Should Christians read through or seek to read through the Bible in a year (or two years, etc.)? Some Christians say yes, and others say no.
Regarding this controversy, I have not known or met a Christian or minister who regularly reads through the Bible and questions the validity or worth of this habit. Besides, I observed that the overwhelming majority of believers want to read through the Bible; they somehow know it is a good thing to do or have been told it is. But many fail miserably to do so year after year.
We will briefly review three common objections to this commendable Christian habit. But first, we must clarify the distinction between obstacles and objections.
Obstacles Versus Objections
Reading the scriptures has many challenges; additionally, reading the Bible in a year has more potential problems. However, we must clearly distinguish between the difficulties of reading the scriptures(obstacles) from the arguments against seeking to read through in a year(objections).
Though reading through the Bible is challenging, we must not reject or resist the idea simply because it is difficult. By the way, what aspect of Christianity comes easy to our flesh—praying daily? Surrounding our will to God?
The difficulty is not a valid contrary argument
Many of the objections I often hear or read are from sincere brethren who have attempted to read through the Bible but failed because of one or more challenges.
If you doubt what I just started, do a quick online search and read the stories of those who object to regularly reading through the Bible in a year. Therefore, we must not equate challenges to reading the entire scripture to arguments against doing so.
Haven established the necessity of distinguishing obstacles from objections, we will briefly review three common arguments against the habit of reading through the Bible in one year:
- It is not an explicit divine command in the Bible
- In-depth Bible study is better than rushed reading
- Attempting to read through the Bible in a year is mission impossible for most Christians.
1. It is not an explicit divine command
God has commanded us to read His Book, but he did not tell us to read it through each year. God rarely gives us such direct commands with a strict formula for doing things in the New Testament.
And I am so glad He never does so. Otherwise, our flesh, so apt in creating religious practices and legalism, will quickly make a religion out of it.
A command to read but not how
Had God commanded us to read through the Bible every year, we would likely begin judging our worth based on how faithfully we have obeyed this command and possibly think we are better than those who do not read through the scriptures in a year.
Our flesh seems to have an insatiable craving for observing religious rules and laws.
The Spirit will Guide
Though the Lord did not give us an exact formula to read the Bible, He did give us His Spirit to guide us in wisdom to know how. We see this truth in other aspects of our Christian walk.
Consider the widely accepted Methods of Bible study. How many of you have questioned the acceptability of the methods in Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods book or the five steps of the inductive process in Bauer and Traina’s Book “Inductive Bible Study” because these methods are not explicitly stated in the Bible?
Godly wisdom through Godly people
God’s wisdom working in His people over two thousand years has taught us the hows of effective Bible study or personal prayer. So if you are looking for a commandment in scripture to read through the Bible every year, you will find none. Perhaps the Lord purposefully did not give us such formulaic orders for the reasons just mentioned above—our inordinate aptitude to create our religion out of His commandments.
Rick Warran’s Book is an excellent resource for beginners; Bauer & Traina’s is geared towards those in ministry or seminary but can be read and understood by anyone. I recommended these books. Links are not affiliate or paid links.
Just as the Books of the Bible were chosen by God’s Spirit working through the godly men who accepted the sixty-six books of the Bible and rejected others or who invented the five steps of the Inductive Bible Study, so godly men and women over the years have recognized and recommended reading through the Bible regularly for its pronounced spiritual benefits.
2. In-depth Bible study is better than rushed reading
Many believers object to reading through the Bible in a year, arguing that doing so is rushed and does not allow them to study any of the passages in detail. This argument appears valid, sound, and acceptable; however, a closer look reveals its pitfalls.
The Buffet Illustration
A real-life illustration will unveil the pertinent problems with this argument. Consider that you were invited to a buffet table with most of your favorite dishes. At the buffet table, your server tells you to sample everything on the table before settling down to have your fill of what you liked most for the evening.
Imagine telling the server: “no, it is of no value seeing everything on the Buffet or sampling them. I want to eat the first dish I see until I am full.” How would you respond to this unusual plea if you were the server?
Related but Distinct
Surveying all the dishes on a buffet table and eating a single dish until satisfied are closely related but distinct processes; both are valid but have different purposes.
In fact, they are not mutually exclusive options for us to pick one; they are complementary processes to give us the best buffet experience.
The pitfall with this argument
This is the significant error in this argument: Reading through the Bible and in-depth Bible study are not competing options but are two distinct but related tools to help us gain the most from our Bibles. They serve different purposes. Reading through the Bible surveys or sample the buffet table while in-depth Bible study is eating one of those favorite dishes.
3. Mission impossible for most Christians
Many Christians have failed year after year in reading the Bible. A Lifeway research revealed that only 1 in 5 Americans stated they had read through the Bible at least once. As a result of this known but embarrassing reality, many seem to rationalize the problem in a straightforward manner—our repeated failures prove we are attempting to do the undoable.
I read of some sincere believers who become so guilty of their failure to read through the Bible that they become overwhelmed by self-condemnation; so a sure escape route from this unwelcome self-condemnation is to never attempt to do it again.
No place for guilt or Self-condemnation
Neither our prior failures nor the resulting guilt should justify any objection to reading through the Bible in a year. Why should we be guilty of not reading through the Bible? Who placed a religious yoke on our necks to accept such self-condemnation?
If we feel guilty for not reading through the Bible, I suggest we leave aside attempting to read through the Bible and deal with the more significant problem before us: legalism or the religious spirit.
In fact, an article from Christianity.com calls reading through the Bible in a year “madness”, and suggests that the primary motivation for attempting to read through the Bible in one year is “selfish ambition and vainglory”. Although I disagree with these claims, I think the article is worth reading. I am unsure if our sister(the author) was describing her experience or the experience of some Christians she has encountered; nevertheless, she reminds us of an excellent point: reading through the bible in a year can become nothing but flesh and legalism.
Suppose believers regularly read any portion of the Bible daily and did not read through the Bible in a year or two. In that case, we could accept that our frequent failure to go through the Bible in a year is unfeasible.
Regrettably, the statistics on regular Bible reading amongst Christians are dismal. A 2019 survey by Lifeway showed that only 32% of evangelical Christians read the Bible daily.
Additionally, the 2022 State of the Bible research by the American Bible Society showed that amongst Americans who own the Bible, only 10% read it daily outside of a Church service; a shocking 40% never read it once they leave the Church building.
These figures remind us of the stark reality that reading through the Bible in a year is not the primary issue; the underlying problem is the Bible reading itself. Although Christians revere the Bible, they rarely read it; the Bible is an unread glorified book.
Read First Before Attempting to Read Through
So attempting to encourage a Christian who cannot read the Bible regularly to read it through in a year has but one likely outcome—woeful failure. We can only muster the disciple, commitment, and motivation to go through the entire Bible year after year if we have first passed the first test of faithfully reading any portion of the Bible daily.
He that is faithful in little will be faithful in much. Any reading of the Bible daily is the little that will prepare us for much; remember that reading the entire Bible in a year is no simple task.
Reading the Bible in one year (or any other timeframe) is demanding and challenging. However, these challenges are not valid objections to rejecting this idea. Three common objections to an annual reading of the entire scriptures include no clear biblical command, favoring in-depth Bible study for reading the entire book, and the unfeasible nature of the task.
We also stated emphatically that daily Bible reading of any form is a bigger and more pressing problem than reading through the entire Bible in a year.
Though we listed only three, there are more objections to reading through the bible in a year. Which ones have you heard of or considered yourself?
- Four Reasons to Read Through the Bible In a Year
- What is Bible Reading?
- How to Study the Bible in Five Steps
- Reading Through the Bible in One or Two Years( RTB-1-2)
- Bible Study for Everyone
- Five reasons to read the Entire Bible every year from Southern seminary.
- Why read through the bible in a year? by Dr. Paul M. Elliott.
- Why you should or should not read through the Bible in one year by Lifeway Women.
- Seven Benefits of Reading Through the Bible in a Year from Crosswalk