Bible Reading Plans

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Full Bible Reading Plans
  3. Supplemental Reading Plans
  4. Original Language Reading Plans
  5. The Lutheran Confessions

TL;DR

On this page there is obviously more information about my experience in reading the various plans I use or have used in the past. But here is the basics of what I currently (June 2020) use.

  1. Daily Discipline: your flesh needs routine. It will never willingly read God’s Word or the confession/preaching of that Word. Do something every day. This won’t earn you anything with God, but the Holy Spirit, through the Word, will crucify your flesh and raise up and strengthen your new self in Christ. Moreover, getting up earlier by the amount of extra time needed to accomplish your reading is what I’ve found to be helpful.
  2. The Right Amount: You don’t want to schedule too much at the start otherwise you’ll get discouraged and discipline will waiver. Form a foundation of what you want to do, work towards it, and add more if you want to, but always accomplish your core goal. Then no matter what, you’ve gained a victory for the day.
  3. Full Bible Plan: I use the Daily Lectionary (Reading Plan) from Lutheran Worship, which in one year gets me through the entire Bible once and the entire Psalter twice.
  4. Original Language Plan:
    For Greek: I use one New Testament Plan (Cover to Cover, Staggered, or Chronological), which get me through the whole New Testament over a year. (1 chapter is read every weekday).
    For Aramaic: I use the Aramaic Reading Plan, which gets me through the Aramaic portions of the OT in a year. (1–3 verses are read every weekday.)
    For Hebrew: I use the Old Testament Reading Hebrew Reading Plan, which gets me through the entire Hebrew Old Testament, except the Psalms, in about two years. (On average 1/2 – 1 chapter are read every day.)
  5. Lutheran Confessions: I currently use the plan from Treasury of Daily Prayer, though it may be slightly modified, which gets me through the entire Book Concord in a year. I use the Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions translation, except for the Small Catechism.

Introduction

I know how it goes. You want to read the Bible, but you don’t know how, don’t know where to start. As a pastor, you might think it comes easy. But it’s not. Lots of pastors simply study the Scriptures they’re preaching on, however many or few services they have per week. Like all Christians living a busy life, I too have struggled to make Scripture reading a daily habit. This crucible of action and inaction, success and failure, drew me to set this all out in writing. I’ve either used (with some failure or success), plan to use, or have developed all the plans listed below. I’m not trying to say that my plan must work for you. I’m trying to describe what works for me, what hasn’t in the past. Your mileage may vary with all these plans, and my experience with a given reading plan may or may not be your experience with that same plan. You know your own personality, needs, and life circumstances.

So, what were some of my ground rules, some nonnegotiables, as I searched for a plan for my Scripture reading?

  1. The plan must read through all of Scripture in a year.
  2. The plan must be daily and not just weekday oriented.
  3. The plan must be structured yet flexible in order to account for the craziness of life.
  4. The plan must also account (be simple and easy enough) for daily reading of the Lutheran Confessions.
  5. Finally, my plan must include time for reading in the original languages, beyond just preparing for preaching, teaching, or leading Bible Study. Yes, we can trust translations, and we’re certainly blessed to have them in our mother tongues. (Pentecost fulfilled!—Acts 2:11) But more humanly speaking, I spent a lot of time and money to learn them, and it would be a waste of time and money to drop them. I’m free in Christ to have them only serve in some background capacity, and many pastors do. But my frugal (stingy-German?) nature just won’t let that time and especially money go to waste!

Now, discipline is key. It took me a few years to learn that I needed self-discipline and not just imposed discipline. As a complete aside, Jocko Willink’s Discipline Equals Freedom was instrumental in this understand. My comments below on discipline are shaped by this book.

Discipline is a tool for subduing our flesh, which “does submit to God’s Law, indeed it cannot.” (Romans 8) Paul also says, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9) Self discipline is a tool to love our neighbors. Only when your life is ordered are you in a position to be free (especially with time) to help others. Self discipline is something that is foreign to most people today. Keeping the same morning/evening routine is only done if work demands make it necessary. Imposed disciple isn’t freedom. If you need 15 extra minutes in your day to read the Scriptures, don’t try and chisel it out in the middle of your day. Our daily schedules are sometimes very difficult to change. Need 15 minutes? Get up 15 minutes earlier (and probably the same time every day). You could settle down 15 minutes earlier, too, but the evening routine is more difficult to maintain.

Now, discipline does NOT equal faith. Your doing of discipline, even when it comes to reading the Bible regularly, doesn’t earn you favor with God. The Spirit does, however, work on you through the Word. The Spirit strengthens the trust in Christ that He gave you. The Spirit kills your flesh and enlivens your new man in Christ through God’s Word of Law and God’s Word of Gospel contained in Scripture. Luther’s comments on memorizing the parts of Catechism are also helpful when it comes to reading the Scriptures.

[11] But those who are unwilling to learn the catechism should be told that they deny Christ and are not Christians. They should not be admitted to the Sacrament, accepted as sponsors at Baptism, or practice any part of Christian freedom. They should simply be turned to the pope and his officials, indeed, to the devil himself [1 Corinthians 5:5]. [12] Furthermore, their parents and employers should refuse them food and drink, and notify them that the prince will drive such rude people from the country.

[13] Although we cannot and should not force anyone to believe, we should insist and encourage the people. That way they will know what is right and wrong for those among whom they dwell and wish to make their living. For whoever desires to live in a town must know and observe the town laws, because he wishes to enjoy the protection offered by the laws whether he is a believer or at heart and in private a rascal or rogue.

Preface to the Small Catechism, § 11–13
from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions

God’s Word is a Gift. Through it the Father, by the authorship of the Spirit, delivers Jesus His Son to your heart, soul, mind, and strength (1 Cor 15). God’s Word makes you new. Not just the Word and Spirit delivered in Holy Baptism (Tit 3), but the Word of Scripture, too, which also delivers the Holy Spirit (1 Tim 3; 2 Pet 1), who makes you holy. Through His Word God sanctifies you, your day, and your work. Jesus says, “Sanctify them in your truth; Your Word is Truth.” (Jn 17) Through His Word of Law God prunes you (Jn 15). Through His Word of Gospel He sows the Word of Life (Mt 13). His Word of Law and His Word of Gospel is delivered in Holy Scripture.

You could certainly google bible plans and find all sorts. But there’s no commentary on them. They’re just offered. This is like offering an address and different kinds of maps without any specific directions or guidance. Once, I did that on my own where I live in Kansas trying to get to a member’s house, and I ended up stuck on a mud road. My comments aren’t Law for you, but they will show you how I got to where I am. Maybe that means you’ll do what I do, maybe you’ll use one of the other plans laid out here, or maybe a google search will serve you better. No matter what, “let him who boasts in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1) “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” (1 Thess 5) “Sanctify them in Your Truth; Your Word is Truth” (Jn 17)

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Full Bible Reading Plans

1. Lutheran Worship

I’ve personally used the reading plan from LW for the past few years. For me it’s a 10 minute time commitment. It’s simple enough to follow, and easy enough to catch up when the craziness of life makes me miss a day. The benefit of this lectionary is that it covers all the Scriptures in a year—the Psalms twice a year, plus a canticle to boot! Reading ALL of the Bible was important in my search for a reading plan. I’m all about the one-stop-shop approach of this lectionary, and it serves as the foundation of my reading of Scripture. Below, you’ll see the introduction to this lectionary. I would post a copy of the lectionary itself, but it’s currently under copyright.

This outline is a devotional reading plan that covers the entire Sacred Scriptures each year. The selections are based on ancient models and are generally in harmony with the liturgical church year. The average reading is three chapters daily. A seasonal cantical is assigned for each month and is scheduled to replace the psalm on the first and last days of the month. All of the psalms are read twice a year.

The lectionary is in accordance with Martin Luther’s suggestions: “But let the entire Psalter, divided in parts, remain in use and the entire Scriptures, divided into lections, let this be preserved in the ears of the church.” Also: “After that another book should be selected, and so on, until the entire Bible has been read through, and where one does not understand it, pass that by and glorify God.”

Lutheran Worship, p. 295

2. LSB / 3. TDB / 4. sanctus.org

I had used the lectionary from LSB/TDP in which “nearly all of the New Testament and approximately one-third of the Old Testament are read each year.” (LCMS.org) Now, your mileage may vary with this lectionary, but I found this too cumbersome. Also, you need to add a separate Psalm schedule on top of this. Finally, it does offer additional readings to compensate for it only covering most of the Scriptures, but, to me, they tended to get a bit lengthy. Using TDP will make this plan easier, as it also includes a daily psalm as well. Sanctus.org

5. TLSB

There is a 2-Year reading plan included in TLSB. This is also good, but, full disclosure, I’ve never used this plan. It’s similar in approach to the other reading plans listed below. It still requires a separate psalms schedule. Also, it only offers readings for six days a week, assuming church readings on Sunday serve as the seventh day. Thus, it’s not a daily reading plan, which I find unhelpful discipline-wise for this to serve as a foundational reading plan. But this may suite your needs better than mine.

6. TLH

The Lutheran Hymnal also had a daily reading schedule. This schedule is very tied to the Lutheran Liturgical calendar, especially the Historic One-Year Lectionary contained in TLH and LSB. Due to this, some days are missing from this daily plan. This increases the clunkiness of this plan. Now, there are two readings each day—one for morning and one for evening. It also does not have a self-contained plan for reading psalms (see the next section). The readings are generally 1/2 – 1 chapter in the morning and the same in the evening. It, like the daily plan from LSB/TDP, does not cover all the Scriptures. I’ve used this sparingly over the years, especially since the LW reading plan suites my needs better. You may find this one more helpful, and not only if you’re in a congregation that uses the Historic Lectionary. A couple examples: (1) During the 12 Days of Christmas, all the infancy narratives are scheduled; (2) during the week of Easter, all the resurrection narratives from all Four Gospels are read.

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Supplemental Reading Plans

These are supplemental reading plans, but you could, of course, use them as your every-day plan. These are very similar in approach to the 2 Year reading plan from The Lutheran Study Bible. You could Frankenstein them together to form a good foundational reading plan. There’s a lot of flexibility in these plans. I personally enjoy the set yet slightly flexible structure of the LW reading plan, but if you personally need to mix it up more often, these offer a good way to do that. Some are slower paced, some more rigorous, and this would allow you to decide to read one portion Scripture at a more rapid pace while reading others at a slower pace. The combinations are endless, and bibleplan.org offers many different ones. Each of these plans comes with a handout that may be printed off, and these are used to track your progress (they include check boxes) and to serve as a bookmark.

So, what’s been my experience these?

Old Testament Reading Plans

1. Old Testament Reading Plan (Your Own Pace)

The “Your Own Pace” is based on the what I developed and use for the OT Hebrew Reading Plan below. It does exactly what it sounds like. It allows you to read the Old Testament at your own pace. You can read as much or as little as you want. The print out lists one chapter at a time, except the psalms which are multiple per day. There’s also check boxes and blanks to help you keep track of where you are. If you read one chapter (or block of psalms) per day, you’ll read the entire Old Testament in just over two years. I you ready two chapters (or blocks), it’ll be just over one year. You’ll end up reading generally in order through the Old Testament. You’ll read all the history books, then all the prophets, and finally through the poetry books. I developed this order so that I build Hebrew vocabulary, but, even in English, this also gives you the foundational stories (history) before getting to more difficult prophecies and poetry.

2. Old Testament Reading Plan

The other Old Testament reading plan was developed by bibleplan.org, and it will get your through the entire Old Testament in a year. You’ll read two chapters throughout the week (history, Job, Minor Prophets), three chapters (the Psalms) on Saturday, five chapters (4 from Major Prophets/Minor Prophets and 1 from Proverbs–Ecclesiastes/Obadiah). This is a helpful plan, and I used it toward the beginning of my search for a daily plan. It does offer that, and it gets you through the OT in year. (Two of my criteria above.) However, it doesn’t offer much time for the New Testament, though you could use a NT Reading Plan. It’s not very flexible, especially for Saturday/Sunday to serve as catch up days. Also, the Psalms are only covered once a year. (The LW plan fits the bill for all this.) I found that it’s also awkward when your weekday readings get interrupted by the weekend ones and the weekend ones get interrupted by the week. You especially end up loosing track of what you read in the Psalm/Major Prophets by the time you get to the next weekend. If you’ve got a better memory from what you’ve read than I do, this could suite you quite nicely.

New Testament Reading Plans

6. New Testament (30 day)

This the least recommendable NT plan, in my opinion. I include it because I tried it when I was young pup right out of Sem. It could serve a purpose, like if you’re gonna be tested on the NT. Anyway, paired with the Your Own Pace OT plan, this plan could be doable. Yet reading the New Testament consistently (consistency and discipline go together) over 30 days would be an arduous task. If you have the time commitment, more power to you! My experience was that the weight of this plan breaks any attempt at discipline. Plus, my mentality is always to make up for what was missed, and that’s impossible under this plan. If you’re able to shrug off a missed day by thinking, “Well, I’ll just get it again next month,” great! And if you’re able to do that without it completely derailing your discipline, go for it! You’d read the NT 12 times in a year if you stuck with it, which would be an amazing achievement!

3-5. NT Cover to Cover, Staggered, and Chronological

I came across Cover to Cover NT plan, published by bibleplan.org, when I was searching for a supplement to my everyday foundation from LW. I wanted something that would get me a plan that would read the entire NT over a year so that I could tackle reading the entire NT in Greek. The downside of this plan is that it’s only on the weekdays, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if its as a supplement or paired with another daily OT plan. The trick is to read everyday, and this would just change what and how much you’re doing everyday. Now, the Cover to Cover plan, just like it sounds, gets you from Matthew 1 to Revelation 22 in order. From that plan, I came up with the Staggered and Chronological plans.

The staggered plan staggers the History books by putting the next book in between them. Thus, the first books you read are Matthew, Romans, Mark, 1 Corinthians, Luke, 2 Corinthians, John, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Acts, 1 Thessalonians, etc. I did this so that I would be able to appreciate the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) on their own terms, and I wouldn’t gloss over similar stories. That said, the Cover to Cover approach does give the opportunity to more easily remember and compare the synoptic stories, since you would read those Gospels back to back.

The Chronological Plan orders the New Testament by authorship date, from earliest to latest. Now, while the books don’t disagree in their theology but in emphasis, since the contexts of the earliest books do differ from the latests books. Reading the New Testament this way would allow you to notice some of those differences as the author’s were inspired not only for our sake but for the sake of those who originally received the letters.

Currently, I’m using the Staggered Plan. After this my plan is to use the Chronological Plan. Now, the benefit of this is that you get different angles while still reading the NT over a year.

Psalms Reading Plans

The Psalms literally are the prayer book / hymnal of the Bible. I’ve used the following plans in the past, however, I’m happy with the twice a year plan offered above through the LW Full Bible Plan, which is supplemented for me personally by the Sunday Introits/Gradual Psalms.

3. Daily Psalm (TDP)

This, of course, is a great option if you’re already using the Full Bible Reading plan from TDP. The Psalm selections fit thematically with the readings, but the entire Psalter is not read over a year, which for me personally, was a deal breaker for this plan. Also, since it is thematic, some psalms are repeated several times throughout the year. This of course isn’t bad, but it again decreases the amount of the Psalter that’s read.

2. Liturgical Season Psalm (LSB)

This is another good option, sort of the starter version. I’ve used this in the past with my confirmation class, but, since repetition is the mother of all learning, I found that it’s small list of Psalm wasn’t getting repeated enough to be useful in that context. Personally, I’ve never used this devotionally, but it could serve as a foundational place to start if you want to cover more ground in the Psalter.

1. Psalms Over 31 Days (TLH/BPB) / 4. Psalms Over a Month (BiblePlan.org)

In my opinion, if I were to really dive deeper into the Psalter, I would use a plan that went through it every month. I include two options for doing this, but, in my opinion, the one included in TLH/BPB is far superior to the one from BiblePlan.org. The TLH/BPB plan gives guidance for what to do with months that are not 31 days.

As an aside, BPB also includes plans for going through the Psalter over 7 days and over 4 weeks.

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Original Language Reading Plans

Here are my ideas and experience regarding Original Language reading plans, which I use on top of my weekly textual studies of all the readings.

New Testament Greek Reading Plan

Currently, I’m using the New Testament Reading Plan (Staggered) from above to work through the entire New Testament in Greek. At times these readings are a bit long (especially in the Gospels and Acts). However, since this plan is only over 5 days, it allows overflow into Saturday (my day off) / Sunday if the week becomes too hectic. Generally, this doesn’t happen, but the buffer is still there nonetheless. After I’m finished with the Staggered Plan, I’m planning to work through the Chronological Plan next.

1. OT Hebrew Reading Plan & 2. Aramaic Reading Plan 1

I developed the Aramaic Reading Plan after I developed the various NT Reading Plans. Aramaic is used in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 10:11, Daniel 2:4—7:28, Ezra 4:8—6:18, 7:11–26), and I studied it both in college and at seminary. The Aramaic Plan reads through the Ezra and Daniel Portions twice a year and Jeremiah 10:11 four times. Over five days, one (1) to three (3) verses are read. This again allows for overflow into the weekend if needed.

Having excised, the Aramaic portions from the Old Testament, I developed the Old Testament Hebrew Reading Plan. This is read as you go plan, trying to read at least one chapter a day, which would cover the entire Old Testament in Hebrew over two years. Currently the Psalms are omitted, and the plan includes the prophets/wisdom literature at the end so that a foundation of vocabulary, grammar, syntax can be formed by reading the histories. In reality, I end up reading 1/2 – 1 chapter every day. Sometimes it’s a little less, depending on the Hebrew difficulty.

I recognize that both these plans will most likely need to change. The Hebrew will have to change in order to accommodate a change to the Aramaic plan. After making it through the first round of Daniel/Ezra readings, I’ve found that dropping into then out of Daniel 2—7 is generally easy. The flow of the book is more familiar, and it’s less jarring. This is not the case with Ezra. The characters and stories are less familiar, and Ezra is a more difficult writer to translate, in my opinion. Most likely I will modify the Ezra plan to include greater Hebrew portions for context. I’m not sure what this will look like yet, but at this point I think it will need to happen eventually.

3-4. Light on the Path

Personally, I own a couple copies of both editions of Light on the Path. I started using them when I first wanted to bolster my Greek and Hebrew. Their use was short lived. I felt that the passages were too short. I used them with some great success, but I wanted more. Now, while Light on the Path could serve as a helpful devotional supplement to more in-depth study, I think the idea that these brief passages will help you maintain the biblical languages is misguided and naive. While using too much material will result in neglect, the same could be said for too little material. Too much will be neglected because it’s a burden. Too little will be procrastinated away. That’s my experience. Greek and Hebrew cannot be maintained through a verse a day, and, as an aside, the cannot be maintained if they are only used for a once over for the text being preached that week. Or worst of all, Greek/Hebrew are already lost if their use is only some empty reference to a commentary or some factoid learned in college/seminary.

5. Treasures Old and New

This is a newer resource published by Northwestern Publishing House. It is similar to Light on the Path, offering an Old Testament verse in Hebrew and New Testament verse in Greek each day. What sets this apart is that it also includes a brief passage in English from the Lutheran Confessions each day. Personally, I would’ve preferred the reading from the Confessions to have been in the originals (Latin/German) as well. That omission was not the deal breaker for me. My thoughts about Treasures are the same as those about Light on the Path: The readings are too short. Using this to maintain study of the originals or the confessions, will, from my own experience, result in the neglect of that study. Again, as with all things on this list, your experience and needs will differ from mine.

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1. Old Testament Hebrew Reading Plan
2. Aramaic Reading Plan 1
3. Licht auf dem Weg-Band 1./Light on the Path
4. Licht auf dem Weg-Band 2./More Light on the Path
5. Treasures Old and New

Lutheran Confessions Reading Plans

Finally, here are my ideas and experience regarding reading the Lutheran Confessions. This schedule is only in English, and I’ve yet to figure out a simple way to add Latin/German readings into my daily/weekly routine. I read from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, whose paragraph numbering both plans follow. The only change to this I make is that when the plan calls for reading the Small Catechism, I use the translation of the Small Catechism I use in confirmation class, which is from Lutheran Service Book. This change follows Luther’s advice:

[7] In the first place, let the preacher above all be careful to avoid many versions or various texts and forms of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Sacraments, and such. He should choose one form to which he holds and teaches all the time, year after year. For young and simple people must be taught by uniform, settled texts and forms. Otherwise they become confused easily when the teacher today teaches them one way, and in a year some other way, as if he wished to make improvements. For then all effort and labor ‹that has been spent in teaching› is lost.

[8] Our blessed fathers understood this well also. They all used the same form of the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. Therefore, we, too, should ‹be at pains to› teach the young and simple people these parts in such a way that we do not change a syllable or set them forth and repeat them one year differently than in another. ||

[9] Therefore, choose whatever form you please, and hold to it forever. But when you preach in the presence of learned and intelligent people, you may show your skill. You may present these parts in varied and intricate ways and give them as masterly turns as you are able. But with the young people stick to one fixed, permanent form and manner. [10] Teach them, first of all, these parts: the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and so on, according to the text, word for word, so that they, too, can repeat it in the same way after you and commit it to memory.

Preface to the Small Catechism, § 7–10
from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions

1. Treasury of Daily Prayer

This is the schedule I follow, though it may be slightly modified. (I didn’t care to check before writing this.) There is a daily reading of the Book of Concord, which gets me through the entire Book of Concord in a year.

2. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions

This is a helpful schedule. It’s included in the front matter of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. My issue with this schedule is that it’s only a 5 day schedule. I wanted to be reading the Lutheran Confessions daily, and so this plan came up short for my personal use.

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