Since this has come up a few times in conversation, I thought I’d mention it on here. What order do you read the New Testament books in? Here are four options that might offer some variety either for your personal reading, or for an 18-hour reading marathon in a group:
1. The Canonical Order – let’s start with the obvious. Start in Matthew and read through to Revelation in the order they are printed. If you start to find the back-to-back Gospels to be an issue, then try one of the next two approaches…
2. The Gospel-Clusters Order – I made up that title. This approach reads the books naturally associated with a Gospel after it in order to separate the Gospels from each other as you read:
Matthew followed by Hebrews and James (highly Jewish in feel and James has been called the Sermon on the Mount in Epistle form).
Mark followed by 1 & 2 Peter and Jude (Peter is associated with the Gospel of Mark, and there are overlaps between 2 Peter and Jude).
Luke followed by Acts (same author), and then Romans-Philemon – all the epistles of Paul (flowing out of the Acts story).
John followed by 1, 2, & 3 John and Revelation.
3. The Historically-Grouped Gospel-Clusters Order – This approach just changes the Luke cluster by taking Paul’s letters in order and in their historical setting:
Luke is followed by Acts 1-14, then Galatians.
After Acts 18:22, then 1 & 2 Thessalonians.
After Acts 21:16, then Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians.
After Acts 28, then Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon.
Then 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy. (This structure reads letters associated with a missionary journey at the conclusion of the narrative concerning that particular journey.)
There is also the date of composition approach, which would be similar to option 3, but with the Gospels coming later, mixed in with most of the General Epistles (so the reading order would begin with James, Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, etc.)
One last approach to mention:
4. The Personal Preference Order – No rule states that you have to follow a pre-prescribed order. It may be beneficial to do so, especially in a group reading event, but for personal reading you can chart your own course. Read what you are motivated to read and then pick the next book you are motivated to read until you have finished them all.
It goes without saying, but let me end by saying it … whichever approach you take, be sure to keep diving in, looking to know Jesus more and growing in your appreciation of God’s heart towards you!
3 thoughts on “Reading Order: New Testament”
This is very helpful, thank you! I especially like Option 2 above, the Gospel-Clusters order.
Thanks Ray! That is the one I tend to use the most.
I really like your Gospel-cluster order, I needed a reading plan that keeps me in a book from beginning to end as I am using the ESV readers Bible, and the 1 chapter from 4 different books wasn’t working for me; I combined it with another plan that had book by book and parallel readings of the Psalm and Proverbs and combined them into a single plan, eg. Genesis- Psalms 1-31- Exodus etc. I am hoping that it will keep me on track.