I love bibles.
I know, I’m a little weird like that, but as far as odd personality traits go, the love for bibles and Gods word is a good problem to have.
As a hobbyist who enjoys leather carving and tooling, I’ve come to appreciate the materials, construction, and layout of the bibles I have in my collection. I enjoy their textures, the quality of their bindings, and the readability of their formats.
It wasn’t until recently that these little thoughts about my own bibles started to get a little more exacting. I began to think about my bibles a little more critically and with the help of the Bible Design and Binding blog, I began to learn I am not alone.
I started to notice bibles everywhere. I began to notice the bibles the people in my church carry and the ones favored by many of the preaching “favorites” in the reformed circles I frequent. What I found odd was a seeming trend of moving away from the larger bibles many of us are accustomed to, to a smaller, more compact “fit in the palm of your hand” bible. It seems in the broader sweep of younger evangelicalism, it seems to be “in” to carry a small bible. I guess youth affords the opportunity to read the small fonts.
This got me to thinking about my own reading habits and the bibles I tend to favor and use. All told, I have roughly 25 of them…90% of which are Crossway ESV’s. I’ve become somewhat of a Crossway aficionado. I think I own every version they produce. It’s taken me years of handling each one to draw my own conclusions about how we as bible believing, bible reading Christians read and interact with our bibles.
Here are some of my thoughts:
The bible is meant to be read
This book, the book containing Gods personal revelation about Himself and our state, is a book that is meant to be read and re-read COUNTLESS times over the 80 some odd years (Lord willing) of a believers lifetime. It is meant to be used in the best of times and the worst. Whether in the comfort of a Sunday sermon, being held up and preached from in an open air evangelism campaign, being stuffed in the backpack of a serviceman overseas, or wept over during a night of tearful prayer. It’s a book that is meant to be lived in…almost like a pair of shoes. These books need to be built out of the most durable materials available and with the highest production standards. After all, not only is it Gods word, but it is a book that is meant to span the life of a believer.
One may argue that with the absolute glut of affordable versions and bindings on the market, it’s safe just to dispose of it every few years and just buy another.
I would argue that should not be the case. In my bible “peeping” in my church, I smile as I notice all the older saints carrying around the same bible they must have first gotten decades ago. The faux leather is cracked and peeling, the corners are dogeared and curled upward, the spine is held on with packing tape, and there are post it notes sticking out of just about page.
That’s a bible that’s been lived in, that is cherished as their own persoanl copy of Gods holy, innerent, infallible word. It’s a shame the binding couldn’t keep up with them.
Bibles need to have sewn bindings and not glued. I know it’s a little more to produce, but if a bible is expected to stand up to a lifetime of use and abuse and perhaps a re-binding or two, the construction needs to be sewn.
It’s a book that should be interacted with.
It’s Gods word to us. It’s Him speaking to me and you. Undoubtedly, within it’s pages during seasons of a believers lifetime, those words become alive and that person might want to interact it within its pages. I’ve become acutely aware that in most versions offered, there is little to no space afforded for such interaction. Yes, there are a few wide margin versions available, but even those versions without such margins have little to no space either in the front or back of the bible for notes. Even if those notes are quotations, ideas, revelations, or whatever else the person might want to “encapsulate” within their bibles, there is no where to put them. Most version have one or two blank pages, usually toward the back of the bible, but if that person wanted to use that bible during the course of their lifetime, those pages would fill up quickly.
I would love to see 3 to 4 blank pages in between each book of the bible OR at least 20 to 30 blank pages in the back. It may make the bible a wee bit thicker, but big whoop. It at least will afford the opportunity to interact with that bible and become a treasured possession.
With the growing trend towards reading plans such as Mc’Cheyne’s through the bible in a year and the like, we’re reading usually from more than one place in our bibles on any given day. I would love to see at least two, possibly three ribbons come as standard in bibles to mark those places.
Also, many like to highlight and underline….I know I do. I would love to see a slightly more opaque paper used to prevent bleed through. Again, it may add to the bibles thickness, but I think it’s worth it.
It’s a book that is meant to be understood.
I don’t think we should have to work to extract the gold from the mines of our bible pages. I don’t mean we shouldn’t have to study diligently, I mean layout and font should be optimized to allow the reader ease in obtaining the information with in the books pages. Bibles with tiny fonts and poor layouts make it almost impossible to read comfortably and study efficiently. As of late, I’ve begun to favor a recent purchase of an ESV Single Column Reference. I find it very easy to use, read, and interact with. I plan on doing a full review of this bible soon. It’s quickly becoming my favorite.
Coming full circle now, back to the trend I see towards tiny bibles.
I love my compacts. They are great tools and very convenient. You can stash them in your briefcase or pocket and go. However, I see a problem with using them as your primary source for daily study and reading.
The fonts in these bibles are usually too small for comfortable reading over extended periods of time and their pages are not big enough to contain the interaction I spoke of before. They make nice secondary sources, but in my most humble of opinions, do a disservice to the reader if they are the primary.
I have to admit it’s been a struggle for me to settle on a format and size because of the trade-offs in between them all. It’s truly a matter of not being able to have your cake and being able to eat it too.
I’ve come to realize that there will never be a perfect bible version with the layout and interaction I desire. I want a small size for ease of transportation, but I want to be able to interact within it’s pages. This has been the crux for me and as of now have determined the larger size bibles are the way to go. They are a little awkward to handle at times and not very easy to carry, but the versatility and function they contain within them make them the clear winners.
How we as believers use and interact with Gods word is the key that unlocks the format and layout conundrum that has puzzled me for years.
For some more helpful links, check out these: