 1–2; 7), Judges
1–2 Timothy, Philemon
Jeremiah, Lamentations, 1–2 Samuel, Ruth
Ezekiel (skim chapters 40–48), Joshua (skim chapters 11–21)
Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians
Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, 1 Kings
Colossians, 1–2 Thessalonians
Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 2 Kings
Esther, Job, Psalms 1–50
Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Chronicles (skim chapters 1–9), Psalms 51–100
2 Chronicles, Psalms 101–150
10 Bible Reading Tips
Okay, so you’ve decided to read the Bible completely—oddly, an accomplishment only a handful of Christians have achieved. That’s great! You have adopted the realistic monthly plan in Appendix A. More importantly, you have finished reading A Quick Overview of the Bible and appreciate how vital history and geography are for bringing the biblical story to life. You understand that each genre has its own rules for proper interpretation, and you’re raring to go.
What’s next? The purpose of this appendix is to offer some practical tips. Study them—you’ll thank yourself for internalizing them. And may your Bible reading always be profitable, enjoying, life-changing.
1. Get a Bible version you can understand and enjoy.
Numerous readable and reasonably accurate translations are available to English readers. I recommend the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the New English Translation, and the English Standard Version. Or maybe you would like to use the even more readable (though somewhat less accurate) New Living Translation, Contemporary English Version, or bestselling New International Version. These are just a few of the better versions. If you have finished the Bible completely, consider moving on to a new version.
2. Determine the genre.
Each genre is interpreted by different rules, so knowing the genre is essential. Is it narrative? Poetry? Acts? Gospel (bios)? National history? Covenant? Law code? Prophecy? Wisdom literature? Letter? Apocalyptic? Genealogy? Psalm? Review the relevant sections throughout this book to refresh yourself on the basic rules of interpretation.
3. Read each book all the way through.
When you read, don’t feel compelled to read the Bible straight through (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus…), but do read each book straight through. (Once you begin Ecclesiastes, keep reading until you finish all 12 chapters, even if you don’t read it all in one sitting.) Get into the habit of finishing what you started. This will also help you discern the major themes, grasp the purpose of the book, and remember particular passages.
4. Read straight through and then review.
After a quick read-through—ideally of the entire book of the Bible you have chosen to study—slow down and read the text a second time. You will see many things you missed the first time.
5. Read paragraph by paragraph, not verse by verse.
Webster’s defines a paragraph as “a subdivision of a written composition that consists of one or more sentences, deals with one point or gives the words of one speaker…” Yet most people tend to read the Bible in tiny bits and pieces, moving from verse to verse, focusing on minute portions of a text rather than studying it as a whole. Each verse is part of a flow of thought, a developing argument, a logical sequence, a greater whole. Ask yourself, what is the point of this paragraph?
6. Determine the main point.
Each paragraph should have a main point. Each chapter or book has a main point. Instead of viewing the text as a subjective collage of ideas, try to follow the writer’s line of thought. If you can put his thinking into a single sentence, you are mentally retracing his steps. You get it!
7. Don’t assume you understand ancient culture.
Let’s say you’re reading Exodus and come across the phrase milk and honey (which appears four times in the book). You continue through the text, assuming you know what the phrase means: Milk is from a cow, and honey is made by bees. That makes sense in our culture—but not necessarily in Moses’. We must remember to first mentally transport ourselves to the biblical world, after which we’re better able to determine what phrases mean. (Milk would almost certainly be from goats—far better suited than cows to roam the steep hills of Israel, which are seldom covered with lush vegetation. And honey is probably the juice of the date-palm.) Identify also the names of people and places (Jethro, Gideon, Cyprus, the Nile). A good Bible dictionary can prove a useful friend.
8. Focus on Christ.
Jesus is the central figure of the Scriptures. Each book anticipates, points to, or reveals the Messiah in some way—so we need to think Christologically. That’s a long word but a great one. It means keeping Christ at the center of what we’re doing. With this in mind, I have always found it helpful to do some daily reading in both testaments. If we were to give equal time to every book or chapter of the Bible, we would be spending three quarters of our time in the Old Testament. That is fine if you study, say, three Old Testament chapters and one New Testament chapter a day. But unless we carefully balance our study, we can lose sight of Christ. After all, every book in both testaments points toward him. And remember the old adage, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”
9. Apply the passage.
Now that you’ve done the spadework, it’s time to apply the text. Resist the urge to arrive at conclusions before you’ve completed the previous steps. You may well have a great insight, but if it isn’t from the text, you haven’t really been doing Bible study. You are just using the Bible as a springboard for exploring your own spiritual thoughts. Here are some good application questions: Is there an example to follow (or avoid)? A grand biblical theme to trace? A promise to claim? A sin to confess? An insight to help me make sense of the world? To recognize when a Bible passage applies to you, you need to thoroughly examine yourself at this point in your life. Are you happy or sad? Young or old? Strong in your faith or wavering? Rich or poor? (Hint: if you live in America or Western Europe, you are almost certainly rich.) You’re actually asking, “What is God saying to me here?”
10. Finish reading the entire Bible.
Reading the entire Bible builds confidence, not to mention credibility. If this is your first time through, keep track of where you’ve been. Choose a system that works for you. If you read three to four chapters a day, you will read the entire Bible in a year.
Teaching A Quick Overview of the Bible
in a Small Group or Class
Why an Overview Is Important
Many Christians do not have the big picture of the Bible. Survey courses are desperately needed. These series take some of the mystery out of the Bible, building confidence and encouraging sharing of the material through counseling and evangelism. Overviews also help students to see how practical the Bible is.
This appendix is designed to help you use the material in this book to construct a church class series. Although we hope that all the material in the book is interesting, not all the material need be taught in order to develop an interesting and helpful course. You will need to decide how many units to create depending on the number of weeks available and the interest level in your class.
I will offer some general principles as well as a few possible schemas for effectively utilizing A Quick Overview of the Bible in your local church. There are several series that can be taught from the book. If you are a church leader looking for material, here is nearly six months’ worth.
A Word to Bible Teachers
Do you teach the Bible to your friends? Do you lead a Bible discussion, or shepherd a group—small or large—in a congregation? Then this book is for you. Of all people, we who teach need to grasp the big picture of God’s word. When we see how the pieces fit together, three benefits accrue.
- Competence grows. We become proficient in helping others with God’s word because we are being trained to handle it correctly (2 Timothy 2:15).
- Confidence follows. Godly and humble confidence (not arrogant bluster!) results from knowing what we know, and what we don’t know.
- Credibility is enhanced. Out listeners realize that we're not speaking theoretically, but from personal transformation.
Bible teachers must become diligent students of God’s word, and this includes aiming for proficiency in the history, geography, sociology, and theology of the Scriptures. As your knowledge grows, Bible reading becomes an adventure. When we are able to translate its images, symbols, and culture into terms we relate to, we see in color instead of black and white. We also see stereoscopically, with the depth perception that comes from historical perspective and appreciation of biblical culture.
- Be generous in your time allotment. For example, if you have a 12-week window, plan only 10 or 11 classes. This allows for the inevitable interruptions to the church schedule.
- If you are the teacher, make sure you yourself have studied the lessons well in advance thoroughly.
- If all the students can get their own copies of A Quick Overview of the Bible, decide whether you want them to read the chapter of the week in advance (as preparation) or after the class (as review).
- Keep each class to 30 or 35 minutes, and then allow time for questions.
- Show enthusiasm, and others will likely respond with interest and willingness to challenge themselves.
- Close the series with a quiz, a party, or both!
1. Full version (22 weeks).
a. Introductory class—prepare from chapters 1 and 2, distribute syllabus, and invite the class members to share about their Bible reading experience. Have they finished the whole New Testament? The entire Old Testament? What is their favorite Bible version? What do they hope to get out of the course? If you need more material, share the 10 Bible Reading Tips from appendix B.
b. 21 classes covering chapters 3–23.
2. Short version (15 weeks)
a. Introductory class (as above). Explain that you will not be covering the entire book. Encourage the students to read the skipped chapters when they have time.
b. 9 Old Testament classes on chapters 4 and 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15
c. 5 New Testament classes on chapters 16 and 17, 18, 19 and 20, 21, 22 and 23
3. Old Testament series (8 weeks)
a. 11 classes covering chapters 4 through 14.
b. Expanded series: conclude with chapter 15 (“The Intertestamental Period”)
4. New Testament series (8 weeks)
a. 8 classes covering chapters 16 through 23
b. Expanded series: begin with chapter 15 (“The Intertestamental Period”)
Compelling Evidence for God and the Bible. Teach a series based on Douglas Jacoby’s book of Christian evidences. Invite your friends—this will help them come to faith.
Your Bible Questions Answered. Teach a class series based on Douglas’ Your Bible Questions Answered. Select five or ten questions a week in order to allow for discussion. Start off each class with a fun Bible quiz—there are over 100 in Jacoby’s The Ultimate Bible Quiz Book.
All three of these titles are published by Harvest House Publishers.
Links to Resources by Doug Jacoby
AIM New Testament Interpretation. 10 hours.
AIM New Testament Survey. 10 hours.
AIM Old Testament Interpretation. 10 hours.
AIM Old Testament Survey. 10 hours.
CDs with Printed Materials
Night of Redemption: A Study of Exodus. 5 hours.
Culture: Conformity or Conviction? A study of the Pastoral Epistles. 3 hours.
Foundations for Faith: Old Testament Survey. 12 hours.
The Wisdom Literature. 3 hours.
How We Got the Bible. 3 hours.
Egypt in the Bible. 6 hours.
Reading, Praying, and Living the Psalms. 5 hours.
The Lion has Roared: An Exposition of Amos. 4 hours.
Back from the Edge: A Study of Hebrews. 5 hours.
Revelation and the End of the World. 3 hours.
The Faith Unfurled: New Testament Survey.
The Lost Books of the Bible that Were Never Missing.
Compelling Evidence for God and the Bible.
Genesis, Science & History.
Foundations for Faith: Old Testament Survey.
The Letters of James, Peter, John, and Jude.
Verdadero y Razonable (Spanish).
Avi-Yonah, Michael. Pictorial Guide to the Model of Ancient Jerusalem at the Time of the Second Temple. Herzlia: Palphot, 1997.
Bromiley, Geoffrey, ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979.
Carson, D. A. Exegetical Fallacies. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996.
———. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.
Cunliffe, Barry, ed. The Holy Land— Oxford Archaeological Guides. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Comfort, Philip Wesley, ed. The Origin of the Bible. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1992.
Davis, John J. Biblical Numerology: A Basic Study of the Use of Numbers in the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.
Elwell, Robert, and Robert Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.
Goodrick, Edward and John Kohlenberger III. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.
Healey, John F. The Early Alphabet. London: British Museum Publications Ltd., 1990.
Hess, Richard S. Israelite Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.
Kinnard, G. Steven. Getting the Most from the Bible. Woburn, MS: DPI, 2000.
Lightfoot, J. B., tr. The Apostolic Fathers, Second Edition. London: Apollos, 1989.
Lightfoot, Neil. How We Got the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.
Linnemann, Eta. Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001.
The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible. Batavia, IL.: Lion, 1986.
Marty, William H. The Whole Bible Story: Everything That Happens in the Bible in Plain English. Bloomington: Bethany House, 2011.
Matthews, Victor. Manners and Customs in the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to Daily Life in Bible Times. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.
Millard, Alan. Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.
The Mishnah: A New Translation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
Oswalt, John N. The Bible among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
Sparks, Kenton L. God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.
Strong, James. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible—21st Century Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.
The Times Atlas of the Bible. London: Times Books Limited, 1987.
Vine, W. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997.
Walker, C.B.F. Cuneiform. London: British Museum Publications Ltd., 1993.
Other Books—the Old Testament
Archer, Gleason. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1994.
Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008.
Arnold, Bill, and Bryan Beyer. Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.
Bright, John. The Authority of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.
Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Minneapolis: Fortress Press,1997.
Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2004.
Cunliffe, Barry, ed. The Holy Land—Oxford Archaeological Guides. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Drane, John. Introducing the Old Testament. Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2001.
Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History: Old Testament. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995.
———. Sketches of Jewish Social Life. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.
———. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services. Updated edition. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.
Fee, Gordon, and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible Book by Book. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.
———. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Third edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
Heschel, Abraham. The Prophets. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1962.
Kaiser, Walter. A History of Israel. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998.
———. The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? Downers Grove: IVP, 2001.
———. A History of Israel. Nashville: Broadman & Holman,1998.
Kinnard, G. Steven. Prophets: The Voices of Yahweh. Billerica, MS: DPI, 2002.
LaSor, William, David Hubbard, and Frederic Bush. Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.
Longman III, Tremper. Old Testament Commentary Survey. Second edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.
Matthews, Victor H., and Don C. Benjamin. Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007.
Matthews, Victor H. Manners and Customs in the Bible. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1992.
Price, Randall, The Stones Cry Out. Eugene: Harvest House, 1997.
Satterthwaite, Philip E., Richard S. Hess, and Gordon J. Wenham. The Lord’s Anointed: Interpretation of Old Testament Messianic Texts. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.
Schürer, Emil. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 BC–AD 135). Vol. 1. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1973.
Shanks, Hershel. Jerusalem: An Archaeological Biography. New York: Random House, 1995.
Sparks, Kenton L. Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005.
Stuart, Douglas. Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Third edition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.
Walton, John H. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.
Whiston, William, tr. Josephus’ Complete Works. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1973.
Willis, John. My Servants the Prophets. Abilene: Sweet, 1972.
Wise, Michael, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation San Francisco: Harper, 1996.
Yancey, Philip. The Bible Jesus Read. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
Other Books—New Testament
Barclay, William. The Mind of Jesus. New York: HarperCollins, 1976.
Barrett, Charles. New Testament Background: Selected Documents. Revised and expanded edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1987.
Bruce, F. F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977.
———. Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament. Toronto: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984.
Evans, Craig A. Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1993.
Kinnard, G. Steven. Getting the Most from the Bible. Woburn, MS: DPI, 2000.
Lightfoot, Neil. Jesus Christ Today: A Commentary on the Book of Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989.
Carson, D. A. New Testament Commentary Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.
Davids, Peter H. More Hard Sayings of the New Testament. Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 1991.
Drane, John. Introducing the New Testament. Oxford: Lynx, 1986.
Fee, Gordon D. New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.
Fee, Gordon, and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993.
———. How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.
Ferguson, Gordon. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Victory of the Lamb in the Book of Revelation. Woburn., MS: DPI, 1996.
———. Revolution! The World-Changing Church in the Book of Acts. Woburn, MS: DPI, 1998.
Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1970.
McGuiggan, Jim. Revelation. Fort Worth: Star Bible Publishers, 1976.
Meyer, Marvin W., tr. The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels. New York: Random House, 1984.
Metzger, Bruce M. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Oakes, John. From Shadow to Reality. Newton Upper Falls, MS: IPI, 2005.
Pixner, Bargil. With Jesus Through Galilee According to the Fifth Gospel. Rosh Pina, Israel: Corazin Publishing, 1992.
Robinson, John A.T. Redating the New Testament. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976.
Schreiner, Thomas. Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006.
Schürer, Emil. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 BC–AD 135). Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1973.
Tenney, Merrill. New Testament Survey. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992.
Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1985.
Witherington III, Ben. The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1998.
Wright, N.T. What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? Oxford: Lion, 1997.
———. Who Was Jesus? London: S.P.C.K., 1992.
Yancey, Philip. The Bible Jesus Read. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
Ben Witherington. http://www.benwitherington.com, http://benwitherington.blogspot.com
Bible Gateway: A Searchable online Bible in over 100 versions and 50 languages. http://www.biblegateway.com
Bible Contradictions . http://www.kingdavid8.com/Contradictions/Home.html
BrainBank Other Reference—Religion.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org
Christian Research Institute . http://www.equip.org
Craig Evans. http://www.craigaevans.com
Dean Overman. http://www.deanoverman.com
Evidence for Christianity. http://www.evidenceforChristianity.org
International Teaching Ministry of Douglas Jacoby. http://www.douglasjacoby.com,
Interpreting Ancient Manuscripts. http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/mss/overview.html
N.T. Wright. http://www.ntwrightpage.com
Offline Resources. http://www.megabaud.fi/~osmosa/index.htm
Religion/Religions/Religious Studies. http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel
Religious and Sacred Texts. http://webpages.marshall.edu/~wiley6/rast.htmlx
Religium/Religion Index. http://www.teleport.com/~arden/religium.htm
Resource Pages for Biblical Studies. http://www.hivolda.no/asf/kkf/rel-stud.html
Theological Texts. http://www.mcgill.pvt.k12.al.us/jerryd/cm/thltxt.htm
Walking Thru the Bible. home.hiwaay.net/~wgann/walk/walk.htm
World Wide Study Bible. www.ccel.org/wwsb