How To Write In Your Bible Effectively

Do you write in your Bible? For some people writing in their Bible is like defacing something holy. The Jews, for instance, have so much respect for the scriptures that they have some set rules for handling them. Here is how one Rabbi describes how to handle the Torah:

The following are some basic guidelines for the proper handling of a Torah scroll, and appropriate behavior in its presence:

  • A special place should be designated for storing the Torah while it is in your home. One must always be fully dressed and respectfully behaved while in the room where the Torah is being stored, so the designated room should be chosen accordingly–not the bedroom or game-room…
  • One may not sit or stand on a chair, table or bed which the Torah is lying upon.
  • The Torah should always be held upright, resting against the right shoulder.
  • When the Torah is being carried from one place to another, those nearby must rise and remain standing until the Torah reaches its destination, or is out of sight.
  • When the Torah is being transported, ideally it should be held by a person, instead of being placed on a car seat or in the trunk.
  • A Torah scroll may never be placed on the ground.
  • No other item should be placed on top of a Torah.
  • A Torah should always be placed upright; never upside down or on its face.1

Best wishes,

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson

Needless to say writing on the Torah scroll is not permitted. While we carry this much respect for the words of God it doesn’t seem like most people don’t view the actual physical copies of our Bibles as something holy in and of itself. I don’t know about you but I am a confessed Bible writer-inner. Missy is as well. We were in the assembly a couple of years ago and I was turning to a passage when I noticed in the upper margin was written – If you see this say “Boo, Boo.” So I turned to her and said “Boo, boo” and she laughed, knowing exactly what had just happened. Another time I turned to 1 Corinthians 13 and the heading “Love” was turned into “I Love Matt.” I thought that was creative.

Over the last few years I have developed my own system of writing in the margins of my Bible that have been very helpful to me. So why not share?

Inside covers:
In this area I tend to write quotes that I have found helpful from sermons and Bible classes. I also use this area to write bits and pieces of history that are more lengthy but are helpful to have handy.

The Old Testament Page:
We all have that page that lets us know the OT is about to begin. This is the perfect place to write down things like the Three Divisions of the Hebrew Bible (Law, Prophets “Former” and “Later”, and Writings) with bullet points of what those include. I also include theological topics that are hard to find in the OT like resurrection and the Holy Spirit. I have also included what the word Testament means and where it came from as well as helpful passages concerning the covenants in the Bible.

The New Testament Page:
On the same page that starts the NT I write notes about translations and notes about the synoptics (numbers of verses that overlap each gospel, etc).

First Page of Each Book:
On the first page of each book I normally write proposed dates, author, and background information (audience, etc). When I read the introductory material in a commentary on a particular book I usually use the front page of that book in my Bible as a place to write helpful notes and make sure to reference that commentary with author/page #.

Underlining/highlighting:
This is the lynchpin of most people’s systems. I am not much for an elaborate color-coded system. I just use this when I know I will be looking for a particular verse or phrase at a later time.

Side Margins:
In the margins I make notes about the text on that page. I want to share one trick that I think is exceptionally helpful. I found that if I just took notes at the top of the page and worked my way down the margin it was hard to find anything. I have found it more helpful to think of the margins more spacial. So the top 50% of the margin is for the left column of text and the lower 50% of the margin for the right hand column of text. Within those halves I write a note about a verse proportionate to where a verse is found in that column. I also put chapter & verse references with each note.

Bottom Margin:
In the margins beneath the text I write notes about structure and also use it for overflow for the side margins.

Top Margin:
I don’t typically write in the top margins.

What tricks have you found helpful for writing in your Bible?

9 Responses to How To Write In Your Bible Effectively

  1. K. Rex Butts says:

    I write in my Bibles, except for two. Of these two, one is a small pocket Bible that has no writing since I live in a culture that has a growing increase of Muslims who believe Christians profane what is holy when they write in their Bibles. I would hate for a Bible with writing in it to become an obstacle to the gospel. The other Bible that I do not write in is kept that just for my own reading. Somtimes it is nice to read the scriptures without any previous marks that potentially shape what words will stand out.

    THe humorous this is that last Bible I mentioned was attacked by my youngest child (10 months old). I left it in a bad place and he ripped out that page that has the last chapter of Revelation on it (that would be the book that comes with a warning not to add or take away from this message:-}).

    Good thoughts!

    Rex

  2. mattdabbs says:

    Rex,

    You have a Bible similar to the Greek text Erasmus was using when he was working on Revelation 22. The text he had was missing the last six verses of Rev 22 so he backwards translated, probably from the Vulgate (Latin) his own Greek translation of the verses that tell you not to add anything. How ironic.

  3. Nick Gill says:

    Matt,

    I tried Missy’s trick at 1 Cor 13 — but my wife was really confused. Now she wants to know who Matt is.

    nick

  4. Daniel was talking about his system for combining reading through the Bible in a year, taking notes, and having a legacy Bible to give to your children one day. This year, he is taking notes for Corban as he reads through. Next year, he’ll do it for Anna. The year after, he will do a Bible for the child that he & Rachael are working on producing right now. πŸ˜‰ And then, 3 years from now, he will go back to Corban’s Bible & do the same again, and start the cycle over. And then, when they turn 18, he will give them those Bibles. How cool is that?

  5. mattdabbs says:

    Nick,

    Ouch!

    Philip,

    How many more times does he intend on reading through the Bible? πŸ™‚

  6. Brian says:

    i have some old gel pens and definitely always use a ruler when underlining
    i have one wide-margin bible but I hardly use it, i want to figure everything out first, then systematically put notes in

  7. courtney says:

    a bible that has my name on it and that has extra paper in it

  8. Jenny says:

    A few years ago, I purchased anESV Journaling Bible. It’s been great having space to write notes from my personal study, along with ones from sermons and books I’ve read.

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