So for the past couple weeks I’ve been developing a Bible-reading plan. I got the idea for it based on where I’m planning on taking my devotional habits: spending about 20 minutes in prayer and the Scriptures every morning and evening, and 10 minutes at night/bedtime. To go with this, I want to have a lectionary that gives me two readings each morning and evening, and another (shorter) one for the night. I’ve never seen a Bible-reading plan that has 5 simultaneous tracks, or 5 readings per day of any sort, so I decided to make one.
I’ve noticed that there are two major families of lectionaries: liturgical and non-liturgical. Liturgical lectionaries are tied to the Christian calendar, making sure that the holidays and seasons are appropriate reflected, prepared for, and followed-up. In between times, they tend to go through whole books, but I’ve never seen a liturgical lectionary that covers the whole Bible. It’s about formation and discipline, not growth. Non-liturgical lectionaries, on the other hand, have no connection to a calendar other than numbering the days of the year, 1-365. Instead, these focus on getting through the whole Bible, usually in one year. It’s great for study, or getting exposure to the whole content of Scripture, but they don’t have much to offer in terms of spiritual formation. But what happens if you try to do both together?
I am excited to say that this is what I managed to do. I haven’t filled in the readings for the major holidays yet, but the rest of the plan is finished. There were a few guiding principles that I made sure to stick with as I put this together:
- Keep each reading as evenly-lengthed as reasonable possible without violating logical paragraphs and thought-lengths in the biblical text.
- Go straight through whole books, and when possible, in their chronological order.
- Omit no portion of Scripture, even the “boring parts.”
In addition to having the Bible’s text completely read through, I decided to add in some fuller context: the Apocrypha and the Apostolic Fathers. The Apocrypha was well-read in Jesus’ time, and very influential in the Early Church. Whether it was regarded as Scripture or not, it nevertheless maintained a special place alongside the Bible as important background and devotional material. As such, I wanted to get a chance to read it in a similar devotional fashion, to get a sense for what it says, and how it connects to the Old Testament texts and themes. The Apostolic Fathers is a distinct list of early Christian writings which are from the 1st and 2nd centuries. Some of these writings were almost counted as New Testament Scripture because they were so close to them in age; most of these authors knew the original Apostles personally, and were their disciples. So these writings are valuable insights into how the New Testament’s depiction of the Church played out in the following 50-100 years. I do not mean to imply that the Apocrypha and Apostolic Fathers are scriptural, or carry equal authority; I only want to affirm their value as spiritual writings which are very close to the heart of the Bible, and their usefulness in shedding some light on its interpretation.
Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of how it’s organized.
- First reading is from the Torah or from the Prophets
- Second reading is from the Gospels or from Acts
- Total daily reading average of 48 verses
- First reading is from the OT historical books or Apocrypha’s historical books
- Second reading is from the NT epistles or Apostolic Fathers
- Total daily reading average of 45 verses
- Reading is from OT wisdom literature or Apocrypha’s wisdom literature
- Total daily reading average of 12 verses
During Advent (4 weeks) you’ll read:
- Morning OT: Jonah, Obadiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Baruch, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah
- Morning NT: the last third of Acts
- Evening OT: Joshua
- Evening NT: James, I & II Thessalonians, Galatians, part of I Corinthians
- Night: Ecclesiastes
During Christmas & Epiphany (nearly 3 weeks) you’ll read:
- Morning OT: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
- Morning NT: the first quarter of Mark
- Evening OT: Judges
- Evening NT: the rest of I Corinthians
- Night: Song of Songs
Between Epiphany and Lent (between 2 and 5 weeks) you’ll read:
- Morning OT: Ezekiel
- Morning NT: the beginning of Matthew
- Evening OT: Ruth, I Samuel
- Evening NT: II Corinthians, I & II Timothy, Jude
- Night: roughly the first third of Proverbs
During Lent (6 weeks) you’ll read:
- Morning OT: Jeremiah, Lamentations
- Morning NT: John chapters 1-19
- Evening OT: I Chronicles
- Evening NT: Romans, Ephesians, Philemon, Colossians
- Night: most of Proverbs
Between Easter and Pentecost (7 weeks) you’ll read:
- Morning OT: Isaiah
- Morning NT: John 20-21, the rest of Mark (which left off in Epiphany)
- Evening OT: II Chronicles, Nehemiah
- Evening NT: Philippians, Titus, Hebrews, I & II Peter
- Night: Wisdom of Solomon, the rest of Proverbs
Between Pentecost and Advent (27 to 32 weeks) you’ll read:
- Morning OT: Daniel, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
- Morning NT: Matthew (left off from before Lent), Luke, just over half of Acts
- Evening OT: II Samuel, I & II Kings, Tobit, Ezra, Esther, Judith, I & II Maccabees
- Evening NT: I & II & III John, Revelation, I Clement, Didache, 7 Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle of Polycarp, Epistle of Barnabus, Sermon ad Diognetus, Shepherd of Hermas, II Clement, Martyrdom of Polycarp
- Night: Job, Sirach
The tricky thing about describing this is the fact that “Ordinary Time” is continuous with itself. It runs between Epiphany & Lent and picks back up at Pentecost until Advent, but the number of weeks on either side of the split varies from year to year, depending upon the date of Easter. So there’s an inevitable interruption in the Ordinary Time readings, but at least they come back to be finished.
I’m not sure when I’ll try this plan out. I may start as early as Advent this year. Hopefully I’ll have convinced some folks to try it out with me at the same time, so we can 1) do it in community, and 2) get multiple perspectives on how it works out.