I finished the Bible—now what?
By Jessica Brodie It’s taken me about 20 months to read the Bible from start to finish... and I’m proud and honored to say I’ve completed it! I’d read it before when I was much younger, and I’ve done studies of various Bible books over the years, but this is the first time I’ve read it as an adult at my own pace in order.
I started slowly, about a chapter a day beginning with Genesis during Lent 2016. I picked up the pace and started reading it in tandem with the New Testament that fall... and started journaling, too. I tried the Common English Bible, which is a fresh new translation in today’s American English, and I found it to be very readable. I like the other translations, but I’m glad I chose this version; it helped tremendously.
My process involved reading a chapter or two, then writing notes in the margin of the Bible as I went, taking the extra step to journal in a separate notebook about what I’d read in a very basic book report-style. This helped it sink into my heart and my mind. What I wrote wasn’t profound—just a personal regurgitation of the highlights of what I’d read that day.
Often I’d read a chapter or two of the New Testament and then the same in the Old. If I was time-pressed, I’d just do one book and vary it with the other the next day.
My favorite time to read was in the early morning over coffee or green tea with my breakfast before work, but if I overslept or was off-routine, I’d do it at the office on a break or in the car pickup line waiting for kids after school. I rarely missed a day. If for some reason I forgot my Bible at home and needed to get my reading in, I’d read it via the Bible Gateway app on my iPhone and jot reflections in the Notes app, then later transfer it to the journal.
It wasn’t easy at first. Even though I have a master’s in English and had fully expected to jump right in with no issue, I struggled. Scripture is a quite different style, and the tone and rhythm were an adjustment compared to my typical reading fare of novels, news articles, and modern features. Still, I plodded through, optimistic that even though I didn’t think I understood it as well as I should, maybe it would somehow seep through the layers of my brain and eventually become clear.
It paid off—because that’s exactly what happened. What started as a chore got easier, became routine, eventually felt natural, and ultimately became a joy. I began to understand what I read. It spoke to my mind and my soul. If I missed a day, something felt “off,” and soon I began to find myself hungry for the Bible! Just like that, what I doubted was possible actually happened. I’d invited God’s Word in, and God worked His miracle in me. He gave me clarity, comprehension, and eagerness.
I was hooked. It became a foundation. I’d find myself drawing from Scripture—sometimes actual verses, sometimes just the main ideas—in times of strife, or when I learned some bad news, or when I was scared, or even just when my kids were fighting. I remember shouting once to be heard in the midst of their yelling match about how the tongue can be a flame of fire and we need to tame it so it doesn’t fan the fire out of control—and being shocked and mightily impressed those James 3-inspired words had come from my mouth!
I finished the New Testament in September 2017, but I still had a few books to go in the much-longer Old Testament. Finally, on Dec. 29, 2017, I got to the very last chapters: Malachi 2-4. And what a beautiful takeaway: “I am the Lord your God, and I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). “Return to me and I will return to you” (3:7). “Look, I am sending Elijah the prophet to you, before the great and terrifying day of the Lord arrives” (4:5).
Of course, the next question became “what next?” A day after finishing the Bible, my dad passed away, and three days later, I picked up my Bible again, unsure where to begin. Start with the psalms for comfort? Jump into a study of a particular book?
Then it hit me: just begin again. My dad had become a born-again Christian just before his death, and we’d talked a lot before he passed about special passages and the importance turning to the Word for strength during times of trouble. He’d told me a few times his favorite book was Matthew, which also happens to be the very first book of the New Testament.
So that’s where I am now: rereading Matthew in his memory, and the full New Testament, in order from start to finish. I wonder whether it’ll go faster this time around (now I have a better grasp of the rhythm and content), whether I’ll discover new things I didn’t see the first time around, or whether God’s holy word simply just imprint itself more firmly on my heart. I don’t know, but whatever the outcome, it’s got to be good. After all, I know I’m reading God’s great instruction manual, the secret to life, all written down for us His children to read, enjoy, apply—and repeat.
How about you—have you finished the Bible? What did you do when you finished?