Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bible in 90 Days Schedule (Revised)

The Bible in 90 Days is a reading schedule developed by Ted Cooper, who after purchasing a Bible (Zondervan NIV, Large Print, Thin Line Bible) realized that by reading 12 pages a day he could read the Bible from cover to cover in 90 days. Actually the exact figure is 88 days with two "grace" days. Zondervan now conveniently prints NIV, Large Print, Thin Line Bibles just for this program. The only difference from the Bible Ted Cooper purchased are headings every twelve pages, "End Day 8","Begin Day 9".

Personal History
In my church I am currently leading a group of people reading the Bible in 90 days with this program. We are doing it partially as a Lenten devotion, although we had to start a number of weeks before Ash Wednesday in order to finish during Holy Week. This is the second year I've used this particular schedule. I didn't feel I could ask others to use it, if I had not done it myself and could say with certainty that it is achievable. In fact, as a fairly average reader with respect to speed, I only have to read from 40-60 minutes per day. It is difficult to tell, but I think about fifty people are reading the Bible on this schedule.

The Problems
There are two major problems with the schedule for the Bible in 90 Days as it stands, and they both are a result of being tied to a particular printing of the Bible. The first problem is that exactly 12 pages are appointed for each day. While this rigid regularity perhaps has some merit, it results in very illogical breaks in the text. I couldn't help noticing the first time I used this schedule, that with minor changes--a subtraction or addition of a page on a particular day--could make the breaks in the schedule much more natural, leading ultimately to greater comprehension. A perusal of the original schedule will evidence its inadequacies in this regard. A particularly egregious example is day 53. The schedule breaks at Isaiah 66:19, four verses before the end of the book! Another example is day 38, when the book of Job, which has been read for three days could be concluded but instead ends at the second to last chapter, leaving the brief forty-second chapter for the following day. Days 79, 80 and 81 are also alarming. In that case, the last half chapter of Acts is read on the same day with most (but not all of Romans). By merely lengthening the reading on Day 79, the reader could on days 80 and 81 read Romans and 1 Corinthians in one sitting, an exercise that, I think, commends itself.

A second and perhaps more serious problem is in the way modern Bibles type-set Hebrew poetry. The trend since the Revised Standard Version (1952) has been to set Hebrew poetry in English stanza form. A look at a modern printing of the Psalms, for example, shows how much white space is on a page, compared with say a page from the book of Genesis. The result of this additional white space is that on the days when poetry is largely or exclusively read--all the poetic books and much of the prophets--far fewer words are read than in other narrative portions of Scripture. A survey of the word count of the readings in Genesis and Psalms showed a average difference of 3000 words. While the original schedule divides the Bible into 90 pieces (88 to be exact), they are far from equal, despite all being twelve pages.

A Proposed SolutionI think it makes greater logical sense to develop a schedule that is not tied to a particular printing of the Bible. This also frees the reader to use any Bible, of any translation, he may own. An old King James Bible is ideal to calculate 88 equal pieces because the type is set consistently throughout the Bible (each new verse begins a new paragraph). By using this Bible, my hope was to close the gap between the word count on days in narrative portions of Scripture versus days in poetic portions. A survey has shown that the schedule below does close this gap considerably. Of course, I did not simply want to find out a word count for the entire Bible and divide that by 88 so there is still some fluctuation.

The schedule, in fact, is not rigidly tied to an exact number of pages which frees it to break in much more natural places. In the revised schedule, one will notice the readings always break at a chapter and a number of times on a book. On Day 50, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon are read in their entirety. In the subsequent four days, the book of Isaiah is read. In the New Testament, on Days 78-80 the book of Acts is read, followed by the entirety of Romans on Day 81. All this is accomplished by merely reading one or sometimes two pages more or less on any given day.

I hope this schedule may be useful to the reader of God's Word. Whatever schedule is used, one will be blessed in reading the Bible and hearing again the message of God's saving acts in history. Please feel free to email me if any would like Word or Excel files of the schedule for printing.

Note: the schedule will appear clear if it is saved to the hard drive and viewed or printed as a picture. 

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