Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

This page is in 3 sections, which are hyperlinked here:

1. How I read the Bible in 40 days.
2. Suggestions for reading the Bible in 40 days.
3. My boring stats.

1. How I read the Bible in 40 days

If you read my last entry on reading the Bible in 66 sittings, then the title above should tip you off that lately I've been getting into what Herschel has scornfully termed Competitive Bible Reading.

I've never thought of myself as competitive. And yet, I really don't like leaving anything unfinished.

Here's how I came to read the Bible in 40 days: (see if you can spot a pattern)

About a year ago I had two goals:

1. To have read the whole Bible, and
2. To have read the whole Bible out loud. (I had already been reading it out loud for a while)

So I sat down with all my Bible-notes books from the past few years, and went through logging all the books of the Bible that I had definitely read in full, and all the ones that I had definitely read in full out loud. When it came to the 150 Psalms, I kept a note of each chapter.

Obviously, by default, this produced two 'TO DO' lists.

1. Books I couldn't recall having read in full.
2. Books I couldn't recall having read in full out loud.

At one chapter a day, (plus re-reading the previous day's chapter again to help it sink in) I began going through Genesis in the NIV. I did this, usually, six days a week. I don't read the Bible on Sundays. I'm serious – I knew it would become a chore if I did, and anyway, there was a church I usually heard the Bible at on that day.

The translation was immaterial to me. I didn't want to get that touchy about different versions, lest I later I decide that I needed to have read the whole Bible in each of them.

In the main though, I was reading my battered tiny Good News Bible, the God's Word that Shane gave me, the NIV that Audrey gave me years ago, and the funky Message on Bible.com & latterly Biblegateway.com.

At some stage I noticed that I'd always been perfectly happy to review books on this blog, but for some reason had only the once written my thoughts on a Biblical one. Clearly that had to change, so I began writing my thoughts up upon completing each one.

As I approached the last few books that I had never read, I added another spin to this process. Upon reaching the end of each book, I would re-read it a third time in one sitting. These two things helped, I think, to sort my thoughts out on each one, and maybe actually learn something from them.

On 12th March this year, with chapter 14 of Zechariah, I finished! Or I finished the reading part anyway, there were still plenty of books to re-read out loud.

It was at this point that I decided to kill four birds with one stone. I would re-read each book, out loud if still outstanding, in one sitting, (another reckless thought) and review it. The best part about this was that, if all went as planned, by the end I would even have read the Bible a second time!

Clearly, competitive Bible-reading. I had half a mind to apply for registration to the Olympics, but, y'know, Beijing probably doesn't have the facilities.

The earliest book that I hadn't read out loud was the sixth one – Joshua. So the very next day – 13th March – I sat down, opened my big yellow Good News Bible from years ago, drew breath and read for 2-3 hours.

By now, I also had the benefit of adding my mum's CEV translation into the mix. I like variety. In fact, I was usually defaulting to the NIV, because I wanted to take the opportunity to read each book in a version that I didn't think I had before.

Ruth was fun. I reckoned I had already read that in every mainstream English translation when I had had to read it in public at Cession least year!

A couple of weeks in though, I realised that I just was not attempting enough.

As I was reigned to reading almost the entire Bible a second time, I realised that I had the opportunity to complete it in a very short space of time too. Sure, it would require me to re-read the books that I'd already read out loud in one sitting and reviewed earlier, but there weren't that many of them.

Let's see – 66 books equalled 66 days, plus Sundays, plus days when I was otherwise busy. I didn't need to read them all in strict order, because those "Read The Bible In A Year" plans don't usually do that, and they count. Also, I didn't think that the Bible was supposed to be read in the contents order, or our huge daily Bible-notes industry would be evil and wrong.

So that was okay, and even allowed me to tweak the order to become more chronological. After all, I figured that an overview of human history (give or take a couple of millennia) would be the plan to do that with.

So by simply keeping a note of what I was already doing, plus a little bit of extra work, it seemed that I had a good crack at nailing it all in under three months as well. Yet I realised that if I breezed through all the minor prophets quite quickly too, I could maybe get it down to two months!

In case you're wondering, yes I did question whether whizzing through the Bible quickly was morally a good idea. Some may read this item in horror, protesting that you have to take it all in slowly and meditate on it. But I'd already done that.

While I didn't want to stop and dwell too much, I did make sure that I understood, at least at face value, every verse I was reading. And, fairly, this speed would be helping me to see the Bible from, for me, a new perspective, in addition to my usual one. How could that be wrong again?

When I broke into the New Testament and started on Matthew's gospel, I felt vindicated in my approach. I read the genealogy of Jesus, and was staggered to realise that, for the first time in my life, I actually knew who a lot of those people were!

Two months. One month? Could I do it in one month? No, no way. I'd been too slow and taken too many days off at the start. What about 40 days? "The Bible in 40 days." That sounded nice and Rick Warren-ish. It actually sounded better than "the Bible in a month," which sounded a little throwaway.

Throughout this time, as I mentioned, I was also writing up my thoughts on each book. But now that there was such a tight deadline, I hit a problem: the epistles.

There were 21 of those, and while I was sure I could read them in a few days, I felt less positive about fitting the writing of 21 reviews in. I didn't like to admit it, but I had to throw some weight overboard. I stopped writing the reviews – I would have to come back and do them later. (which I did, taking the opportunity to re-read them again beforehand!)

With Revelation out of the way, it was time to juxtapose the Bible's ending against how it had all started. Straight back to the Torah, beginning with 50 chapters of Genesis. Then Exodus, then Leviticus, Numbers, and finally Deuteronomy.

Done it. Finally. In 44 days.

Dang!

So, still determined to shave 4 days off of my time, I carried straight on. That night I also re-read Joshua again. That would shave a day off by putting the date that I had started back a day. Now I had started with Judges, and finished with Joshua on day 43.

Then the next day I nailed it. I re-read Judges, Ruth and 1 Samuel again.

Having dawdled a bit at my slow start, by taking three days off in the first week, I had now actually started with 2 Samuel on 21st March, and finished before midnight with 1 Samuel on 26th April. Making a grand total, including days off, of... 39 days? Stone me – I'd beaten my target.

I wondered how many other days I'd taken off, such as those Sundays I mentioned, and whether in fact, in actual terms, I might still have done it within a month after all. Considering a day as being from one sleep to the next, (I keep quite irregular hours) it came to 33 days. Still dang.

But what about by considering a day as midnight to midnight? I'd done tons of this in the early hours, might this possibly allow me to massage the figures into a month? Adding up the totals again, it came to 31 days! Yay! Success! Woo-hoo!

But I still thought that 40 days sounded better though.

2. Suggestions for reading the Bible in 40 days.

If you've read down this far, then you might be seriously thinking of reading the Bible yourself in 40 days. If that's why you found this page, then here are a few heads-ups. (you choose to take my advice at your own risk though)

1. Clear your diary, and keep it clear. I actually told my best friend that I wouldn't be seeing him much that month.

2. Take a day off each week – stay sane.

3. Pick an easy-to-read translation, in your first language. In English this might be the Contemporary English Version (CEV). On a related note, if like me you insist upon reading all the footnotes, endnotes and references to other verses, then just pick a translation without any. (maybe the Message) Large text is easier on the eyes, and pictures break things up too.

4. Alternatively, you could mix-up the translations to keep it varied and interesting, and learn the difference between their styles. Maybe you can read it off of the internet some days, such as at bible.com, biblegateway.com or biblos.com.

5. Unless you specifically want to read all the books in the right order, rearrange them as best suits your schedule. This enables you to take advantage of your church's unexpected sermon on 1 Timothy next weekend. Events will still continue to happen in your life, so God might want to speak to you through specific passages on particular days anyway. Only you can make that call.

6. Break books up if you find that easier. The incredibly long Psalms is really five shorter books, which can maybe be added onto days when you're reading another one.

7. Generally, I found disciplining myself to read a book a day to be a good backbone for getting through the longer ones, specifically Genesis, Psalms, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel. Nail those five and you're laughing.

8. A quick prayer before each session might well help too, but keep it short, or that'll become maybe 40 long prayers! :)

9. Pick a comfy seat, and stand-up to move around a bit every hour. Varying the location might help too. Go to the park. Use that down-time on the train.

10. Have a soft drink to hand, especially if reading out loud. Sugary snacks give you a quick burn, but can leave you feeling tired again afterwards. Fruit gives energy for longer, and is healthy!

11. Don't be afraid to speed-read, so long as you're taking it all in. The goal for this reading is to get an overview. Reflection on individual verses is for the slower reading-plan that you'll probably follow afterwards.

12. Make a few notes when you find stuff you want to remember. The real goal is to learn. Marking passages on the page itself is generally quickest.

13. Reward yourself at the end, and tell someone who'll affirm you for it! (even if it's only me!)

14. If you go over-schedule, redo the beginning at the end as I did, or nail it in 50 days instead!

It's all up to you now. Go get 'em! :)

3. My boring stats:

12/3 Zechariah
13/3 Joshua
14/3 Judges
15/3 Ruth
17/3 1 Samuel
19/3 Job
21/3 2 Samuel
22/3 1 Chronicles
24/3 Psalms
25/3 1 Kings
26/3 2 Kings
27/3 2 Chronicles
28/3 Ezra
29/3 Esther
31/3 AM: Lamentations
PM: Daniel
1/4 Nehemiah
2/4 Amos
Micah
Hosea
3/4 AM: Jonah
Nahum
Zephaniah
PM: Ecclesiastes
4/4 AM: Song Of Solomon
PM: Habakkuk
5/4 AM: Obadiah
Malachi
Haggai
Joel
PM: Proverbs
7/4 Isaiah
9/4 AM: Jeremiah
10/4 AM: Ezekiel
PM: Zechariah (again)
Mark
11/4 AM: John
PM: Luke
13/4 AM: Matthew
15/4 AM: Acts
16/4 AM: Romans
PM: 1 Corinthians
17/4 2 Corinthians
Galatians
Ephesians
Philippians
Colossians
18/4 1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Titus
Philemon
19/4 AM: Hebrews
James
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John
Jude
PM: Revelation
21/4 Genesis
22/4 Exodus
23/4 Leviticus
24/4 Numbers
25/4 Deuteronomy
26/4 AM: Joshua (again)
Judges (again)
Ruth (again)
1 Samuel (again)

Next month: backwards.

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10 comment(s):

At 8:29 pm, Blogger Lynda said...

Great work, Steve. I had read through in 90 days and thought it was quite an accomplishment. It was more of a strategy to recover diminished cognitive and memory skills, and once done I couldn't get started again. Now I'm encouraged to read through aloud and then read through with review. Thanks to you. But I'll stick with 90 days for now.

Lynn

 
At 9:55 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Fantastic Lynn!

90 days soon goes by, and probably keeps you saner. I find that going back to my reviews from time to time helps me to recall what issues in my life were being prompted by what I read. I still have trouble recalling which subjects each of the prophets were talking about, but hey, like you I'll just keep on reading.

Best wishes,
Steve.
:)

 
At 8:37 pm, Blogger Kelli said...

I have been looking for something like this all night for something to do for Lent. Thank you for posting this. This is my goal before Easter. A lot of prayer will be involved with my short attention span.

 
At 1:47 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

I'm well impressed at your resolve Kelli. As you can tell above, I didn't actually set out to read it in 40 days - I would have found that too daunting at the start! Please do feel free to let me know how you get on.

As for attention-spans, well, you made it all the way through my long post! :)

I guess you could consider breaking-up some of the longer books, eg. by reading half of two different books each day, with five Psalms maybe...

Go you!

Steve.
:)

 
At 11:31 pm, Anonymous Deepika said...

Taking up the challenge :) God,help me stick to it... Something exciting about reading God's word in these 40 days :) thanks for the tips!

 
At 11:44 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Awesome Deepika - I wish you success! I'll say a prayer for you.

Steve.
(ῧ)

 
At 11:51 pm, Blogger Tim C. said...

...also found your blog searching for reading thru the Bible in 40 days for lent. I thought I was just crazy wanting to try it. If I am, at least I'm not alone now :) Thanks Steve for your tips and encouraging post!

 
At 2:25 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Well thank YOU Tim for commenting! "Crazy" sort of means "unexpected", and who wants to keep on repeating the expected?

Best wishes!

Steve.
(ῧ)

 
At 7:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not just read 20 pages from the Old Testament a day and 10 pages from the New Testament a day? This will take you though the Bible in 40 - 45 days depending on the font size of your Bible.

 
At 9:23 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Sounds like a great plan - go for it!

 

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