Desiring God Ministries recently released an excellent graphic about Bible reading. We’re all pretty busy, but once you work it out, reading extended sections of Scripture doesn’t take as long as we think.

Estimated Reading Time

What I particularly like about the information is not just that reading is doable but that it’s very doable to read complete books of Scripture. Grabbing a chapter or two here or there leaves me struggling to see the big picture; the Bible can quickly become just a grab bag of assorted proverbs or inspirational sayings.

But it wasn’t written that way. The inspired units of Scripture are books, and we understand best when we engage whole books. In many cases, reading the book as a unit is the key to understanding the individual pieces.

But read an entire biblical book? Really? I’ll grant, an undistracted hour isn’t happening every day. But this chart helps remind me that the idea of doing that once a week is pretty doable. And in the case of Ephesians (27 minutes) or Colosians (34 minutes) it isn’t really that challenging at all. Give it a try. It’s really fun.

And what about listening instead? Here’s a chart of how long it takes to listen to each book (based on the ESV Hear the Word Audio Bible, $50).

Audio Bible

Confession—I usually listen on 1 1/2 or double speed. So you can actually cut these times in half.

Granted, there are both positives and negatives to listening instead of reading:


  • It’s a lot easier to zone out while listening. I struggle with daydreaming while reading too, but the difference is that the recording keeps on moving without you.
  • With listening it’s harder to go back and look closer at something. You can’t notice repeated phrases at a glance or underline all the instances of something. In short, reading is more conducive to active study.
  • It can be tempting to switch something on for 10 minutes while you think about other things and check your box for that day’s Bible reading. Bible reading should never be about checking a box. The point is to get what it’s saying; not just say you did it.


  • While listening forces you not to stop, that’s also a benefit. Specifically if you want to get through broad stretches of Scripture, reading can be the natural prod to keep you going. Personally, I need to vary my approach to Scripture often and listening is a great way to do it.
  • For most of history, listening was the only way common people heard the Scripture. In other words, there’s nothing necessarily more sacred about reading, anymore than leather covers and black ribbon bookmarks.
  • There’s never been a better time for accessing audio Bibles. Several smartphone apps even have it built in for free, or you can download the MP3s for under $30. In the final analysis, I’m happy to just get the Bible into my heart anyway and every way possible.
  • My favorite way to use audio Bibles is with a paper Bible and pen in hand. One summer I had the privilege of listening through 2/3 of the Old Testament in 4 days, circling everything that caught my eye in a $5 award Bible. It was fantastic.

I’ll throw in one more chart, inspired by the Economist’s analysis of the world monuments humans could have built in instead of watching Gangnam Style 2.2 billion times. Consider this comparison:

TV vs Bible


We all need to wind down, rest, take it easy. I would just suggest flipping it on its head. Bible reading is a privilege, not work! How cool would it be to trade off a couple of TV series for listening / reading through the Bible this next year? Don’t do it as a burden or from guilt. It’s a privilege. Love it!

I still plan to rest and relax plenty in 2015. But I’d also like to make good on some of those trade offs this year, getting in some quality relaxing with a Bible in my hand.