By Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford
Of all the reasons people mention for not reading the Bible, simple discouragement ranks highest. The Bible’s length alone is imposing. More like a self-contained library than a book, it includes 66 different books, by several dozen authors. Little wonder people get confused and discouraged.
The 3-Track Reading Plan found in the bestselling NIV Student Bible (Zondervan, 2011) breaks the Bible into more manageable portions. If you’re new to the Bible, begin with Track 1, then proceed to Track 2, and finally—if you’re ambitious—tackle Track 3. Your understanding and appreciation for the Bible should gradually increase.
All three tracks assign only one chapter a day, except in a few cases where the chapters are very short. The reading should take only about 10 minutes.
Track 1: Introduction to the Bible
Track 1 is a place to begin reading the Bible. These two-week reading courses take you quickly into passages every Christian should know. Of the 1,189 Bible chapters, why begin with these?
First, they’re frequently quoted or referred to elsewhere. Second, they’re relatively easy to read and understand. A sampler, Track 1, should whet your appetite for more.
Many of these chapters appear also in Track 2, “A Guided Tour of the Bible.” Whenever that’s the case, you’ll find an explanatory Guided Tour note nearby. Reading that will give further orientation.
Time Commitment: Two Weeks
Goal: To survey basic biblical foundations
- Two Weeks on the Life and Teachings of Jesus
- Two Weeks on the Life and Teachings of Paul
- Two Weeks on the Old Testament
If you like Track 1, but feel unready to tackle Track 2, you may want to try some more Track 1 courses that cover important topics.
- Two Weeks on Becoming a Christian
- Two Weeks on Prayers of the Bible
- Two Weeks on the Holy Spirit
- Two Weeks on Women of the Bible
- Two Weeks on Men of the Old Testament
- Two Weeks on Social Justice
- Two Weeks on God and Nature
Further Two-Week Courses for Personal Study:
- Two weeks on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
- Two weeks on Moses and the exodus
- Two weeks on David
Track 2: A Guided Tour of the Bible
The Track 2 plan offers a kind of bird’s-eye view. The daily readings consist of 180 selected passages, including at least one chapter from each of the Bible’s 66 books. You can read both the chapter and its accompanying note in 15 minutes per day.
This “Guided Tour” is exactly that, a guide-assisted tour of the Bible’s high points. Such a plan is no substitute for mastering the whole Bible, of course, but it may help lower barriers and point the way down a path for further study. Think of it as an introductory tour through a great art museum. You won’t get to see every painting in the museum, but you’ll learn the basic layout, and may also acquire a taste for art that will entice you to return again and again.
With a few exceptions, the biblical material appears in rough chronological order. You’ll read the psalms attributed to David as you read about David’s life. You’ll read the prophets along with their background history. Portions from the Gospels, too, are interspersed, giving a composite picture of Jesus’ life on earth; and Paul’s letters are scattered throughout the record of his life. This arrangement should help convey the Bible’s “plot.”
Since “A Guided Tour” is arranged in 180 separate readings, most people will find it convenient to read one designated passage each day, along with the introductory notes. If you miss a few days, don’t worry. Just resume reading when you can.
Time Commitment: 180 Days
Goal: To present the underlying story of the Bible
Track 3: Every Word in the Bible
Track 3 takes you completely through the Bible, reading every word. Other Bible-reading plans allot only a year for this project, requiring that at least 3 chapters be read each day. But many readers find such a pace to be unrealistic and discouraging. For this reason, Track 3 assigns only one chapter a day. (Some short chapters have been combined, so occasionally you’ll read two
brief chapters in a day.) In all, the reading plan works out evenly to a three-year total.
The Track 3 plan alternates between the Old Testament and New Testament. This mixing provides variety and reduces the fatigue that
may set in from reading long sections of the Old Testament.
Time Commitment: Three years
Goal: To read all the way through the Bible with understanding
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