My wife cringes whenever I buy a new Bible and I can see her point to an extent. I do own a number of Bibles, listed here as they appear in the photograph:
- ESV Study Bible
- Reformation Study Bible (ESV)
- ESV Reference Edition (terrific concordance)
- Holy Bible, Common English Bible
- ESV Single–Column Legacy Edition
- Holman Christian Standard Bible
- ESV Personal Size Reference Bible
- New American Standard single column reference from the 1980s
- New American Standard Updated Reference Edition
- NIV Student Bible
- NIV Thompson Chain Reference Bible
For those keeping score at home, that’s eleven Bibles. Which ones do I read regularly? The ESV Single–Column Legacy is my preference because:
- It’s single column, making it easier and more pleasant to read.
- The headings are in the side margins, making them:
- easy to ignore if so desired;
- easy to skim when you’re looking for a passage
- Crossway, the publisher, says: The ESV Single Column Legacy Bible is a text-only edition with a fresh design. Based on the Renaissance ideal of a perfect page, it features a simple, clear layout that includes wide margins. With a concordance, full-color maps in the back, and the readable ESV text, this is a quality edition that can be read and enjoyed for a lifetime.
The others that I consult regularly:
- ESV Study Bible—probably the premiere study Bible on the market.
- The Reformation Study Bible
- either of the New American Standard Bibles
- and, occasionally, the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible.
I need an NRSV, RSV and a King James to round out my collection.
A plug for Crossway—they aren’t in the business of publishing Bibles for profit. Their Bibles are very reasonably priced and well bound. I had a small problem with one of their Bibles and they promptly sent me a new one and told me to give them defective one to someone else (it was useable).
Shortly after the 1994 Promise Keepers in Dallas, Texas, a group of guys from First Presbyterian (myself included) got together and formed a small group for Bible study. That group is still going strong. One of our members thought it was sacrilege to write in his Bible. I respect that opinion and know of others who feel the same. Others write all over their Bibles; one such person thinks you should be wearing out a Bible every year or so. A seminary professor gets a new Bible every year, reads it cover to cover, making notes and then gives it to one of his students—cool! I’m somewhere in the middle.
I use a variety of tools (from the bottom up):
- Prismacolor 005 brown—these pens are archival quality/acid-free and fast drying. They won’t bleed through nor smear or fade with age.
- Prismacolor 005 blue
- Micron 01 black—same as Prismacolors
- Prismacolor Premier colored pencils—good for highlighting; will not bleed, fade or smear. I use these colors:
- Spanish orange
- Canary yellow
- The Spanish Orange is a bit darker and shows up better, particularly in low light.
- Zebrite yellow highlighter—liquid, does not bleed through; not sure about it’s archival properties
- Lastly, a Yellow Paper-Mate Flair—I love highlighting in books with a yellow Flair and I have found that the paper in the ESV Single Column Legacy does not allow bleed through from this pen.
I don’t have a system or use symbols. I pretty much use the Prismacolor brown or the Micron black to make notes in the margins (notes are preceded with a reference to the verse, such as v. 12). I don’t really use the Zebrite much because I don’t like it’s almost fluorescent quality. I highlight words with the Flair and if I really want to draw attention to a word or phrase, I’ll also underline it, usually with the Prismacolor blue.
What to highlight, note, etc. is strictly personal. I have found these guideline helpful:
- highlight only those phrases that are particularly important to the passage—in other words I do not highlight entire verses (usually); highlighting key words is usually sufficient. (I’ve used underlining to illustrate).
- Sometimes I “double highlight,” such as the photo shows; this is used sparingly.
I do write notes in the margins. Again, sparingly and often just cross-references, as the Legacy does not contain cross-references. I find that some of the links I discover mean more to me anyway. I will occasionally insert sermon notes (just key points) or even draw a diagram as illustrated in the photo.
I hope this post is helpful; if you have other tools or methods, please list them in the comments.