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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:

My Bible Library

My Bible Library

  • 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:

Single–Column Legacy layout

Single–Column Legacy layout

  • 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.

My Bible marking tools

My Bible marking tools

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.

Example of highlight from Flair and blue underline

Example of highlight from Flair and blue underline—click on image for larger

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.


Example of diagram in margin

Example of diagram in margin

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.