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Bible Reading Plans

December 3, 2008

For several years now I’ve done two “read the Bible in a year” plans. These are both provided free by websites, where you sign up and then get each day’s reading in your e-mail. Aside from occasional technical errors (sometimes the e-mails don’t arrive, or arrive late), these are easy ways to read through the Bible in a year.

Free Bible Email allows your choice of versions (NIV or KJV), and each daily reading consists of three parts: New Testament, one Psalm or chapter of Proverbs, and other Old Testament. This plan actually reads through the New Testament and the Psalms-Proverbs every six months, twice a year through — and once through for the Old Testament. Free Bible Email is calendar based, so if you join in the middle of the year you will get the readings for that part o the year.

Bible in a Year allows more version choices (eight versions), and three different reading sequence plans: straight-through from Genesis to Revelation; or alternating books — an Old Testament book, then a New Testament book, back and forth; or, the plan I’ve done most often, chronological sequence. All three plans work you through the complete Bible once in a full year. This plan can also be started at any time of the year; instead of waiting until January 1, or joining into the middle of the Bible, you can start at the beginning in May or August or October, if you so choose. On a calendar year schedule, since the majority of the Bible is the Old Testament, these reading plans (except for the alternating schedule) won’t get to the New Testament until early October.

I’ve recently learned a new Bible reading strategy, from John MacArthur’s sermon “How to Study the Bible.” (He has mentioned this plan in a few other sermons as well.) The reading plan for the Old Testament is straightforward enough: just read it once through in a full year; either of the above schedules would work, or any other such plans. For the New Testament reading, though, MacArthur suggests reading through the same book, up to about 7 chapters at a time, every day for a month. Start with 1 John — 5 chapters — and read it through, every day for the first month. Then go to the book of John. Since it’s a longer book, 21 chapters, break it into three sections. Read chapters 1 through 7 every day for a month, then 8 through 14 the next month, and 15 through 21 the following month. MacArthur specifically mentions reading Philippians the next month, followed by the book of Matthew (again, break it into sections, in this case four months), and suggests alternating back and forth between shorter and longer books. Though he says this plan will take 2 1/2 years, when I tried to map it out for all the New Testament books, even combining a few shorter books together for some months, the schedule will take 37 months.

I started a day late (December 2), but that’s still 30 days to read 1 John. Here is my tentative monthly reading plan of the New Testament books for the next few years:

Month 1: 1 John Month 20: Mark 1- 8
Month 2: John 1-7 Month 21: Mark 9 – 16
Month 3: John 8-14 Month 22: 1 and 2 Timothy
Month 4: John 15-21 Month 23: Romans 1 – 8
Month 5: Philippians Month 24: Romans 9 – 16
Month 6: Matthew 1-7 Month 25: 1 and 2 Peter
Month 7: Matthew 8-14 Month 26: 1 Corinthians 1 – 8
Month 8: Matthew 15-21 Month 27: 1 Corinthians 9 – 16
Month 9: Matthew 22-28 Month 28: 1 and 2 Thess.
Month 10: Ephesians Month 29: 2 Corinthians 1 – 7
Month 11: Luke 1 – 8 Month 30: 2 Corinthians 8 – 13
Month 12: Luke 9 – 17 Month 31: James
Month 13: Luke 18 – 24 Month 32: Hebrews 1 – 7
Month 14: Galatians; Philemon Month 33: Hebrews 8 – 13
Month 15: Acts 1 – 7 Month 34: Titus; 2 John, 3 John
Month 16: Acts 8 – 14 Month 35: Revelation 1- 8
Month 17: Acts 15-21 Month 36: Revelation 9 – 15
Month 18: Acts 22 – 28 Month 37: Revelation 16 – 22
Month 19: Colossians; Jude
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  1. Andy
    November 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Thank you so much for dividing up the chapters as I am also interested in Pastor John MacArthur’s reading plan. Since it is now 2012 already, I want to know what were your experiences using this plan…I am a bit concerned since it might feel over-repetitive by reading each book 30 times. Also would it reduce the effectiveness of this plan if for example for the gospel of John I read the whole book in 3 days instead of reading the same section for 30days?


    • November 28, 2012 at 9:14 am

      Hi Andy, thanks for stopping by. I actually only did this plan for three months, during which I read through the gospel of John in three sections: John 1-7 the first month, John 8-14 second month, and John 15-21 the third month. The effectiveness of MacArthur’s suggested plan is that you use the same print Bible every day, and that through regular, repeated reading, after a while you remember the general chapter content and that you can find a particular text by page-memory, remembering where on the page you saw it — a visual memory that does work after lots of repetition over time (months and years). For immediate results of course it’s not as good as the electronic access people have nowadays, what with Bible software with search ability and all the mobile phone apps, etc, but MacArthur taught this in the pre-Internet age.

      I actually now do a genre-reading plan instead, based on the Horner Bible Reading plan from Professor Grant Horner (who is a college prof at The Master’s College), with repeated readings in all of the Bible every day, rather than just reading the same one book at a time. Many of my later posts describe this plan in more detail. See especially these posts: my first post about it, and my current reading plan here.

      • Andy
        November 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

        Thanks for replying. I think I might try the horner plan first before the macarthur then since I think it might just make me hate my daily readings since I would be reading the same thing over and over for 30days. I’ll read some of your posts about the horner plan, thank you!

  2. Bridgitte Bonsu
    April 11, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Just to clarify, so if you’re reading 1 John are you reading all 5 chapters every day of the month? Or you’re reading 1 chapter a day and repeating the process until the month is done?

    • April 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      For this plan, you read all 5 chapters of 1 John every day of the month. Then read another book or selection of chapters, all the chapters, every day of the month.

  3. ahmad h.
    March 31, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    i have been doing the JMac plan for 2 months, and with much prayer and perseverance, you will come away with greater understandings each day of the Word. I believe he says its also good to change the translation up every month so that it freshens up the plan. I do a more frequent than that lol, but it definitely is a good way to study the Word for oneself.

  4. March 14, 2017 at 1:54 am

    Hi! Are you still follow this plan?

  5. Lil
    November 27, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Hi there, I’m so thankful that you posted this! I kept looking for John MacArthur’s New Testament Reading Plan and it seemed it didn’t exist outside of the sermons he taught. You are so awesome for putting this together! What I originally wanted to do was to manage the reading plan on my phone, but no Bible App that I could find had this reading plan, that is, until I stumbled upon the “ReadingPlan” app for iOS (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/readingplan/id336984707?mt=8), which lets you create custom reading plans! With that said, I downloaded the App and then took your plan and put together a text file (instructions from http://pricejh.com/readingplan/customplan.html) and loaded it on my iPhone (http://pricejh.com/readingplan/fileshare.html) and let’s just say, it seems to be working so far. If you want the file I created, let me know. You might even contact the ReadingPlan App people to make it one of the plans they list as downloadable.

    God bless you!

    • January 13, 2018 at 1:43 pm

      Hi Lil! I also follow Macarthur suggestions for reading the bible .
      What is the order you follow and how you divide the books?

      • October 30, 2018 at 10:57 pm

        Petros! So sorry I’m only seeing this now! I just took the plan above and made a file out of it. If you download the ReadingPlan App I mention, Jim, the app author has made the plan I created into one of the available downloadable reading plans. It’s now the first one listed and it’s called MacArthur NT. Sorry so late, but I hope you find this information useful 🙂

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