Man with a plan

An intriguing suggestion for a Bible-reading programme from Cerulean Sanctum, involving reading entire books at a single sitting and spending a month reading only that book. I think I’ll pass, myself, but it’s still an interesting approach.

Over the past few years, I’ve used (intermittently) a slight variant on the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan that is aimed at reading the OT over two years and the NT in one year. I find this a less frenetic approach than trying to read the whole of the Bible in a single year.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that, as Dan Edelen puts it, while M’Cheyne is a great saint, “this doesn’t change the fact that his Bible-reading program’s not all that good”. If you do the whole thing (OT in a year, NT twice each year) then you’ll either collapse under the strain or else read in a very superficial manner. Plus, with my own “50%” approach, the strictly sequential approach meant reading all four gospels in the first three months or so, then the psalms for another three or four months, and then clattering through the rest of the NT in the remainder of the year. Not ideal: the months spent in the psalms become a bit of a slog, and by December I’ve almost forgotten what the Jesus of the gospels is like.

And then there’s its complete detachment from the rhythms of the church year. For example, the readings for 25 December are 2 Chronicles 30, Revelation 16, Zechariah 12:1-13:1 and John 15, none of which is what you’d call particularly “Christmassy”.

A number of Lutheran bloggers have been commending Pr Weedon’s plan for using the Lutheran Service Book’s assigned readings and psalms, together with a daily reading from the Book of Concord. The problem with the LSB’s plan, however, is that it doesn’t cover the whole Bible (unless you read the optional “fill-in” readings, which can mean reading several chapters at a single sitting).

So the plan I’m currently using is the St James Daily Devotional Guide published by Touchstone Magazine. For each day there is assigned:

  • an OT reading (normally a full chapter);
  • an NT reading;
  • a reading from one of the four gospels; and
  • psalms for morning and evening.

Notes are provided for some days, with further notes available online (though I don’t generally use these).

The overall aim of the plan is to read the OT over the course of two years, and the NT in a single year, which is the sort of rhythm I was aiming for anyway. I tend to read the NT and gospel in the morning, and the OT reading at night, but the notes suggest other approaches.

Some “pros” of the St James plan:

  • the readings are a good length, and I’ve found it particularly helpful to read the gospels in shorter, more concentrated chunks rather than racing through a chapter at a time;
  • the plan means you read from the OT, NT, gospels and psalms every day, which I think is a very healthy approach; and
  • the plan provides a devotional framework in which to use the readings, with suggested forms of intercession and other prayers. Hence it can function as a “mini office”.

Against that, the main disadvantage so far is a tendency to switch and chop a little more than I’d like, rather than just reading each book sequentially. For example, the NT readings over the past seven days have been: Hebrews 6:11-20, 11:1-12, 7:1-10; Romans 4:13-25; Hebrews 7:11-19; Galatians 4:21-31; Hebrews 11:13-22, 7:20-28. The gospel readings have been more regular, though.

On the other hand, that approach does allow for some helpful pairings of passages (e.g. pairing Genesis 22 with Hebrews 11:13-22). I’m also hoping this will help achieve what would be a very useful aim for me: to maintain a habit of regular, systematic Bible reading, without getting constantly hung up over “how far through” I am, how long it is since I read this or that book.

Overall, I’d say if you’re looking for a plan that covers the whole Bible without turning into a gallop, that takes account of the church year, and that keeps you in daily contact with all the main parts of the Bible (not least the psalms and the gospels), then this is well worth a look. The annual subscription is $14 for the US/Canada, $20 for the rest of us.

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