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Reading through the whole Bible in one year

Fr Jamie McMorrin hopes to get through the entire Bible this year—with a little bit of help from David Suchet

How are you getting on with your New Year’s resolutions? Apparently, this Sunday, January 19, is the day on which we’re most likely to break them. The exercise app, Strava, has even come up with a name for it: ‘Quitters Day.’ As I write this article, I’ve still got a few days to go and I’m holding out.

My resolution this year is the same as it was last year: to read the Bible.

Don’t get me wrong: I do a fair bit of Bible-reading already. Through the Mass and the Divine Office, when it comes to spiritual reading, the Church, like a good Mother, makes sure I’m in no danger of starvation.



But if we attend Mass every day faithfully for three years, we will still only hear about 13 per cent of the Old Testament. If you’ve never heard of the poor old prophet Obadiah, it’s because his book didn’t make it into the lectionary at all. The New Testament, for obvious reasons, fares a bit better (71 per cent) and, over three years, we’ll hear almost all of the Gospels (89.8 per cent).

Granted, in the Liturgy of the Hours, especially the Office of Readings, the Church gives us another daily chapter or so of Scripture, much of it taken from the Old Testament—and we get some spiritual reading from the Fathers of the Church or the writings of the saints thrown in for free! Please don’t get me wrong: thank goodness for the liturgy and for our Catholic tradition.

But, a few years ago, a friend put me on to a trend in the Evangelical world of reading the entire Bible—every single verse—in the course of a calendar year. I loved the idea, so I gave it a try. To my shame, I don’t think I got beyond the book of Genesis. I left it a few years and did a little bit better in 2019, holding out until about March before I put the Bible back on the shelf.


Book of Revelation

This year, I’m determined to get right to Hogmanay and the Book of Revelation. And this time, I’ve got a plan. Not only that, I’ve got some unlikely allies to help me get there: the Anglican minister and founder of the Alpha Movement, Nicky Gumbel, and the actor David Suchet.

Let me explain. Gumbel, together with his wife Pippa, promoted the ‘Bible in One Year’ idea at their church in central London back in 2011. They divided the Scriptures into portions and produced an accessible commentary to go along with it, helping to navigate some of the dryer or more difficult to understand passages.

For the smartphone generation, they’ve also now produced a daily email service and an easy-to-use app. What’s great about the app is that you can have it read aloud in Suchet’s mellifluous tones. For the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to it with a cup of tea, first thing in the morning, sometimes following along in my own Bible, sometimes just letting the words wash over me. It takes about fifteen minutes.



This morning I listened to Genesis 27 (yes, I know, it’s still January and I’m still only in Genesis) and the story of Jacob and Esau. Hearing the whole story in one telling, day after day, helps so much to contextualise the whole sweep of the narrative. I found myself thinking about the story as I ate breakfast, and ended up looking up some commentaries to satisfy my curiosity about an obscure detail. I’m sure it’s better for my blood pressure than The Today Programme.

I’m not the only one who thinks so: television adventurer, Bear Grylls, says that the Bible in One Year is his favourite way to start the day, although I suspect he probably doesn’t do it lounging about in his pyjamas. Meg Hunter-Kilmer, the Catholic speaker and blogger, has been doing it for the past twelve years and says that she’s ‘always finding new insights, being shown new connections, and falling more in love with the Lord as I come to know Him better.’ She says that reading the Bible in this way forces us ‘to wrestle with the hard stuff and find meaning in the boring stuff.’

I’m not very far into it, but if you’re looking for a good way to get closer to the Lord in 2020, after attending Mass and spending time in personal prayer, I would definitely recommend giving the Bible in One Year a try. As for me, it looks like I’m going to make it past ‘Quitters’ Day’ this Sunday: whether or not I’ll get past the more formidable milestone of the book of Numbers is another story. Let’s see!

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