As a new Christian the Bible was entirely new to me. I didn’t know who the Apostle Paul was, nor well-known stories like that of of Cain and Able. So, I was hungry for the Scripture and read it fervently and frequently. For the first years of my Christian life I always had my bible. Of course I had a few Bibles, but my bible was the one I read and wrote in most of the time. (Here’s a peek at a page from the NIV Bible I was using as a young Christian in 1992.) By the late nineties I wound up just grabbing whatever Bible was close by. It didn’t matter which one I used since I kept all my notes in a journal. Well, maybe it’s just me but along the way I really missed having a special go-to Bible that was well-read and marked up.
In July 2006 Crossway released the ESV Journaling Bible featuring 2 inch ruled margins. I wanted one immediately, but wasn’t sure I would use it. After all, I am one of those Moleskine guys. Well, I finally purchased one this fall and just love it. For the first time in years I have my Bible again. For those who like to take notes in their bibles I think this is the best option around.
For a real review of the Bible you can check out Tony Reinke’s post from 2007 (while you’re at it, get his new book, Lit!). Here, I’m just going to tell you how I’ve been using those wide margins in the ESV Journaling Bible. I mean, you finally have a Bible with s p a c e. What do you use it for? I mostly do three things.
Using the Margins
1. Summation, Connection, and Implication.
I often write out a summation of certain truths, arguments, or passages that make things clear for me. Distilling things down to their essence helps me to see the big picture, or main point, and then return to the pieces. I also like to lay out some of the connections between the truth, promise, or command in the passage I am currently reading to truths, promises, etc. in other portions of Scripture. And, I also note some of the implications of those truths/passages I’m currently reading.
2. Cross references.
Some people won’t like that the ESV Journaling Bible doesn’t have cross refernces, but I like that I get to add my own. It forces me to work my brain (or a concordance), but then I add only the most relevant texts.
I’m even throwing helpful quotes from other writers/theologians when helpful to me or those I may wind up teaching.
Last week I was reading Proverbs 27 and verse 7 really caught my attention. “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.” I used the margins to note that the rich forget their privileges, the comfortable forget their ease, but those who suffer savor even small graces. And, that I need to take note of my afflictions while savoring God’s present graces and gospel promises. Later I came across Matthew Henry’s comment on the passage and quoted him in the margin as well. He was explaining how the poor have a better relish of their enjoyments than the rich, and then wrote, “Hunger is the best sauce.”
Pen or Pencil?
If you’re going to mark this bad boy up, what will you use? I favor writing in this Bible with a pencil because I sometimes write down the wrong verse and would like to erase something rather than scratch it out. But I went onto Twitter last week and asked what people are using to write in their ESV Journaling Bible, and here are some of their answers.
Pigma Micron 005 (by Sakura)
Zebra F-301 0.7 mm Fine Point
Pilot G-2 0.38 Fine Point
Staedtler Mars Micro 775 Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm
Pentel 0.5mm pencil
Joe will be giving away a copy of the ESV Journaling Bible later this week. Check out his blog for details. Joe Thorn is the Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in Saint Charles, IL, and author of Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. (Photos by Joe Thorn).