Bible reading redux

A Gutenberg Bible. Probably not the most practical version for reading. Credit: Mark Pellegrini.

A Gutenberg Bible. Probably not the most practical version for reading. Credit: Mark Pellegrini.

At the beginning of the year, I posted my plan to read the Bible cover to cover this year. I felt unsatisfied with the various Bible in a year plans that can be found on the Internet, so I designed this plan myself by trying to balance two conflicting goals: one, to make each reading close to the same length, and two, to keep the natural narrative units of the text intact.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans. In the intervening four months I have found two distinct problems in my plan.

It took me until the beginning of February to notice the first problem. I had simply made a few mistakes in diving up the text, a product of only skimming the text before cutting it. But there are a number of places where it’s hard to figure out where the most natural breaks in the text are without reading it through.

I first noticed this in the beginning of Leviticus, where my first two readings were Leviticus 1:1-5:13 and 5:14-7:38. I chose this break because it was the most convenient-looking place where the text was divided in the New International Version. It was only on the actual read-through that I realized that this naturally breaks down into three sections. The first, covering 1:1-3:17, deals with regulations on one broad category of offerings: when someone brings an offering to God freely. The second section, 4:1-6:7, covers a different category of offerings: those brought in repayment for sins. The third section, 6:8-7:38, starts over and says how the priests are supposed to handle both types of offerings. The points may be subtle, but the “narrative” flows much better when it’s divided this way.

The second problem with my plan was that I didn’t do as good a job as I thought at dividing the Bible into equal sections. Granted, it’s better than most other plans that I’ve seen, which usually just order three or four chapters per day, even though the chapters can be very different lengths. However, I fell into this same trap when I based my plan on the word count for each book. It turns out that the word counts of individual chapters can vary so much in the same book, that I still wound up with some readings that were much longer than others.

The average daily reading length to read the Bible in a year is 2,143 words in the King James Version, or 2,026 words in the NIV translation, which is about 40,000 words shorter. I first noticed the inconsistency of my plan with Exodus 25-31, describing the design of the Tabernacle, which clocks in at 5,252 words, but I didn’t realize how far it went until I got into the history books, Samuel and Kings, where several readings turned out to be over 4,000 words. When I saw that, I finally broke down and took a word count of every reading via copy and paste. From this, I learned that Exodus 25-31 is the second-longest reading in my plan. The longest is Jeremiah 48-52, Jeremiah’s prophecies of judgment against the nations, which measures a whopping 6,734 words (despite being two fewer chapters).

So…if you’re following my plan, you might want to set aside some extra time on August 28. I apologize for the inconvenience. I will post a revised version of my plan at the end of the year to fix these errors.

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About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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