On Two-Speed Scripture Reading

Are you daily making use of your daily bread?

Yes, another odd title. But then again some of you are thinking that Bill is a rather odd fellow. But wait, there is a purpose in what I am writing here. And some folks might find that what I have to say in this piece to be sensible, even helpful. It has to do with how we read the Bible.

Hopefully if you are a Christian you are reading Scripture every day. As I say so often, if you read a little over three chapters a day, you can get through the entire Bible in a year. With 1189 chapters, the math is pretty easy enough to perform: it comes out to 3.26 chapters a day to be precise.

I say all this because of something I saw on the social media. A friend was talking about the rich truths he was gleaning from an Old Testament prophetic book. He had said this: ‘Going very slow, sometimes just a verse a day. With lots of prayer.’

I was tempted to answer him with a bit of humour and another quick bit of math: there are 31,173 verses (or thereabouts) in the Bible, so if you stick to one verse a day, it will only take you 85 and a half years to get through the whole Bible!

Of course he would not limit himself to just one verse a day every day, and the point he was making is perfectly valid: we need to study Scripture in depth. Sometimes just one passage of the Bible can really occupy our attention, and lead to many hours of deep study, meditation, and prayer. That is a practice we should all develop.

But what about the entirety of Scripture? Let’s say you do so much intense study of Scripture, that you get through only a few books of the Bible in a year. What happens to all the rest of it? It is possible to go so slow that you end up missing the forest for the trees?

That is where my title comes in. Perhaps we need to have a two-track Bible-reading plan, and/or two speeds at which we read Scripture. One option is to do the three-plus chapters a day to make sure you have gotten through the entire book at least once a year, while also doing some slower, in depth study of parts of Scripture.

You might decide for example that you want to spend six months on the book of Deuteronomy, or a few months on the Epistle to the Ephesians. That is fine. But on the other hand, there is a real place for getting the big picture of what Scripture is all about.

Reading your three plus chapters a day will give you the big picture, but still, it is over the course of an entire year. Another option is to at least once in a while go on a Bible reading marathon: try to go through the entire Bible in a matter of months, or even weeks.

One gal had just posted this under another online post of mine in which I discuss Bible reading, and Bible reading plans: “I once read the entire Bible 3 times in one month … I am not saying it to brag, but to show people it is NOT DIFFICULT! Reading at that speed gives you a very unique perspective of the whole story. Reading slower, with much study and research, brings you many facts and insights that bring deep understanding.”

Yes she is absolutely right. To read through large hunks of Scripture in one sitting, or over a shortish period of time, can be so valuable and useful. If it is not the whole Bible, you might challenge yourself to at least read through an entire book in one go.

As an example, there are 16 chapters in the book of Romans. It was written as a cohesive unit, and really should be read that way. While the reading speed of folks will vary, let’s say it takes three minutes to read one average length chapter. It would then take less than an hour (48 minutes) to read all of Romans in one sitting.

Or one could read all 21 chapters of John’s gospel in just over an hour (63 minutes). But as mentioned, more or less speed reading large hunks of Scripture needs to be balanced with slower, more careful reading, study and reflection of Scripture.

One could easily read and meditate on something like the “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13). Those 13 short verses could easily be dealt with for many minutes – even hours. Or one can pick a Psalm and spend some quality time with it. Perhaps the ideal is to do both – if you have the time. You might read straight through one mid-length book of the Bible, while also spending quality time on one verse, or one passage, or one chapter of it.

Certainly pastors – especially those who do expository preaching – will study the word in both ways and with both speeds. They will read through an entire book quite often (be it Hosea or Hebrews) to keep the big picture in mind, while also spending lots of time in study and research on short sections of the book.

There are no hard and fast rules here, and we do not want to bind folks with any sort of legalism on this. But I think there are a few clear goals that all Christians should certainly strive for:

-Read the Bible every day, whether it is just one chapter or three or ten. It IS our daily bread you know.

-Make sure that you do eventually read all of the Bible. Too many believers may only know some of the New Testament, or some of the Psalms. They really should read and know about all of Scripture. As I say, I aim to do this once each year.

-Try to make use of various reading speeds and study options. Try to read an entire book, but also try to spend some key time on particular passages or portions of Scripture.

You may want to find some reading plan and stick with it, at least for a while. There are many sorts of plans out there. If you do not want to be away from the New Testament for 9 months of the year, some plans will offer a variation with, say, 2 OT chapters a day along with 1 NT chapter.

But whatever plan or method or style you make use of, please do make sure that you are daily in the word of God.

[1102 words]

7 Replies to “On Two-Speed Scripture Reading”

  1. It makes me feel privileged when I think of people pre 1700 when 50% literacy in the West was first reached, not to mention the masses pre-Gutenberg ca. 1440.
    I wonder if our auditory and retentive skills have diminished somewhat, being less in demand.
    Memorising scripture seems unnecessary if you know where to look it up and my smart phone does that very efficiently.
    Don’t stop reading!

  2. Excellent advice. 4 years ago my chronic illness terminated by ability to do normal things, including attending church. My wife and I decided to start a daily Bible study, about 1/2 to 1 chapter per day. I prepare by pre-reading and, as necessary, using commentaries and sometimes listening to sermons on SermonAudio . Com. We read the section together, and I try to share what I learned earlier. We follow with prayer. We have completed the Bible once and are now on round 2, I was never an active reader and I’m shamed to say at age 68 I am, only now understanding the importance, i cannot adequately express how much we are learning. I wish I understood this much earlier in my life. Putting Gods words in my mind each day focuses me on him. Some days I’m not up to it so we average 5 days per week. It took a few months and lots of praying for it to become a habit, but now we both have a desire for God’s word. While most people don’t have the time for the prep that I do, simply reading is what my wife does and she is also growing in knowledge. God’s word is indeed for our feeding and sanctification. Perhaps it took disability to turn me to God’s word? If so, I am grateful.

  3. Agree 100%, and I also think it needs to be said clearly every now and then.
    Quite a while ago I went through John’s Gospel one verse a day, meditating on it without reference to any other book. I ended up writing about 250 words per verse.
    Right now I am reading in Paul’s letters one paragraph a day, and I am so inspired by it, using that method.
    At church we have some new Christians and pre Christians who know nearly nothing about the Bible stories or claims, so we have begun a series in Sunday morning worship where we read a whole chapter of Matthew, we make comments as we go, instead of a sermon.
    Our Bible study group is doing a chapter of Genesis 1-12 each week for the same reason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *