The first time Meg Hunter-Kilmer read the entire Bible, it took her about six years, at the rate of a chapter a day. By the time she finished, as a freshman in college, she felt like she needed a little break — but she already had her next effort planned.
With the help of a reading schedule she found online, she would read the Good Book again — but this time, over the course of just a year.
She did it. And then she did it again.
In fact, the Catholic speaker and blogger has now read the entire Bible 16 times, 15 of them on a year timeline — and three of them using a reading schedule that she developed herself.
And, she says, “I don’t plan to stop reading the whole thing through in a year.
“I still read with a pencil in my hand. There’s a reason I’m still reading the whole thing.”
For Hunter-Kilmer, 34, the yearlong program provides a consistent schedule upon which to revisit every page of the Bible — each time finding new meaning. And for first-timers, she adds, it can be a user-friendly way to begin a relationship with the whole of Scripture.
Tools You Can Use
If the notion of reading the Bible over the course of a year is new to you, you may be amazed by the quantity of writing you’ll discover about the project — and the tools people have created and ideas they’ve shared to help others reach that goal.
For instance, in his blog, Brandon Vogt, an author and content director for Word on Fire Ministries, points out: “The Bible contains around 775,000 words. The average adult reads 250 words per minute. That means if you read the Bible for just 10 minutes per day, you’ll get through the whole thing in a year!
“Everyone can find 10 minutes in their day, whether early in the morning, during a lunch break, or before going to bed.”
Or, instead of timing yourself, you could make use of one of the Catholic Bibles that is divided into 365 segments, facilitating your read-in-a-year project. My Daily Catholic Bible is divided into 20-minute selections, while The Catholic One-Year Bible doesn’t place an anticipated time-length on daily selections.
Alternatively, you could download one of a number of suggested reading schedules that would not only allow you to complete reading the Bible within a year, but would prevent you from potential Leviticus fatigue by offering daily reading assignments that include the Old and New Testaments and the Psalms.
The one from CatholicBibleinaYear.org starts with Genesis 1:1, but also includes a second Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading and a Psalm each day; one via “Speaking of Scripture,” by Bible scholar Mary Healy, also starts with Genesis 1:1 and includes one New Testament selection and one Psalm, along with an Old Testament selection each day.
The Coming Home Network offers a free guide at CHNetwork.org to help you read through the Bible and the Catechism in a year.
And log on to PiercedHands.org to access the Bible-in-a-year reading schedule Hunter-Kilmer created.
“It can be tempting to approach the Bible like a textbook — just get through it,” says Mary Beth Baker, acquisitions editor at Our Sunday Visitor. “But … it’s God’s presence among us. When you sit down with this, you’re saying, ‘Okay, this is God’s word, and I want to encounter him, and I want him to encounter me.’”
Our Sunday Visitor (OSV.com) recently released The Catholic Journaling Bible, which, Baker says, could be useful for people reading their way through the entire book — whether over the course of a year or not. “I’m reminded of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who said he could never meditate without a pen in his hand,” she said. “I think the journaling Bible is a really helpful tool for just being with the word and letting it sink in.”
That’s why George Martin recommends reading the Bible as part of lectio divina: savoring a short passage and meditating on what God is saying to you through those words. “It’s the opposite of speed reading,” said Martin, whose Reading God’s Word Today was published in 1975 and has been in print ever since. “Ultimately, the aim should be to read all of it — but not necessarily in a year, and not necessarily in the order the books are bound together.”
The year timeline has its challenges. As the founding editor of God’s Word Today magazine, Martin accompanied readers on a journey through the Bible in every issue, writing the reading guide so that readers would complete the Old Testament over the course of six years and the New Testament over the course of three years.
And, sometimes, he recalled, he invited readers to skim certain chapters (like those in Chronicles that list the names of the exiles who returned to Jerusalem).
“Reading the Bible cover to cover in a year would be like jogging through an art museum,” he quipped.
“You notice what pictures are there, but the most appropriate way to view great art is to stand or sit in front of the picture for an extended period of time, to notice interplay of color and line.”
Mary Elizabeth Sperry, associate director for USCCB permissions and NAB utilization at USCCB Publishing, an effort of the U.S. bishops, also has some reservations about the yearlong program.
“How long it takes you to read is less important than how you read it,” she said.
“The problem that would come into play is that if it becomes a chore. “Are you reading it as a gift of a loving God who wants to be in a relationship with you?”
For Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, the point of reading the whole Bible in a year was to become more familiar with the whole of Scripture — something that he felt he lacked and that, while in the Jesuit novitiate, he was determined to rectify.
It worked: By the time he began taking theology in the seminary, one of his instructors quipped that the novice ought to be the one teaching the class.
“It’s simply familiarity with the text, at the outset — so you get a picture of the whole of Scripture,” said the host of EWTN Live.
“Then, having that as a context, and reading and re-reading and re-reading the whole Bible … connections between texts begin showing up quite regularly.
“But for that to happen, you have to read and re-read and re-read — not unlike the way a musician learns to play scales before they play songs or symphonies.”
Elisabeth Deffner writes from Orange, California.