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Horner's Bible-reading system goes global

Posted on: June 20

By Bob Dickson

If you do a Google search for TMC professor Grant Horner’s Bible reading system, you will, depending on the phrasing you use, land between 50,000 and 500,000 hits. In the five years since the longtime English professor posted the system onto his Facebook profile as a one-page pdf file, it has made its way into believers’ hands and into their Bibles in countries all over the world.

For Horner, the system began decades ago when he was a college student himself, just saved into the faith. He knew the Bible was the Word of God, and he knew he needed to understand it, but he wasn’t sure how to go about reading it.

The approach that was suggested to him revolved around grouping the Bible by genres and reading parts from each genre every day.

“The genres were groups such as the Mosaic genre (the Pentateuch), some of Paul’s letters, the Psalms,” Horner says. “So I wrote it all down in my Bible and many, many years later it has become known as Professor Horner’s Bible-reading system

The system appealed to Horner’s literary mind, and its ambitious pace – 10 chapters a day – satisfied his hunger for spiritual nourishment. And so for more than 30 years he has followed the plan. Ten chapters a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

On average, that’s a pace of about two-and-half trips through the entire Bible every year.

An interesting facet of the system is that Horner also recommends using the same Bible every day. You gain an affinity for the actual Bible you use, he says. And if you write notes in the margins like he does, it leaves a remarkable path through which to track your growth through the years.

It also helps, he says, with recollection. After reading through the same passages on the same pages year after year, you become able to recall an entire page in your mind. Students who have taken his literature classes are familiar with his occasional references to Scripture that include details such as “left column second paragraph from the top.”

One look at Horner’s Bible tells the tale. It is the definition of well-worn. He has had it stitched and then re-stitched together, and some of the pages must be reinforced with scotch tape to keep them from disintegrating.

The most compelling evidence of such a commitment to God’s Word, however, lies in the man himself. Horner is a living, breathing Bible concordance. More than that, His intimate understanding of the myriad ways in which Scripture’s themes blend fluidly and beautifully across each of its 66 books has resulted in a depth of wisdom that makes him one of the crown jewels of TMC’s esteemed faculty.

Horner, who specializes in, among other things, Renaissance English literature, is TMC’s resident expert on John Milton. Milton, he will tell you, was a man who set out to read everything ever written and accomplished the feat. The literary knowledge Milton possessed spilled so deeply into his writings that even to this day, literary scholars cannot locate all of the references and allusions he included.

In the same way, Horner’s wealth of Scriptural knowledge can’t help but spill into his classes and by extension, into the minds and lives of his students. Such a potent combination helps them make the connections between the themes suggested in the literature they study and the precepts established in God’s Word.

The intricate weaving of biblical wisdom into the material has not been lost on his students. In fact, it’s partly responsible for Horner’s system going global.

“People began to ask me, ‘Did you go to seminary because you seem to know the Bible pretty well?’ I’d say, ‘No, I read the Bible and I’ve got this set of lists …’ but no one really paid any attention to it,” Horner says. “And then about five years ago, students at the college started asking me how I got to know the Bible so well. I would tell them about my system. I’d show it to them in my Bible and they’d copy it down. Then they asked me if I could make a handout, so one day I made a pdf of my handout and I uploaded it to my Facebook page.”

Within hours Horner’s Facebook page had thousands of visits. Within days, his 10-list handout had spread around the country. Within a month you could find it on every continent.

“People began telling me it was changing their life, it was changing their church, it was changing their family,” Horner says. “At the same time it was being translated into a number of languages.”

Horner has lost track of how many languages the system has been translated into, but every day he receives emails – some in broken English – from believers around the world who have seen their study of the Word ignited by that one pdf.

Horner estimates that there are at least “several hundred thousand people” using the system at any given time. Many do it on their own and in some cases the system has been adopted by entire churches – a great way to challenge the flock to dive into God’s Word.

“The whole point is to get Christians to realize that most of us go through our life sipping lukewarm water and living on a diet of saltine crackers,” Horner says. “And the fact is we have a feast that's in front of us. This is a way to kind of make the feast appear as interesting as it really is in showing us the variety of God’s wisdom across all the different genres in the Word.”

Click here to view Professor Horner’s Bible-reading program.

See the video here.