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Jan 7, 2016

Encountering God Bible Reading Challenge: Resources

Sarah Christmyer

Why read the Bible?

Read daily and thence gather food for your soul
— Spiritus Paracletus, 43

The Holy Bible is like a mirror before our mind’s eye. In it we see our inner face. From the Scriptures we can learn our spiritual deformities and beauties. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection. – Pope St. Gregory

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ
– St. Jerome

The Church ‘forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian faithful . . . to learn ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 3:8) by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. . . Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and man. For ‘we speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles.”‘ – Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2653

What is the Bible Timeline Reading Plan?

There are many reading plans available to help you read the Bible. This one, which was developed by Jeff Cavins, takes you straight to the heart of the Scriptures by isolating the main story that runs through the Bible. Through the course of a year, you can get the “big picture” of what the Bible’s all about and read about the main people and events for yourself.

Based on Jeff Cavins’ The Bible Timeline Bible learning system, the reading plan divides the story up into 12 main time periods and then guides you through just 14 of the 73 books of the Bible, about four chapters every four days, for 365 days.

Reflections sent to your inbox every four days introduce the time periods and provide context for each reading.

Get the Guided Journal  Join Now!

What books of the Bible will I read?

Of the 73 books of the Bible, the Bible Timeline reading plan focuses on just 14 of the “narrative books” (also known as “historical books”). When you read these books in order, they take you through the history of salvation from start to finish:

Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Maccabees, Luke, and Acts of the Apostles. The idea is to read these books first in order to get the “big picture”: a narrative context in which to read the remaining books.

What are the Bible time periods?

The Bible Timeline is divided into 12 historic time periods that will be introduced as you come to them in your reading:

  1. Early World (Genesis 1-11)
  2. Patriarchs (Genesis 12-50)
  3. Egypt & Exodus (Exodus)
  4. Desert Wanderings (Numbers)
  5. Conquest and Judges (Joshua, Judges)
  6. Royal Kingdom (1,2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-11)
  7. Divided Kingdom (1 Kings 12-22, 2 Kings 1-16)
  8. Exile (2 Kings 17-25)
  9. Return (Ezra, Nehemiah)
  10. Maccabean Revolt (1 Maccabees)
  11. Messianic Fulfillment (Luke)
  12. The Church (Acts)

Tips for reading

Set aside a regular time and place to read.   Allow a good half-hour or more so you can pray and respond to the questions as well.

Pray before you read that the Holy Spirit will open your heart and mind to His word.   You might use the simple prayer from 1 Samuel 3:9:  “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Consider doing more than simply reading to “get the story,” and prayerfully enter a conversation with God.  Follow these simple steps to praying Scripture:

  1. READ through the assigned chapters. What one thing stands out to you?
  2. REFLECT on that portion. What does it say to you?
  3. RESPOND to God in prayer.
  4. REST for a moment in God’s loving presence.

If you are new to the Bible and find that this is a lot to take in, read the encouraging words of the following prayer from St. Ephraim.


Read this beautiful prayer from St. Ephraim on the inexhaustible riches of Scripture – and profound words of encouragement to those who find they are overwhelmed. The Bible Timeline Prayer is based on the 12 Periods of the Bible Timeline and helps you take its message to heart.  The section appropriate for each set of readings is included with the daily reflections.

Prayer of St. Ephraim          Bible Timeline Prayer

What if I have questions?

Most people have questions when they read the Bible, particularly if they’re new to it. For the purposes of this reading challenge, try to just read to get familiar with the general story line. Write down your questions and save them for later if you can.

Your priest or deacon may be able to help you with your questions, or you might try one of these resources:

A good Bible dictionary is an indispensable resource that can answer many basic questions. We recommend the following:

  • Catholic Bible Dictionary, editor, Scott Hahn
  • Dictionary of the Bible, by John McKenzie, SJ

An Atlas to help you find your way around the Holy Land (Hammond’s Atlas of the Bible Lands is good. The Then and Now Bible Maps are also a great resource.)

A general book on Scripture for Catholics: For information on such issues as biblical authorship, inspiration, principles of interpretation, differences between Protestant and Catholic versions of the Bible, or biblical terms and practices: The Bible Compass: A Catholic’s Guide to Navigating the Scriptures, by Dr. Edward Sri.

Commentaries that are faithful to the Church, like the Navarre Bible or the Ignatius Study Bible, or the new Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture.

A book with brief overviews of every book in the Bible: there are several good Catholic ones, including Inside the Bible, by Kenneth Baker, A Guide to the Bible by Antonio Fuentes, and Peter Kreeft’s You Can Understand the Bible: A Practical and Illuminating Guide to Each Book in the Bible.

Church Documents on Scripture

Anyone studying the Bible as a Catholic should also be familiar with the various encyclicals dealing with Scripture (we especially recommend reading the paragraphs cited from the Catechism and also Verbum Domini and/or Dei Verbum as a starting point). These all may be purchased from Catholic bookstores or accessed free of charge on the Vatican website and elsewhere on the web:

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  • Hi,

    I got an e-mail regarding this, however, it does not say when it will start, or how does it work. Do I get a daily email with the readings? Or do i have to come to rhe website daily?

    Thank you!

  • I am looking forward to participating in this study. I took the original class at my church and will taking Exodus as well. It will be very neat to take my Bible Study and Prayer to another level.

  • I am also looking forward to this 90 day challenge on the Bible Timeline. I’ve done quite a few studies from Ascension Press (I’m starting Galatians next week!) but this is one I missed.

    Thanks also for providing the extensive list of resources as well as the prayers. The Prayer of St. Ephraim and the Bible Timeline Prayer are both quite beautiful.

    “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

    Best wishes to Sarah, et al, for a very blessed, happy and healthy New Year. See you in 2014!

  • I joined this Bible study last night and look forward to the next 87 days. When I was joining last night there was a download offered, however, it seemed like it wanted me to set up a new email address with Outlook. I have numerous e-mail addresses already and did not set up another one. Was that download something I really need for this study? Do I need to finish the download? Thank you Sharon Elliott.

    • Hi Sharon, that was not a download, but an email subscription confirmation link. For some reason, some email hosts will treat that confirmation link like an attachment or download, but this is not the case. All you needed to do was click on the blue “Yes, subscribe me to this list” button/link, and you’re good to go.

      So, you should be all set!

  • I am going to do the 90 day challenge and hopefully visit the church, I am lost, looking to get back with God, went to the Congregational church with my minister Seth clay, a lot of tragedy in my life, sister passed away in car accident best friend had a heart attack at an early age, father passed away too early to cancer, husband became paralyzed from fall and now has passed, I’m trying to find my self again and looking for help in religion thanks for listening and me of course went through cancer myself

    • Kim, welcome aboard….I started the 90 Day Bible Study group a couple years ago when I too felt that my life was closing in on me; and, today I realize it was God opening the door for me to lean on Him to take care of me. I have faith that this will help you enrich your Cahtolic Christian faith too. I so Love the Lord for stepping in and bringing m closer to Him. Carla

  • Yeah, I am ready to join the team in this 90 Day Bible Study journey. This will make three consecutive years I’ve joined, and I cannot wait to get started. I’ve been waiting for this in thought for easily over a month now.

    Sarah, you are a great inspiration leader to our Chrisitian faith.



  • Hi I’ve been trying to get started without success. Don’t know what I am doing wrong. I did subscribe but not getting emails etc. I must admit that I am not good at this stuff and would appreciate any help. Thanks

    • Hi JoAnn, when you say you’re having trouble what exactly do you need help with? Did you receive the reading from last week and the one for this week? If so, you are on the right path. For now, it does not seem as though the discussion dialogue is part of it this time around, and so I’ m checking in to see if those of us seeking the dialogue and comment piece not in place this year could go on with those interested. What does everyone think about that invite?

      God bless!


      • Hi Carla. Thanks for your reply. The only email I have is day 1 on 1/14. Should I get an email every 4 days or every day?

        • No, this year we are receiving one reading per week to reflect on. In the past we received
          a passage per day. Therefore, I believe you’ve recieved what we have all recieved. God bless! Carla

  • I am on day 53 and loving it!! I sometimes listen and feel like I need to listen again, so I go back. I really love this podcast and I praise God for allowing this to happen!!

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