Cover to cover: Strategies for anyone who wants to read the entire Bible

Paul Mirecki  teaches Understanding the Bible to a class at Smith Hall. Mirecki is an associate professor of religious studies at Kansas University.

Paul Mirecki teaches Understanding the Bible to a class at Smith Hall. Mirecki is an associate professor of religious studies at Kansas University.

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It’s sold billions of copies. It may very well be on your bookshelf now. But have you read all of it?

Kansas University associate professor Paul Mirecki’s course “Understanding the Bible” examines just a handful of the Bible’s books, and numerous organizations in Lawrence are devoted to studying the Scripture with large groups of people.

Consider the following and mull over some tips from locals to help you read the Bible — each page, and book, to the next.

1. Picking a translation.

Mirecki requires students in his class to read Bibles that have been translated since 1940. “Modern translations are based on more reliable historical evidence,” he says.

Shaun LePage, pastor at Community Bible Church, suggests the New American Standard and New Living Translation. “Reading from a fresh or different translation can really make it a fresh experience,” he says.

Josh Longbottom, associate pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church, prefers the New Revised Standard edition. “It’s the most current one that’s understandable and has authenticity in how it’s interpreted,” he says.

2. Organizing an order of books to read.

You don’t have to read the Bible cover to cover. If you do that, “you’re not reading in chronological order,” Mirecki says. “You’re imputing a plot.”

“If you read it cover to cover you’re getting goal-oriented,” Longbottom says, “and parts of it are going to be a task and a trial.”

Instead, Longbottom suggests the books of Exodus and Mark as starting points. “Exodus is the event that defines the culture of the ancient Jews and brings them together as a people,” he says. He suggests the book of Mark “because it’s the simplest and most concise explanation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.”

3. Deciding how — and with whom — you’ll read it.

Mirecki describes his class as a standard introduction to religion course, focusing on the Bible from a humanities and social sciences approach rather than a religious approach. If that’s the method you’re going for, taking a class on the Bible or using a college textbook to aid your reading can be helpful.

“I would suggest that you read the books as a group of people,” says Longbottom, who is one of the creators of Theology on Tap, a Bible study and religious discussion group that meets from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays at Henry’s on Eighth, 11 E. Eighth St. Longbottom says the value of reading the Scripture “has that much more impact if 10 people get to it together.”

If you plan on curling up with the Bible on your own, a study Bible could be of use.

“A study bible will typically have an introduction to each book and tell you about the author, the historical setting and about certain important scenes,” LePage says. Several online Bible study tools are also available, such as or

LePage, who leads the series “His Story — From Genesis to Revelation,” ( 2008/08/22/his-story/), says he has read the Bible in just over a year by reading three chapters per day, and he’s also heard of reading plans that take mere months. “The faster you can read it,” he says, “the faster you can see the important connections.”

Though it’s the “how” of reading the Bible that can be tailored to your liking, it’s also important to consider the “why.”

“To me, the reason that you read it is because it’s the story of the power of truth,” Longbottom says, “and how it can change the world. You have to get through a lot of the layers to get to the story.”

Reading the Bible is also a great way for people to learn what Christianity is about, LePage says. And reading it in its entirety “forces us to read every corner of our Bible,” he says. “It’s a very profitable exercise. As someone who has done it a few times, I highly recommend it.”


jehovah_bob 11 years, 8 months ago

Wow I didn't know Dr. Mirecki was still teaching. He kind of disappeared after the whole Intelligent Design debaucle. I took his class in 1998 and truthfully I don't think I ever would have read the bible otherwise. I don't like to be preached to and his class indeed takes it from a nonreligious Historical perspective, I'd highly recommend it.

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