The Horner Bible Reading Plan Redivivus

January 3, 2014 — 3 Comments


If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I have a fairly long history with Bible reading plans. One in particular that I’ve written on a few times is the plan put together by Professor Grant Horner. In fact, the post explaining why I dropped the plan was my top post from this past year, even though I wrote it in 2012.

My reasons for dropping were essentially these:

  • I was connecting the reading I had to do for ministry assignments to my devotional time
  • I wanted to focus more on the Old Testament
  • The volume was a bit higher than I wanted at that time
  • I wanted to focus in on more detailed study

Despite these reasons, I got a good bit of push-back in the comments, which lets me know that people really like this plan. And I have to admit, I like the idea of the plan, I just had some conceptual and philosophical issues with its implementation. In other words, I like the goal of the plan, but I don’t think the plan, in its unmodified form, is the best path to that goal.

So that’s why initially I tried to make it work by custom modifying it. Instead of the standard 10 cycles of a chapter each, I reduced it to 6. It went from this:

  • The Gospels (89 day cycle)
  • The Pentateuch (187 day cycle)
  • Romans-Colossians + Hebrews (78 day cycle)
  • The rest of the NT epistles + Revelation (65 day cycle)
  • Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (62 day cycle)
  • Psalms (150 day cycle)
  • Proverbs (31 day cycle, or monthly)
  • The OT historical books (249 day cycle)
  • The OT Prophets (250 day cycle)
  • Acts (28 day cycle)

To this:

  • Genesis – 2 Chronicles (2 chapters a day, 218 day cycle)
  • Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Solomon (2 chapters a day, 46 day cycle)
  • Psalms (1 chapter a day, 150 day cycle)
  • The Prophets (2 chapters a day, 125 day cycle)
  • Matthew, Mark, John, Luke-Acts, Revelation (2 chapters per day, 69 day cycle)
  • Romans-Jude (1 chapter per day, 121 day cycle)

I didn’t stick with that, and in 2013, rolled out a variable size reading plan:

  • Small (less than a chapter, paragraph by paragraph through the epistles)
  • Medium (just over 3 chapters, the paragraph + 1 Psalm or Proverbs and 2 chapters in Gospels/Acts/Revelation)
  • Large (just over 6 chapters, the medium plan + 3 chapters split from either Genesis-2 Chronicles or Isaiah-Malachi)

Eventually however, after spending a couple of months just in the Psalms, I ended up using D. A. Carson’s For The Love of God and reading on my iPad for morning devotionals. This is what I did for the summer and fall of 2013.

Fast forward to 2014.

This entire time, I still had the bookmarks from the original Horner Bible reading plan in my ESV Study Bible. In September, I had ordered a new ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Though I liked reading on the iPad for morning devotionals, I thought it would be better to move back to print. Around December, I decided on a plan that would involve resurrecting the Horner plan, but clearly with modifications. Here’s what I’ve decided to do.

First, I put the bookmarks in their correct locations throughout the ESV GTB. I will use this Bible for volume reading. My now bookmark-less ESV Study Bible has moved to the desk in my newly developed office, along with the necessary colored pencils to do more detailed study and marking. This effectively allows me to approach reading the Bible in two different fashions, rather than feeling like it’s an either/or. Also, I like to sit comfortably with a book in my lap for devotional time, and that’s not really practical with the ESV Study Bible because of the print size. Hunched over a desk though is a different story.

Second, while I am using the standard cycles in the Horner plan, I’m not reading a single chapter a day in each. I found I like the volume, but do not like the chapter hopping. It’s like trying to watch 10 different shows on TV at the same time. You might be able to watch them all successfully, and notice correlations you didn’t before, but you’d have a better feel for the flow and content of a single story if you stuck with it in large chunks. In studying the Bible, you’d have a better understanding of Joshua if you sat down and read it one sitting than if it is 1/10 of your daily reading for a month. If you really want to grasp the contents of a book of the Bible, reading it in large chunks is better than reading small chunks across the spectrum of Scripture.

So, third, that means I’ll be reading in larger chunks, and I decided on 5 chapters for most cycles. The exception will be the Epistles, which for the most part, I’ll do in a single sitting. I’m also making it time variable, so I’ll only be reading in 2-3 cycles a day, on average, but have the freedom to more or less as time allows.

The goal is to move back and forth between the parts of Scripture, but with the freedom to read 10-15 chapters a day wherever I want. On most days, I’ll actually be reading more than the Horner plan calls for rather than less. Having the different bookmarks allows me to be able to keep track of how well I’m covering the Bible. If 3 months from now the Isaiah bookmark is still in Isaiah, then I’ve been neglecting the Prophets. Also, this allows me to feel like I’m changing the plan every so often, even though I’m not really. I could just do the Epistles and Psalms for a month, and then switch to the Prophets and Gospels. My personality and mind style likes routine, but a routine that can be adjusted and tweaked regularly.

As the year goes on, I’ll try to keep you posted on how this works out. I gave it a trial run in December and liked how it worked. I tend to approach scheduling though in 90 day chunks, so I’ll probably check back in around April. Happy reading!


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

3 responses to The Horner Bible Reading Plan Redivivus

  1. I’m interested to know how this newer tweak with the reading plan went! I tried the Grant Horner reading plan about 3 years ago for the first time and I loved it. I too wanted to study the Bible more, but the thing you have to understand is that Horner’s plan is NOT meant to be for studying as much as it is meant for seeing the OT and NT unfold together as the Scripture interprets Scripture. Now I had never read the entire Bible before that, and it was the first time I did, and I thought it was great. But since then I have had job changes and live farther from work so things had changed as far as me having the time to sit and read like that. I tweaked the Horner plan for myself after that and began doing something more like your 6-cycle plan you didn’t end up sticking with.
    I was doing a cycle where I read Psalm, Proverbs, and Acts daily, then an OT History/Prophet and Epistle. Sometimes I couldn’t even keep up with that however, and would drop either the OT for a bit, or I would only read one part of NT (either Acts or the Epistle) along with the Psalm and Proverb. I found that system gave me better grasp on what I was reading and didn’t overload me.

    It’s easy for me to get discouraged not keeping up with a plan because I feel like I should be reading more, but as they say, it’s the quality not the quantity of reading that makes the difference.

    Hope to hear an update on this sometime. God bless.

  2. Titus2Homemaker January 3, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    I’m not a fan of chapter-hopping, either. I don’t feel it allows me to really engage my mind with what I’m reading as effectively as more focused reading. That would seem to be borne out in the general population by studies that show it takes us several minutes to recover full mental focus after every interruption. Locating a new portion of the Bible is an interruption. So reading ten chapters in one book will get better mental focus than reading one chapter in each of ten books.

    But I very much appreciate Dr. Horner’s premise of using irregular portions of Scripture so our reading constantly interacts with DIFFERENT other portions of Scripture. So for me, it works very well to break up the Bible into irregular portions like that, but then read from only one each day, rotating through them. I think it accomplishes the same end.

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