Friday, January 05, 2018

A simpler yearly Bible reading plan

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I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but I do like to set concrete goals from time to time. One that I started several years ago was to read through my Greek New Testament at least once a year. I had tried before but failed. One reason is that other yearly reading plans are based on chapters (e.g., Denny Burk’s and Lee Irons’s).

The problem with chapters is that the lengths are all over the place. Just compare Matt 27 with Matt 28 and you’ll see what I mean. I always found it discouraging to get through a short chapter and then face one two or three times longer the very next day. Besides the mental hurdle, it can be hard to fit your reading into your daily schedule.

So, I have come up with something that works much better for me. Instead of chapters, I now count the pages in my preferred edition, divide by 300, and then read that number of pages each day. Using 300 gives me some room for missed days or gets me ahead if I stay on track.

By doing my reading by the page, I get into a nice, maintainable rhythm. It also keeps me from giving up when I get behind since its really easy to adjust. If October hits and I’ve missed 40 days already, I just count the pages left and divide by the number of days left in the year. This year I got stuck after Acts because of class prep but the last two years it’s worked great. I had to increase my rate at the end each time, but I made it all the way through on time.

This simple per-page method also works great if you’re switching to a new bible for the year (which I recommend doing). For the new THGNT, for example, it comes out to just over a page and half per day. Read two a day and you’ll be way ahead come the fall. For the RP2005, it’s just a little more. For N28, you’re looking at about three pages per day. If you’re just finishing your first year of Greek, pick something you find manageable like the Gospels or get a reader’s edition, do the same math, and you’ll be on your way.

As you can see, the per-page method is simple and flexible. It works with any Bible in any language. So give it a try. It’s not too late to start.

14 comments :

  1. Lee Iron's is sort of a hybrid. Chapters that are 38 verses or longer are divided into two readings. It doesn't produce perfect equality, but it does even things out a little bit. I've actually created a whole Bible reading plan that incorporates the 38-verse principle and am giving it a try this year.

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  2. For the Bible in less than a year read 85 verses per day and then finish whatever chapter you're on. Sometimes you strike lucky and get to read more verses.

    The other option to get you reading the GNT lots of times is to proofread one for publication :-)

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  3. Thank you for sharing Peter. I use a reading plan generated through Logos Bible Software. The engine seeks to divide the text by paragraphs, so I will almost never have to stop in the middle of one, which is nice. Besides that, having the bible on my phone in an app makes it easy for me to look up a word in the text whenever needed, which makes the reading more smooth for me.

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    1. That’s great. I like paper so that wouldn’t work for me!

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  4. I've been successfully using this type of method for a few years for reading the GNT and LXX. I've used it for 3-month, 4-month, and 6-month read throughs of various combinations of GNT and LXX reading. One key I found was having a fairly consistent daily routine that was engaging and sustainable. For me, it was usually hopping into bed and reading for a particular amount of time before going to sleep. I'm not a very disciplined person so having a fun routine and being able to change out what I am doing every 4 to 6 months is a necessity for me. I found that my pages/time rate was fairly consistent over time for a particular plan. The other key was being conscious of using particular reading styles for the plan I was on. At times I used extensive reading where my focus was to cover ground with general understanding. I would use parallel texts (e.g. the old Brenton LXX with Greek in the center and English on the margins) to be able to quickly do vocabulary looks ups at a glance. I would also use intensive reading (much slower) where I'd make sure I had a good grasp on most parts of a passage. I'd have grammar tables handy as well as the Middle Liddell. Finally, I'd use what I call targeted reading where I'd focus only on one grammatical point. I'd do extensive reading except for some point that was slowing me down. For example, I'd do extensive reading except stop and make sure I knew what each participle on a page was. It usually did not take too many pages before I started internalizing that point more. Then, I'd hit the next weak spot. As an FYI, I'm a mid 50s hobbyist with no formal background. My goal is just comfortably doing my own devotional reading in Greek (and have started Hebrew for this year). I've got no plans to be an expert in the field. I've found that this consistent and enjoyable!!! practice of a combination of extensive, intensive, and targeted reading has helped me make good progress at internalizing Greek. I now find that there are many things that I simply look at and comprehend without having to do any mental parsing. I'm far from being good at reading Greek, but as time goes on, more and more nuances are becoming apparent, and more and more stuff just makes sense when I look at it without having to resort to translations or references. The coolest thing was when I realized that I knew some words and cannot remember when and where I'd learned them. I also found that extensive listening to audio recordings of the GNT (especially the Spiros Zhodiates ones) a number of years ago laid a very good foundation for helping to internalize Greek as a real language rather than actively parsing it as a grammatical exercise. Anyway, this was a long roundabout and disjointed way of saying that this is potentially a good method for many people. If a non-expert in his mid 50s can do this as a hobby, I cannot imagine what would be possible for youngsters in their 20s or 30s to be able to accomplish be the time they're my age.

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    1. Very good tips, Gandalf. I too usually do my reading at night before bed because it’s the easiest time to be consistent with for me (due to small children in the house). I really like your targeted reading strategies too.

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  5. Nice comments, Peter. For reading through the Greek NT, I have found a phone app that is simple and helpful. It's based on Mike Holmes' SBL GNT (my apologies, Dirk and Peter, for mentioning that).
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mattrobertson.greek.reader
    This app is more of a reader's Greek NT because you can simply tap any word if you get stumped. But it's no frills and free (based on the SBL text).

    And for newbies at reading through the Greek NT, Dan Wallace had a nice blog post a few years ago about translating through the NT books from easiest to hardest (starting with the Fourth Gospel and Johannine Epistles and ending with Pastorals, Luke-Acts, and Hebrews).
    https://danielbwallace.com/2013/12/29/reading-through-the-greek-new-testament/

    Hope this is helpful.

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  6. To a lesser degree, but still useful for most skill-sharpening purposes, James White (I think) suggested daily reading through the 367 sections of Aland's Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum (including parallels in each section where such exist). Some very short sections can be combined in the process to provide a nice one-year reading plan.

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  7. It was in undergrad that I read a piece by some well-known person whose name I nevertheless forget about "the ten minute club" : a group of them who had vowed to read their GNT for ten minutes a day.

    I liked that idea the moment I heard it, because being the anal retentive guy I am, having a predictable schedule is important to me, and as Peter noted, the variable lengths of chapters usually means that any chapter-based reading system is temporary unpredictable.

    That said, I morphed out of the ten minute club a couple years ago when I decided that simply reading the GNT was just not engaging me enough - I found myself just skimming, not really paying attention. So I went out and bought a blank notebook with a sturdy cover every day I spend about ten minutes writing out the GNT. I find writing it by hand really makes me slow down and engage the text word by word. That also gives me more occasion to reflect theologically on the text as I write it out. All told, I've found writing the GNT to be a more rewarding experience than reading was.

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  8. Ryan: I went out and bought a blank notebook with a sturdy cover...writing out the GNT. I've found writing the GNT to be a more rewarding experience than reading was.

    And how long until this MS receives a GA number? :-)

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  9. Just as soon as I include the comma johanneum, I'd imagine!

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  10. We should make an annual reading plan to read the Bible every day because we get closer to God and become a much better person

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