More than any other book, the Bible deserves to be read slowly, thoughtfully, and meditatively. It also deserves to be read in its entirety—from cover to cover—and this calls for efficiency. High-speed Bible reading may not seem as spiritual as the low-speed variety, but it has some serious benefits. For one, there is a sense of awe that develops from grasping the biblical storyline as a whole. It is God’s story from Creation to New Creation, and reading through it quickly can help you see important connections as you take in not only the “trees” of the individual books and passages, but the whole “forest” of Holy Scripture.
If you want a better grasp of the Bible as whole, consider these tips for reading through Scripture quickly:
- Pick the right Bible. Use a Bible with paragraphs, not the kind with each verse printed separately. Also consider a single-column format instead of the traditional format featuring two columns on each page. For the very brave, some Bibles come with no verse numbers, which simplifies the text for easier reading (interestingly, verse numbers weren’t introduced into Scripture until the 16th century!). You will benefit from using a translation that flows smoothly. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and the New Living Translation (NLT) are both good options in this vein. Avoid study Bibles with extra commentary and background information printed near the Bible text, since these introduce diversions and usually call for a smaller typeface. The ideal Bible for fast reading will have a large, legible typeface that doesn’t bleed through the page. Buying a new Bible for just this purpose may help you read more of the Bible, but—as countless would-be readers could attest—it won’t guarantee it!
- Eliminate distractions. If you have a smartphone, put it far, far away. It may help to set a timer and comfort yourself with the assurance that you can check your phone when the timer goes off. If you often use your smartphone to read the Bible, you’ve probably had the experience of picking up your phone and forgetting that you meant to read the Bible instead of checking your social media accounts (it happens to all of us!). This will probably keep happening, unless you make your phone inaccessible during your reading time.
- Work on eye-brain discipline. Most of us tend to re-scan what we read, which slows us down and allows our mind to wander. Trace each line with your finger or ruler, and keep your eyes and finger moving at a consistent pace. If you want to get really serious about physically training for faster reading, consider a training program like EyeQ.
- Commit to a set time during the day, and tell people. Of course, you won’t announce it like a Pharisee blowing a trumpet before the offering…but let your loved ones know that you want to focus on God’s Word for a set time every day. If you have little kids, perhaps you and your spouse could split whatever time you can spare; one of you can read while the other person entertains the Bible-reading-prevention machines (or read them a children’s Bible!).
- Print out a plan. A simple piece of paper is ideal, printed out and stored in your Bible. It feels good to check off each section when you are done, which reinforces the valuable habit you are developing. Choose your plan, whether chronological, canonical, or eclectic, and commit to it. This is not forever, so your plan doesn’t have to be the perfect plan. It is a short-term goal to help you know God better as you take in more of His Word. Find good options here and here.
- Skim appropriately. You can’t possibly make total sense out of some parts of the Bible without an in-depth study of the context. Long lists in Numbers, temple ceremonies in Leviticus, and the genealogies in Chronicles fall into this category. No need to feel guilty for skimming these sections. Plan to come back to them later to explore their full significance, with the help of a Bible dictionary, handbook, commentary, or podcast.
- If all else fails, use an audio Bible. You lose some things (such as familiarity with your printed Bible), but gain others, (like hands-free flexibility). The ESV Bible and the Gideons Bible are excellent, free smartphone apps that feature audio narration.
Whether you choose to read the Bible fast or slow, remember to invite the Holy Spirit into your reading time. One reason the Bible is like no other book is that it can always be enjoyed in the presence of its author.