How to Read the Whole Bible, and Survive the Experience

This is an off-topic post for people who want to read the Bible, but have never been able to make it all of the way through. In my opinion, it is difficult to understand Western Civilization without having read the Bible. No single book, or collection of books has had such a profound effect on the cultures of Western Civilization, both positively and negatively. I.e., people react for and against what the Bible says.

I write this because I have met many people in my time who have said that they wanted to read the Bible, and started to do it, but couldn’t get through the five books of Moses. A few would tell me that they made it through the books of Moses, but could not make it through the prophets. Almost no one made it to the New Testament.

Face it, as a collection of ancient books, the Bible has a lot of different literary genres, and some are more congenial, and some less congenial to the modern mind. The Bible is an intricately woven set of books written over a 2100 (or so) year time span by 44 or so human authors. There are many themes and symbols that get visited and revisited in many different ways. Even for someone who does not want to believe the Bible as true, there is an appreciation to be had in it as literature. Think of it as a book with recurring themes that ties them all together from beginning to end. If I have to give an analogy, think of an author who has several different story lines that converge at the end of the book. In that, the Bible is similar.

Think of the following:

Where did man come from, and where is he going?
Why is there suffering? Why is there joy?
Why have the Jews (a relatively small group) been critical to the history of the world?
Why is Jesus Christ (Y’shua Ha’mushiach) so controversial?

Anyway, back to the practical. What I am about to share with you is what my family does every evening at our family devotions. We read a chapter of the Bible, talk about it, pray, and sing two psalms. When my kids were little, we would go straight through the Bible, and eventually my dear wife Ruth would say to me, “Why do I have to wait three years to hear the Gospels, and then I hear them all at once?”

Good question. With that, I set about to find a way to go through the Bible systematically, but not linearly. I divided the Bible up into its main genres:

  • Books of Moses and Old Testament History
  • Wisdom Literature, minus Psalms and Proverbs
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs
  • Prophets
  • Gospels and Acts
  • Epistles (Letters)

After that, I counted the number of chapters in each book and group, apportioned the Psalms and Proverbs into ten groups each, paying attention to logical dividing lines in each set, and calculated how they could be evenly interspersed as seven groups of writings. The list came out as follows:

Genesis
Psalms 1-14
Matthew
Proverbs 1-3
Job
Romans
Isaiah
Psalms 15-27
Proverbs 4-6
Exodus
I & II Corinthians
Psalms 28-41
Proverbs 7-9
Leviticus
Mark
Jeremiah
Numbers
Psalms 42-57
Proverbs 10-12
Deuteronomy
Galatians
Acts
Psalms 58-72
Proverbs 13-15
Ephesians
Joshua
Philippians
Lamentations
Proverbs 16-18
Psalms 73-89
Judges
Ezekiel
Ecclesiastes
Colossians
Ruth
I & II Thessalonians
I & II Samuel
Proverbs 19-21
John
Psalms 90-106
I & II Timothy
Song of Solomon
I & II Kings
Proverbs 22-24
Daniel
Titus
Psalms 107-119
Philemon
Hebrews
Hosea
Luke
Proverbs 25-27
I & II Chronicles
Joel
Psalms 120-134
Amos
James
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
I & II Peter
Proverbs 28-31
Nahum
Psalms 135-150
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Ezra
Zechariah
John’s Epistles I, II & III
Nehemiah
Esther
Malachi
Jude
Revelation

I can’t improve on the Bible, but reading it in this way still gives the thrust of its progress, while keeping people from boredom from “genre overload.” It has proven very useful to my family as we read the Bible, and keeps things fresh as we switch from genre to genre, while still moving through the Bible linearly overall. It has worked well for my family the last four times through the Bible.

If this list proves useful to you, and it actually enables you to successfully read through the whole Bible, please drop me a note.

5 Comments

  • Steven Milos says:

    David,

    Leave it a fixed income guy to methodically apportion a rational, logical way to read the Bible LOL. Seriously, that’s a great list, and I hope that it is a real help to people who haven’t discovered the wonderful variety included in the Bible. As for me, often times, I’ll just open it, see where God leads me, and amazingly enough, the particular chapter/verse/passage will prove relevant to whatever is occurring in my life at that time.

    God bless you and all of the readers of your blog.

    Merry Christmas,

    Steve

  • dowoper8tr says:

    I appreciate this article as I too have tried many times to read the Bible from start to finish, in that order, only to wind up quitting. I finally found a 1980 copy of the Readers Digest Bible. No, its not a “small” book. It is actually the Bible written in story format and makes it far easier to read and understand. The maps are extremely intersting, as well. I am amazed at how much information I missed from the King James version simply because I didnt understand the language, context or geography.

  • Lorrie Barkins Lipshitz says:

    Interesting post. David, do you believe that the Bible is true?

  • Lorrie, I believe the Bible is true, reliable in its better translations, inspired by God, and inerrant in the original manuscripts.

    This isn’t a religion blog but an investing blog, so I only trot stuff out like this about once every 200 posts. For those who want to know my religious views in depth, you can visit the two personal links on my front page.

  • leongcpa says:

    First time reader of this blog, having stumbled onto it from other financial blogs; great list and one I will probably use for me and my family.