“Grandpa must be the slowest reader in the world,” claimed my young daughter. “He reads the Bible every day… and he’s still not finished!”
The rest of us chuckled. Years later, I remembered her assessment of my father’s reading prowess while devouring my new NIV study Bible. I had just returned to the Church after years of being “spiritual, but not religious.” A friend gave me the Bible as a gift. In about a week, I had read it from cover-to-cover, including the study sections.
Honestly, I don’t remember how many hours per day I spent reading. I was, however, living alone and on vacation at the time. I carried it with me everywhere. I read while eating, while in bed, on the beach, and even… well, I carried it everywhere.
So, to find an accurate answer to “how long does it take to read the whole Bible”, I sought assistance from a power greater than me. I googled it. The featured answer was 70 hours and 40 minutes, broken down into 52 hours, 20 minutes for the Old Testament and 18 hours, 20 minutes for the New.
Now, I admit I skimmed over parts of Numbers and the beginning of 1 Chronicles, but I was sure it didn’t take me that long. Sure enough, the question was answered differently by various groups and individuals. In general, 54 to 72 hours seems to be the accepted pace to read the Bible straight through.
But, here’s the thing. Reading God’s Word in one week left me feeling that God is our God and Jesus loves us. I understood I should love God and my neighbors. But I was ill-prepared to explain why I felt that or provide specific arguments to others.
When asked about how long does it take to read the whole Bible, most Bible study experts offer a total-hours response with a caveat that the hours need to be divided over a period of months. One program recommended a two-year program. One of the most popular Bibles today is a One-Year-Bible, broken down into 365 sections.
These programs offer guided readings aimed at giving the reader time to contemplate what they read. Contemplation allows you to explore your feelings and relate lessons to your own life. But new Christians often lack patience for that type of program. If the answers to life are in the Bible, we want to read them now! That was my experience.
As with everything in life, there are varied ways to meet the needs of everybody. What worked for me was to follow up my rapid, straight-through reading with a slower second reading. I tried to limit myself to a section at a time.
It was still difficult to slow myself down on the second pass through. So much of the Bible was familiar, even though I had never read it before. Childhood stories I never recognized as Biblical appeared chapter after chapter. Expressions I heard over the years jumped out of the Biblical text.
So, I read it a third time. Then I bought a One-year Bible. Then I started reading it a book at a time. Each summer, I read it cover-to-cover again. Every time, I find something new or more interesting.
In the seven years since I was handed a Bible, I learned what my father already knew. How long does it take to read the whole Bible? It takes a lifetime. Once you pick it up, you will never want to put it down.