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A New Plan to Read Your Bible This New Year

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

Do You Need Help Making a Plan?

As the new year begins, many of us want to read through the Bible in the coming year. But what’s the best Bible-reading plan? In this article, I want to share with you the Bible-reading plan that works best for me. I believe that, if you follow this plan, the Bible will make more sense to you than ever before.

Pick a Bible Version That Is Right for You

First, I suggest you get a good Bible version. What makes a Bible version good? A good version tends to translate the Bible from the original languages to your own language word by word, unless word by word makes the passage unnecessarily difficult to understand—in which case, the Bible version will try to rephrase the original phrase in a way that can be understood in your language, and it will supplement notes that help you understand what they have done.

I personally avoid reading The Message because it claims to be a paraphrase, but it isn’t even that. A paraphrase tries to rephrase the various ideas in a passage so the reader can identify them and understand them. The Message doesn’t really do that: instead, the translator gives you what the passage means to him personally (I may be wrong, but that’s my opinion of what he does). He read the passage, he interpreted what it meant, then he applied it to himself personally—and you’re getting what he believes the passage means to him.

Form time to time, I take a look at the New International Version so I can understand what the scholars who translated it think is the best sense of a passage. The New International Version is a dynamic equivalent translation: they want you to understand what the passage says, the ideas it communicates; so, they are not too concerned about translating the Bible word by word. I personally believe some technicalities are lost in the process, but you’re likely to get a lot out of this version because most of the time you will feel you understand what it says.

Having said all that, I personally enjoy the following versions:

  • Modern English Version
  • English Standard Version
  • Revised Standard Version

These three versions are similar to the King James Version in that they are formal equivalent translations: they’ll translate word for word as much as possible, and this will give you a closer feel to the original languages. As a result, you’ll have to put a little more effort into your reading, but the modern vocabulary they use will make things a lot easier to understand than if you use the King James Version.

Of course, when in doubt, I always reach out for my KJV because it’s what I’m used to and I can always combine it with my Strong’s Concordance and my Vine’s Expository Dictionary.

Don't Be a Messy Reader

Your Christian Bible is actually a collection of several “books” written at different times between 1445 B.C. and 90 A.D. This means that, although the books have many things in common with one another, each book was written for a different time and for a different purpose.

For this reason, I suggest you read only one book of the Bible at a time (unless you have a good and clear reason to study different passages from different books).

I would NOT read Genesis 11 today, Psalm 23 tomorrow, John 3 the next day, and Romans 9 the day after. Doing so will cause you to miss out the point of Genesis, the background of Psalm 23, the issues in the gospel of John, and argument in Romans. If you’re going to read Genesis, read Genesis from beginning to end; if you’re going to read Romans, read Romans from beginning to end. Doing so will give you a better understanding of the doctrine of each book.

There are things you won’t understand in Genesis 11 simply because you don’t know how it relates to Genesis 6, Genesis 3, and Genesis 1. There are details in David’s life that make Psalm 23 even more significant. There are points Jesus makes in John 3 that make no sense unless you understand he theological issues addressed in the Gospel of John. And, Romans 9 is part of a much larger issue that has nothing to do with Calvinism.

My point is that, if you want to understand your Bible, you should only read one book at a time.

Know Your Bible

The books in your Bible are organized in a way that makes them easy to locate, but also makes reading your Bible from cover to cover somewhat impractical.

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The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

The first part of your Christian Bible is the Hebrew Bible, what Judaism calls theTanach and what Christians call Old Testament.

The books of the Hebrew Bible are then organized into five categories: the law of Moses (the Torah of Judaism), the historical books, the poetic books, the major prophets, and the minor prophets (the major prophets are the longer prophetic books, and the minor prophets are the shorter prophetic books).

The law of Moses includes the following books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The historical books include the following books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit*, Judith*, Esther, 1 Maccabees*, 2 Maccabees*.

The poetic books include the following books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Songs of Solomon, Wisdom*, and Sirach*.

The major prophets include the following books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch*, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

The minor prophets include the following books: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

[*Apocryphal book (or deuterocanonical book). Not included in the Jewish Bible or in the Protestant Bible, but included in the Catholic Bible]

The Greek Bible (the New Testament)

The Greek Bible is what Christians call the New Testament. The books of the New Testament are orgaized into five categories: the gospels, church history, the pauline epistles, the other epistles, and prophecy.

The gospels include the following books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

There is only one book of church history: the book of Acts.

The pauline epistles include the following letters written by the Apostle Paul: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews (although it is debated whether Paul actually wrote Hebrews).

The other epistles include the following lettrs not written by Paul: James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2, John, 3 John, and Jude.

There is onluy one prophetic book: the book of Revelation.

The Problem

The main reason why reading the books of the Bible in the order they appear in the Bible is impractical is, in my opinion, that when you come to the prophets, you need to know when the prophets wrote their books in relationship to the events in the historical books, otherwise you will have a difficult time understanding what the prophecies are about.

The other reason is that the epistles of the apostles are not in chronological order either, and this small detail can prevent you from appreciating the development of Christian doctrine.

Combine Reading According to Genre and Chronology

For me, reading the Bible in the order I present below allows me to (1) follow the order of events in the Bible, (2) understand the prophecies in their historical context, and (3) see how doctrinal concepts were introduced over time.

[Please note that my estimation of the dates of writing are based on an article by CARM and the dates given in "The Complete Apocrypha: 2018 Edition with Enoch, Jasher, and Jubilees" by Covenant Press. The date of Solomon's temple is based on an article by Gotquestions.org]

Read these books to read in order about events from creation to the death of Moses:

  • Genesis
  • Job (not essential to understanding the chronological order of events, but probably corresponds to the times of Abraham)
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus (not essential to understanding the chronological order of events)
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy

Read these books to understand what happened after Moses:

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth (not essential to understanding the chronological order of events)

Read these books to know what happened after the time of the judges:

  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings

Remember:

  • Solomon began building the first temple in 966 BC.
  • The Assyrians attacked from 734 BC to 732 BC
  • The Babylonian captivity was in 586 BC — they destroyed the temple.

Read these books to study the writings of David and Solomon:

  • Psalms (many by David)
  • Songs of Solomon (by Solomon)
  • Proverbs (mostly by Solomon)
  • Ecclesiastes (by Solomon)

Read these books of prophecy written before the Assyrians attacked in 734 BC:

  • Jonah
  • Amos
  • Isaiah

Read these books of prophecy written after the Assyrians attacked, but before the Babylonians attacked in ca. 586 BC:

  • Hosea
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Jeremiah
  • Zephaniah
  • Habakkuk
  • Daniel
  • Ezekiel

Read these books of prophecy written after the Babylonians attacked in c. 586 BC:

  • Lamentations
  • Baruch* (edited in about 200 BC, the book claims to be related to Jeremiah)
  • Obadiah
  • Joel

[*apocryphal book, or deuterocanonical book. It is not included in the Jewish Bible (the Tanach), or in the Protestant Bible; but, it is included in the Catholic Bible]

Read these books written in about 450 to 425 BC to review what led to the Babylonian captivity:

  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles

Read these books to understand how the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity:

  • Ezra
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah (book of prophecy)

Read these books written after the temple was rebuilt in 521 BC to 516 BC:

  • Esther (not essential to the chronology)
  • Nehemiah
  • Malachi (book of prophecy)

Read these books written a couple of centuries before Christ:

  • Tobit* (200 BC)
  • Sirach* (175 BC)
  • Judit* (100 BC)

[*apocryphal book, or deuterocanonical book. It is not included in the Jewish Bible (the Tanach), or in the Protestant Bible; but, it is included in the Catholic Bible]

Read these books written about how, in 169 BC, Greece defiled the second temple:

  • 1 Maccabees*
  • 2 Maccabees*
  • Wisdom* (written 50 years before Christ, and not essential to understanding the chronological order of events)

Remember:

  • In 63 BC, Rome took over Jerusalem under Pompey

Read the Synoptic Gospels and Acts in the order they were written:

  • Mark
  • Matthew
  • Luke
  • Acts

Read the epistles written in the 50’s:

  • James
  • Galatians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Romans

Read the epistles written in the 60’s:

  • Ephesians
  • Colossians
  • Philippians
  • Philemon
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Hebrews
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • Jude

Remember:

  • The second temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Read the writings of John, most of which were written in the late 80's or early 90's:

  • Revelation (written either in the late 60’s or the 90’s... I think late 60's)
  • Gospel of John
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John

How Many Chapters Per Day?

I have seen plans that recommend reading about three chapters per day. However, I enjoy reading the Bible with more freedom:

On any day, I read as much as I enjoy reading (or as much as I feel led to read), stopping where it feels natural to stop. For example, I may read about the creation today (Genesis 1 and 2), about the fall tomorrow (Genesis 3-5), about the flood later (Genesis 6 to 10), and so on.

Sometimes, I will take as much time as I need to write notes on topics I want to research, insights I gained, or ways in which God spoke to me personally through the passage.

In the end, the point is not how long it takes me to read the Bible, but how much I can learn and gain as I read the Bible in a way that helps me understand it best.

It is my hope that this Bible-reading plan will be a blessing to you, that you will find it exciting, and that it will help you appreciate the Bible from multiple new angles.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Marcelo Carcach

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