Read the Bible with Apocrypha All the Way Through in 3 Years

We can’t quantify faith, certainly not in terms of how much one reads the Bible (although this study notes some interesting correlations regarding Bible reading). That said, it is little-disputed by Christians that the spiritual discipline of reading the Bible daily is beneficial to our faith. There are so many different ways to do this (see an earlier BiblioMinistry post for an overview of some of ways to read the Bible devotionally), including a lot of “Bible in a Year” plans, but many of those are too ambitious for us. A friend encouraged me to read the Bible (with the Apocrypha, ’cause I think it’s important to bring these deuterocanonical texts into our discussion about what it means to “read the Bible”) and come up with a plan to do it in 3 years. I admit my first thought may have been, “If you want a 3-year Bible reading plan, why don’t you do it?” but now that I’m a parent, work full-time, and am generally busy with all sorts of life and ministry activities, I can definitely see the wisdom in it, so I went ahead and created it. (Life lesson: we learn the most from the things that affect us personally.)

And so here’s the 3-year plan, both as a Google Docs spreadsheet AND and as a Google Calendar that gives you the option of setting daily calendar app and e-mail reminders.

Why do we need to read the Bible daily?

Everyone who believes in the importance of daily Bible reading has a slightly different explanation, but the gist of it is that as Christians we need to be “steeped” in the Word, to let its stories and wisdom permeate our lives. We need to know what’s in this strange and wondrous Bible that we claim as the book of our faith, even if we don’t agree with every point it makes. We can’t respond to, live in, and even wrestle with the Gospel fully unless we seriously and regularly study what’s in the Bible. There are a lot of ways of doing this, but if you’re having a hard time making this a daily habit, read with me and our community of faith!

Why in 3 years?

Because as Christians daily Bible reading is one of those things we need to do more slowly. I don’t know about you, but I tend to race through a fair amount of what needs doing so that I can (maybe and hopefully) spend more time doing what I want to do. There are a lot of “Bible in a year” plans available, but when I became a parent, it quickly became apparent (heh) that I would need to allow more time for some things to happen – one of those things being my daily Bible reading. Also, the Revised Common Lectionary is on a 3-year schedule – and also has daily Bible readings available – so this concept wouldn’t necessarily be new to many of us.

Why should we read the Apocrypha, too?

Some of us pretend that the Bible dropped pre-written by God out of the sky, that there was no process or human decisions involved in its creation, and that the Bible as we know it is “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be…,” which fails to take seriously the means by which our Bible came into being. I believe that exploring the Apocrypha – deuterocanonical texts that are in some versions of the Bible – provides an accessible introduction to the human elements of the Bible, setting the stage for deeper thought and discussion on this subject that bring a richness to our lives as Christians. While some Christians may believe that considering questions such as the Apocrypha’s existence, meaning, and place in the Bible unnecessarily complicates Christian faith, I find my faith eventually enriched by the exploration of those questions.

Why is this plan not based on the calendar year?

This plan is based on the liturgical calendar – the church year, rather than the Gregorian calendar by which so much of our lives happen. Each year, like the Revised Common Lectionary, begins with Advent. While this calendar being a daily rather than weekly calendar complicates the schedule a bit, it still mostly works, so this calendar helps us to become more attuned to the liturgical year, to live in the year in faith and the community this structure offers. Some have argued that the liturgical year as we know it fails to appreciate church life as we know it – but I think that overall it’s a useful framework that provides some structure to our Christian life together, and see the merit in aligning daily Bible reading with it.

The Revised Common Lectionary already has daily Bible readings – isn’t your calendar unnecessary?

The RCL Daily Readings is a great tool, and if you think it will work for you, wonderful! I am a fan of helping people do whatever they need to do to make Bible reading more easy. There are a few differences between the RCL Daily Readings and this version:

  1. the TPA plan includes the Apocrypha
  2. the TPA plan includes all chapters of the Bible (the RCL and the RCL Daily Readings skip some of the Bible – one person’s solution is to add another year to the lectionary)
  3. the TPA plan goes all the way through the Bible with the Apocrypha, one chapter after another. While that brings some challenges of its own, it helps provide a sense of continuity (and if, like me, you’re sleepily fumbling around to get to the readings very early in the day), as well as ease in simply moving from one chapter to the next.
  4. A critique of the RCL Daily Readings (and the RCL in general) is that the readings are structured in such a way to encourage reading Old Testament scriptures through the lens of the New Testament. Personally, I think it’s great to let each passage speak for itself – and I also consider that the Old Testament scriptures were Jesus’ Bible – they were sacred texts to him, and reading them in a similar way to how he may have read them could bring new insight. The TPA plan lets the Hebrew Scriptures be what they are without needing to read them through the Gospels.

My biggest hope is that you’re reading the Bible daily in a way that encourages you to keep at it, even if you have to skip a day or two, and that you’re reading it with people and resources that encourage you to read the text both faithfully AND critically.

How can I add this calendar into my online calendar?

It’s delightfully easy and flexible! Just visit the calendar page and follow the instructions provided to add to your Google or ical calendar. Feel free to ask specific questions if you’re having a hard time adding it.

On the calendar, why are there 2 scriptural passages listed for each day?

We have retained our original Bible in a Year with Apocrypha schedule for all of you looking for the particular challenge of reading the Bible with Apocrypha in a year (begins with Genesis on January 1). Go forth, especially motivated folk! As for the rest of us, we’ll be reading a little over half of what you’re reading in a more relaxed fashion. The Bible in 3 Years readings are labeled DBR3Y; the Bible in a Year are labeled Daily Bible Reading.

As these words end and our daily Bible reading journey begins, I think it’s important to note that the benefits we receive from reading the Bible may take us into unknown territory with God. David Plotz notes in Slate, “Reading the Bible has given me a chance to start an argument with God about the most important questions there are, an argument that can last a lifetime.” That kind of dialogue with God may seem troubling at first, but if you have known God as too weak to take that kind of discussion, it is worth expanding your view of God.

Whatever way you’re reading the Bible, you’re always welcome to join our e-mail discussion list and on social media. Hope to see you there!

Know of any other great Bible reading plans? What’s your favorite way to read the Bible? Let us know!

“FAQ #8: Why Do Some Bibles Have a Section Called the Apocrypha?” Biblica: The International Bible Society, n.d.

College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology. The Values and Beliefs of the American Public: Wave III Baylor Religion Survey. Waco, TX: Baylor University, September 2011.

Duckworth, Chris. “Why I Left the Revised Common Lectionary Behind.” The Lutheran Zephyr, August 10, 2015.

Franzen, Aaron B. “Survey: Frequent Bible Reading Can Turn You Liberal.” ChristianityToday.Com, n.d.

Klemme Eliceiri, Rebecca. “3-Year Daily Bible Readings With Apocrypha.” BiblioMinistry, 2017.

Klemme Eliceiri, Rebecca. “Pray!: Daily Prayer, Devotional, and Bible Reading Resources for Progressive Christians.” BiblioMinistry: Think! Pray! Act!, June 30, 2017.

Klemme Eliceiri, Rebecca. “Think! Pray! Act! Daily Calendar.” BiblioMinistry Google Calendar, 2017.

Plotz, David. “Good Book: What I Learned from Reading the Entire Bible.” Slate, March 3, 2009.

Slemmons, Timothy Matthew. “Start Here.” The Year D Project, n.d.

Vanderbilt Divinity Library. “Daily Readings for Year A : Revised Common Lectionary.” The Revised Common Lectionary, n.d.

Vanderbilt Divinity Library. “Revised Common Lectionary.” The Revised Common Lectionary, n.d.