How I read scripture in 2023, the Snail Bible Plan

A few years before I became a Christian, I began to read the entire Bible once every year. In the past 12 months, I’ve read Matthew through Philippians.

Last December, I began the New Testament with one goal and two rules:

  • Goal: understand more of the Bible.
  • Rules:
    • Read every day.
    • Make written observations on what I read.

The amount of scripture was a non-factor. Some days it was a chapter or two, others only a paragraph. Often, I even re-read the same passage over multiple days. My purpose was purely to read for comprehension.

In the past, I’ve read and made notes while asking, “what do I get out of the passage today?” The weakness of this method is that I found myself looking for some special thing instead of trying to take in an accurate understanding of scripture. I use the word “observation” to highlight a different question, “what do I see in the Bible today?”(Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks has great information on how to make better observations while reading scripture.)

While reading, I made observations on a panel right beside the scripture inside of Obsidian. Reading and taking notes in Obsidian was especially rewarding, as it allowed me to link scripture to other active study topics. (I followed this guide on getting the Bible into Obsidian)

Here are some of the ways I approached making observational notes:

  • Take notes on each verse, sentence, and paragraph within the passage.
  • Write headings for chapter and paragraph divisions.
  • Keep a single note for each book of the Bible and add to it each day.
  • At the head of the book note, include a section containing overarching themes within the book.
  • Create lists of repeated words that span multiple chapters.
  • Look up unfamiliar words and include their definitions in my notes.
  • Mark questions or sections that are harder to understand.
  • Link to other topics in my Bible study notes

Enough of the technique, how about the results?

What went well:

  • Reading slowly (and sometimes repeatedly) certainly did help me gain better understanding of scripture that I would typically pass by.
  • Taking notes resulted in ~22,000 words of personal study on these books. That might sound like a lot, but it is only 60 words a day (a few short paragraphs).
  • This year’s Bible reading truly resulted in personal study. I’ve typically done pretty well with Bible reading but not study outside of preaching. Reading carefully led to some interesting studies that I pursued further outside of reading time.

What didn’t go well:

  • On a few occasions I found myself so engrossed in one book that when it was time to move to the next, it felt difficult to get into the next. (Perhaps this isn’t exactly a bad thing 🤷‍♂️)
  • I also found myself bogged down in a particular chapter or book. Re-reading many, many times before moving on. Working through a passage was part of the goal, but it got me stuck a few times. I finally had to decide I picked up enough for now, I’ll be back soon enough.

Would I recommend it?

Whole-Bible reading plans aren’t going anywhere for me. Besides the rewarding challenge, I’m not sure that there’s anything quite like seeing the full span of God’s word in one year.

The snail plan did show me the wonderful depth of God’s word, and it reminded me that personal study (beyond regular reading) is very useful.

Will I continue this plan into 2024?

Yes! I’m most of the way through the New Testament, so I’ll at least see that to completion. I likely won’t apply the same method to the Old Testament. After completion of the New Testament, I plan to do a paper-only read through the Bible. For the past five or so years I’ve primarily read on a computer in Logos or Obsidian. I look forward to something different, more analog.

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