Slow Reading, Fast Reading
I generally read the Bible once a year. Last year, I tried something different: I read the Bible in 40 days. I decided to take a slower approach this year and read it over 90 days instead. God-willing, I finish in a couple of weeks.
Now I’m going the other way. I’m planning to read the Bible in — get this — seven years, give or take. Here’s why and how.
Big Idea Bible
I’ve always wanted to complete a big idea Bible.
If you know Haddon Robinson’s book Biblical Preaching, you know the power of what he calls big idea preaching. “Ideally each sermon is the explanation, interpretation, or application of a single dominant idea supported by other ideas, all drawn from one passage or several passages of Scripture.” Thinking through a passage, discovering its dominant idea, and then relating all the parts of the passage to that idea is powerful and impactful.
I asked a professor who taught with Robinson, “Why has nobody created a Bible that tries to capture all the big ideas of each passage?” He looked at me quizzically. “Do you know how much work that would be?” he asked. “That’s why.”
Since then, I’ve thought about attempting this project. Work through the whole Bible. Figure out the overall message of each book. Zoom in, and figure out the main message of each of its parts. Zoom in even farther, and formulate the idea of each pericope.
I want to be able to say what Martin Luther did: “If you picture the Bible to be a mighty tree and every word a little branch, I have shaken every one of these branches because I wanted to know what it was and what it meant.”
This approach requires slow reading and meditation, and this is exactly what I plan to do.
Enter Nate Pickowicz
When I read How to Eat Your Bible by Nate Pickowicz, I realized I’d discovered a plan for reading the Bible slowly enough to work on my big idea project. Pickowicz suggests that we consider reading the Bible very slowly, and he offers his own seven-year plan:
- New Testament: 30x through each book = approximately 3 years
- Old Testament: 15x through each book = approximately 4 years
If you’re interested in finding out more about his plan, his book is worth getting.
I’m going to be digging out my ESV Scripture Journals, my Blackwing pencils, and get going starting on Monday, April 5. If things go well, and God spares me, I’ll have completed this project sometime in April 2028.
I’m not sure what will come out of this process. Perhaps I’ll just have volumes of Scripture full of notes for me to pass down to the next generation. Perhaps I’ll have something to share. But either way, I know I’ll be transformed. You have to be when you encounter and absorb that much Scripture with the Spirit’s help.
No matter how much you read of Scripture, there’s more to learn. We could spend our lifetimes reading it and just scratch the surface. But it’s worth every moment. Reading the Bible this slowly will be different, but I’m ready. I can’t wait to get started.