How to Read the Bible in 40 Days

Of course, the trick is not to read it in 40 days. What I’m aiming for is a book a day, which is about two-thirds of the Bible by books but half by actual page count. There wasn’t anything I was itching to give up this year, but I’ve spent a lot of time complaining recently (read: the last five years) about low biblical literacy. But I haven’t read big chunks of the Bible since seminary. I miss it. I can’t, in the next month, make space to read the whole Bible, but I can fit in a good chunk of it. With my life being what it is, and the election cycle being what it is, it seemed like a good time to read the Bible. Within some reasonable parameters.

When people tell me they want to get more familiar with the Bible and ask where to start, usually I say “the short books.” Start with the short books, because it’s a little like Shakespeare: the more you read, the more you enjoy it. Warm up on the sonnets, and you’ll be laughing out loud when you get to Much Ado about Nothing. The Bible is funny, at times. But the humor requires context.

I remember seminary, spending large swaths of time reading the Bible until I started to talk like it, lighting the lights in our darkness and in him finding the hope of our redemption in which all things… just kidding. I’ve never accidentally started talking like an epistle. Anyway.

The trick to reading the Bible in 40 days is that they’re not consecutive days. I’m taking Sundays off, since Sundays are both work days and a day of rest for me, and anyway if you observe Lent on Sundays you actually are making a commitment for 46 days (it’s church, we don’t count very well). I didn’t know this until college, but I plan to take full advantage of the “mini-Easters” each Sunday offers.

With that in mind, I created a map for each day, based on a few guidelines.

1. Know your schedule. I am starting with the short books, but I’m also saving some short books for long days mid-Lent.
2. Intersperse Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament draws on the New, but the New is more familiar to most Christian readers. Mixing it up also keeps things more interesting; you won’t get tired of reading epistles, or wisdom literature (who gets tired of wisdom literature, though?).
3. Include all the gospels, but don’t read them consecutively—that’s too many long books in a row. Start with Mark, because it’s the shortest, but also the earliest. Read the gospels in close proximity, but not back to back.

So with that in mind, you can join me in reading two-thirds of the Bible. If not this Lent, then maybe on some other set of 40(or 46) days.

Wed., Feb. 10: 1 John
Thurs., Feb. 11: 2 John
Fri., Feb. 12: 3 John
Sat., Feb. 13: Obadiah

Mon., Feb. 15: 1 Peter
Tues., Feb. 16: 2 Peter
Wed., Feb. 17: Ruth
Thurs., Feb. 18: Jonah
Fri., Feb. 19: Nahum
Sat., Feb. 20: Habakkuk

Mon., Feb. 22: Micah
Tues., Feb. 23: Mark
Wed., Feb. 24: 1 Timothy
Thurs., Feb. 25: 2 Timothy
Fri., Feb. 26: Titus
Sat., Feb. 27: Hosea

Mon., Feb. 29: Matthew
Tues., Mar. 1: Song of Songs
Wed., Mar. 2: Zephaniah
Thurs., Mar. 3: Haggai
Fri., Mar. 4: Zechariah
Sat., Mar. 5: Malachi

Mon., Mar. 7: John
Tues., Mar. 8: Esther
Wed., Mar. 9: Philemon
Thurs., Mar. 10: James
Fri., Mar. 11: Joel
Sat., Mar. 12: Lamentations

Mon., Mar. 14: Luke
Tues., Mar. 15: Acts
Wed., Mar. 16: Galatians
Thurs., Mar. 17: Ephesians
Fri., Mar. 18: Romans
Sat., Mar. 19:  Deuteronomy

Mon., Mar. 21: Daniel
Tues. Mar. 22: Jude
Wed. Mar. 23: Philippians
Thurs., Mar. 24: Colossians
Fri., Mar. 25: 1 Thessalonians
Sat., Mar. 26: 2 Thessalonians

By the way, 1 John is a good read. A little long, but there’s a real pay off when you get to 2 John.

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