And William Proctor said "Let there be Light Speed."
Proctor's creation — the Light Speed Bible — is a plan for reading the Good Book in 24 hours or less, cover to cover, "with good comprehension." That's the entire Bible, Proctor points out, not some condensed version like the "100-Minute Bible" that has been getting press and raising eyebrows recently.
The Light Speed Bible reading program is sort of Adam and Eve meet Evelyn Wood: a speed-reading strategy that uses headings, subheadings and underlined passages, as well as four "speed zones" to help the reader make several passes through the Bible, with greater detail and comprehension each time.
Whole-Bible reading is often overwhelming and is generally overlooked, says Proctor, an author, Harvard-trained lawyer and former military judge. That's why the Bible is the "most-owned, least-read" book in America, he says. More than 90 percent of American households own at least one Bible, he says, but a 2001 Gallup Poll found that less than half of American adults can name the first book of the Bible.
"Bible literacy is pretty abysmal," he notes.
People say they've read the whole Bible, but when you press them, Proctor says, they're exaggerating. They haven't actually read Obadiah, for example.
"When I say, 'Put your hands on the Bible in front of you. Are you absolutely sure you've read the whole list of genealogies?' " Proctor says, he gets maybe one or two "yes" answers in a room full of 80 people.
We miss a lot when we only read certain passages, he says. Skip the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, he says, and you miss the fact that some of the women mentioned "didn't have very good reputations." What you miss when you skip over the genealogy, he says, is that "no matter what your background, you're not outside his redemption."
"My personal feeling is that if you're going to look for information or pointers toward ultimate truth, the Bible is the place to go." If we don't read the whole Bible, we may avoid passages that make us uncomfortable, passages about the need for forgiveness for example, he says.
"If we had a dramatic increase in whole Bible reading, it would make a huge difference in society," Proctor says.
Proctor's reading plan encourages a first pass through of the Scriptures at "light speed," skimming only the main headings and most subheadings. At this speed, he says, you'll read at a rate of about four seconds per page, which means finishing the entire Bible in about 90 minutes. At this speed, he says, you will process less than 10 percent of the content — enough to get an overall sense of the structure of the Bible, as well as a summary of the narrative flow and content. His Light Speed Bible is a version of the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
The second zone is "landmark speed," which can get you through the entire Bible in three to 3 1/2 hours, by focusing on all headings, subheadings and most underlined passages. During a third reading, using the "learning speed," you will see every word in the text, with a goal of at least 70 percent "basic comprehension," he says. This should take from 12 to 24 hours, possibly longer.
The fourth zone, "meditative speed," is a more typical, slower reading, with in-depth study of one verse or passage. At a recent Bible study class he teaches, Proctor and his students spent the entire hour on two verses of Luke.
When reading the Bible, should you come upon a passage that seems uninteresting — a list of ancient kings or a description of building materials, perhaps — "immediately say a prayer," Proctor advises. He suggests: "Lord, why did you put this material in here? I really don't think you're trying to turn me away, so show me what this means. Is there any application to my life today?"