Prof. Horner’s Bible-Reading System Checklists

A couple of years ago, I came across Professor Grant Horner’s Bible-Reading System. It seemed like a really good system for getting through the whole Bible in a systematic way, but those flimsy paper bookmarks really drove me nuts.

The first time I head of Professor Grant Horner’s Bible-Reading System was through Tim Challies blog post Ten Chapters Per Day. His description, coupled with the explanation from Professor Horner were enough to convince me to give it a try. I had been accustomed to either reading straight through or haphazardly, so it sounded like a nice change of pace.

It turns out that I really enjoy it. I like the way the topics from one section of the Bible blend with that of another. It’s interesting when you read an Old Testament reference in the New Testament and think, “Hey, I just read that last week!” as opposed to six months ago when reading from front to back. I also appreciate the variety. Let’s be honest. Would you rather read tens chapters from Leviticus per day, or one?

In case you haven’t heard of it, you can get the original instructions and bookmarks here, but a real basic overview is that the Bible is broken down into ten sections of different lengths. Professor Horner explains:

Since the lists vary in length, the readings begin interweaving in constantly changing ways. You will NEVER read the same set of ten chapters together again! Every year you’ll read through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the OT wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the OT History and Prophetic books about 1-1/2 times. Since the interweaving is constantly changing, you will experience the Bible commenting on itself in constantly changing ways — the Reformer’s principle of ‘scriptura interpretans scripturam’ — ‘scripture interpreting scripture’ IN ACTION!

Despite really liking the plan, there was one thing I didn’t like: the bookmarks. While they were certainly functional, there were things I found annoying about them:

  1. They’re paper. I figured at some point they’re going to rip. Sure they’re easy to reprint, but I was always worried they would rip any way. The bookmark would be pushed back towards the spine as far as it would go, and when I tried to open the page, they just felt flimsy. It always felt like I was going to rip it trying to open to the page.
  2. They’re ugly. Not the bookmark itself, because they have a nice design, but the ten bookmarks sticking out the top of the Bible.
  3. They’re crowded. The bookmarks were so crowded together that they were a pain to figure out which was which. The lists don’t move from the front of the Bible to the back, they bounce around. List 1 starts in the Gospels, List 2 in the Pentateuch, List 3 and 4 are New Testament, List 5 is Old Testament… You get the picture.
  4. They weren’t a good bookmark. Sometimes, I would come back the next day and think, okay, what chapter did I read yesterday? This was especially common in the Psalms when I would look at a two-page spread and see chapters 92-97. Now, did I read 93 or 94 yesterday?

Okay, so they’re all little things, but sometimes the little things can be annoying. I’m sure we all have little things that people would look at us and go, really? So, I started looking into different ways that people kept track.

I found a few different ways on the Internet, but none of them were really what I was looking for. It wasn’t until I came across a couple of checklists that I started thinking, “Hey, they’re on to something!” While the ones I came across weren’t quite what I was looking for, they gave me the inspiration to design my own.

The basic design is that each list takes up half of a full-page of letter-size paper. You can simply cut it in half, or do like I did: cut it in half and take about a half-inch off the margin on each side. They fit perfectly inside the back cover of my Bible without sticking out.

When I sit down to read, I pull the stack out of the back of the Bible and start with whatever list is on top. As I finish each chapter, I start a new pile turning the top page over, until I reach the end of the stack. On days that I work, I seldom get through all ten chapters, but I know that when I come back the next day, the next reading will be sitting there on top. When I’m finished reading for the day, I cross each chapter off list with a pen, put those finished pages in the back of the stack, and put the stack back in my Bible.

One of the unintended benefits was not having a bookmark. It forces you to look up each chapter, and very quickly, you get a feel for the location of each one in the Bible. I’ve gotten much quicker at finding verses in the Bible without a table of contents, and it’s becoming something that’s very natural.

Finally, some of the lists are short. List 10, for example, is simply made up of Acts. I was able to put Acts on the checklist eight times, which means you won’t need to print a new checklist for eight months, saving you a little paper. List 2, containing the Pentateuch has 187 chapters. That would only fit once, but again, you won’t have to reprint the checklist for about six months. The checklists aren’t fancy, but they’re neat, orderly, and functional.

I hope you enjoy them.

17 thoughts on “Prof. Horner’s Bible-Reading System Checklists

  1. Thank you. I just found this a year after it was first posted when Ligonier sent a list of Bible Reading Plans for 2015. I didn’t want all of the bookmarks either. This will be great. I especially like that you took into account that sometimes we lay people don’t have the time to get through it all after work/chores/life. Thanks again.

    • It’s being a lay person myself that forced me to come up with something different that worked for me. Adding to what’s already available on the ‘net gives people more choices. I like choices!

  2. This is the BEST adaptation of the lists that I have found. I’ve been using it for two weeks and I *love* being able to circle the chapter after I finish reading it. Makes it so easy to remember what to read next and so satisfying to see the list getting colored in. Thank you so much for taking the time to make it and being willing to share it!

  3. Thank you for this! I think I will print out and laminate these, and mark them with a wet erase pen. That way I’ll never have to reprint!

  4. Thank you for offering this list option. Just yesterday I finished reading through the Bible in 1 yr – was sick this past week and got slowed down. I used a modified Prof Horner system with a spreadsheet. Like you, I too like to have the paper list of each chapter to check off as I complete. I’m getting ready to start once again in 2015 and came across your lists. I think I’m going to give it a shot. Thanks again

  5. I have 4 more days to finish…ashamed to admit, but this will be my 1st time to read the entire Bible (I was never able to get through some of the OT but with one chapter at a time it has been so doable). I am so thankful to have found Prof. Horner’s system. Love it and I look forward to many more times. I use the ribbon kind of bookmarks and I always face the written side towards the next chapter I am to read, it has worked very well and actually, I love seeing all the ribbons 🙂 but for my 2nd time around I am going to try your method, so I just wanted to thank you for your willingness to share.

    • Congratulations on finishing for your first time, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone should have a first time! And a second. It’s reading and getting into that’s important.

  6. Thank you for your design of simple and useful! I too had put together a folded sheet of paper with the lists and chpts to cross off, after determining I didn’t like the bookmarks early on. However, every time I finished a shorter list I had to erase the marks to start over. Your solution is from someone who has been using the system and understands the quirks of simple record keeping 🙂 thanks again.

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