Lent: Read the Bible in 40 Days

I’ve been humming and hawing for a while about what to take up, or give up, as a Lenten discipline. I’m not a huge one for giving up ‘naughty’ foods; it’s too easy for these fasts to become, for me, about conformity to the world’s ideas about what my body should look like, rather than about faithful engagement with God. But various disciplines I’ve taken up in previous years don’t seem to be quite the right thing this year, either.

I’ve settled on attempting to read the Bible in 40 days. I have several reasons for this, some of which I have detailed below:

  1. While I enjoy reading, I don’t actually do as much of it as I used to, largely because of the easier procrastinatory delights of the online world. It would be a stretch to call reading a penitential activity for me, but it will certainly be a discipline, and enough of one that I won’t feel the need to take on umpteen additional Lenten practices and then give up, overwhelmed, two weeks in.
  2. I’ve never read the whole Bible in sequence before. While I appreciate that the sequence and content varies from one Bible-reading faith tradition to another, I’m interested in the differences of context that will come from continuous, rather than piecemeal, reading.
  3. I’m almost entirely unfamiliar with the Apocryphal, or Deuterocanonical, books. I read snippets of them when they come up in the Daily Office but I don’t really have an idea of how they fit together or relate to the rest of the Biblical canon.
  4. I’ve never read the entire Bible before and I think I may have missed some bits. My instinct is always to study some part that I’m interested in depth, but I am certain that in doing this I miss connections. So an overview, a view from 40 000 feet if you will, might be a good idea.
  5. While this will require some discipline on my part, it doesn’t feel impossible. I’m a relatively quick reader, and there should be ample opportunity to catch up if I get behind now and then as I invariably will.

I’ve drawn up a reading scheme so I know roughly how much I need to read each day. I did this by grabbing the nearest Bible that had the Apocryphal books in it (it happens to be an RSV), adding up the pages between the beginning of Genesis and the end of Revelation, and dividing by 40. Feel free to copy and distribute this list if you wish.

Sequence Day Read from start of Read to end of
1 Ash Weds Genesis 1 Genesis 36
2 Thursday Genesis 37 Exodus 21
3 Friday Exodus 22 Leviticus 14
4 Saturday Leviticus 15 Numbers 17
Sunday (1st in Lent) Day off Don’t read
5 Monday Numbers 18 Deuteronomy 11
6 Tuesday Deuteronomy 12 Joshua 12
7 Wednesday Joshua 13 Judges 21
8 Thursday Ruth 1 1 Samuel 31
9 Friday 2 Samuel 1 1 Kings 4
10 Saturday 1 Kings 5 2 Kings 9
Sunday (2nd in Lent) Day off Don’t read
11 Monday 2 Kings 10 1 Chronicles 15
12 Tuesday 1 Chronicles 16 2 Chronicles 27
13 Wednesday 2 Chronicles 28 Nehemiah 13
14 Thursday Esther 1 Job 32
15 Friday Job 33 Psalm 49
16 Saturday Psalm 50 Psalm 105
Sunday (3rd in Lent) Day off Don’t read
17 Monday Psalm 106 Proverbs 9
18 Tuesday Proverbs 10 Isaiah 1
19 Wednesday Isaiah 2 Isaiah 40
20 Thursday Isaiah 41 Jeremiah 4
21 Friday Jeremiah 5 Jeremiah 34
22 Saturday Jeremiah 35 Lamentations 7
Refreshment Sunday Day off Don’t read
23 Monday Lamentations 8 Ezekiel 39
24 Tuesday Ezekiel 40 Hosea 11
25 Wednesday Hosea 12 Zechariah 4
26 Thursday Zechariah 5 Judith 14
27 Friday Judith 15 Sirach 2
28 Saturday Sirach 3 Sirach 36
Passion Sunday Day off Don’t read
29 Monday Sirach 37 Bel and the Dragon
30 Tuesday 1 Maccabees 1 2 Maccabees 3
31 Wednesday 2 Maccabees 4 Psalm 151
32 Thursday 3 Maccabees 1 2 Esdras 11
33 Friday 2 Esdras 12 Matthew 10
34 Saturday Matthew 11 Mark 9
Palm Sunday Day off Don’t read
35 Monday Mark 10 Luke 17
36 Tuesday Luke 18 John 21
37 Wednesday Acts 1 Acts 28
38 Maundy Thursday Romans 1 2 Corinthians 13
39 Good Friday Galatians 1 Hebrews 12
40 Holy Saturday James 1 Revelation 22

The order of the books in the RSV I have is thus:
OT: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Apocrypha: Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Additions to Daniel: Song of the Three Children; Susanna; Bel and the Dragon, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, 3 Maccabees, 2 Esdras, 4 Maccabees

NT: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation

I might, or might not, tweet about my reading using the hashtag #BibleIn40Days. Please feel free to join me!