I’ve been thinking about a new Bible lately, one just for reading and for carrying around to those places where you’re sometimes inclined to tote along a Bible. I’m thinking NLT, which is just celebrating its tenth year now. For study and similar work, I will still pull out something more literal, and can pull out my interlinear and (with increasing difficulty over the years) draw upon the original language tools in my library, which is endowed with a decent selection of commentaries. This one is mainly for pleasure reading.
I’ve switched translations a few times over the years… I remember getting my Thompson Chain Reference Bible in my teens. Leather, and KJV—I was serious. The paperback Living Bible I had as a kid was falling apart, time to move on. I do still have my tattered Living New Testament, and it has come to have a good deal of sentimental value to me… I remember going through it as a kid to work on my reading skills, either alone or with my dad, both of us stretched out on the couch. We took turns reading a verse each, and I still remember him telling me that I didn’t actually have to read the verse numbers.
I picked up an NASB shortly after the Thompson Chain, because that’s what our pastor used, but it never really became my primary one; there was a NKJV in there someplace as well. When I started Bible College, we were given the opportunity to scoop up what everyone referred to as “A $2 Bible” — they were misprints made available very cheaply through the school… the maps had been omitted. A full NIV, hardcover, with wide blank margins for making notations in the margin. In the end, mine had a very distinctive cover with a blood-red cross splotched onto it, alongside some white Chinese characters and some Greek lettering that meant “According to God.” Distinct, it was… if I left it anywhere, there was no doubt about whose it was. I also gained a great appreciation for the J.B. Phillips New Testament during those years — the same version “for schools” from which I remember my primary school teachers reading to us each morning (in the public school… I may be dating myself!).
Around the time we were finishing college, the NIV Study Bible was gaining popularity. I had become used to the NIV and was impressed with the quality of the notes in the NIV Study Bible. My wife and I were getting married the month after finishing college, and at that time we gave each other Bibles as gifts to each other. Not only was it a practical matter for both of us, but we also intended it as a symbolic gesture, just as is the exchange of rings during the ceremony. This tradition, by the way, is one I would strongly recommend to any couple getting married as an indication to each other that within the marriage, each expects the other to build their life and their marriage on the foundation of the Bible.
During the first year we were married, I wanted to build a habit of a daily quiet time for study and prayer. I had a Bible full of notes and gleanings from college, and I had a new one that I preferred, void of my own notes. I opened them both up at Genesis 1:1 and went through them both page by page, chapter by chapter, book by book… reading and transcribing my notes as I read the text. I entered additional notes from some of my college courses as I went along as well. When that was done, over the next number of years I would carefully enter notes I had gleaned from various sources (sermons sometimes, books mostly), and add my own insights as well. Once when I was reading systematically, I read Gordon Wenham’s NICOT volumen on Leviticus devotionally, making notes in my Bible as I went. I also moved all of the bookmarks and keepsakes from one Bible to the other as I came upon them… it remains a bit of an almanac as well. If I ever hand it to someone else to read, i have to warn them not to spill it. It’s served me well over the years, I’ve studied it and prepared and preached sermons from it. Over that time I’ve purchased a nice NRSV (Life Application Study Bible, hardcover), the first Beta edition of the NET Bible (a nice leather edition; I adore the translators’ notes), a paperback of Petersen’s The Message (of course), a hardcover NLT, and recently a pocket-sized ESV, leather with a beautiful Celtic cross on the cover.
None of these have taken the place of my NIV Study Bible though. The hardcovers aren’t ones that I like for just regular reading, the NET Bible is too big, the ESV is too small, and The Message is, well, The Message, and not the best binding for this kind of use. But the NIV is wearing on me a little and I’d like to freshen my look at the Bible by changing versions. No, I don’t need a new one, but I do want one, and am keeping my eyes peeled for just the right edition.
The years have seen the regular early-morning study times wane as well. What I want now is something that’s easy to handle, a nice fresh accessible translation, a good binding… and for the first time ever, I’m looking at the font size when I’m checking them over. I need something I can read for more than ten minutes without eyestrain. There, I said it. I also want one without red letters… which in the NLT so far seems impossible to find.
While looking, I found a nice comic-book style New Testament which doesn’t omit any words yet is very readable and easily understood — I’d like to get one for my oldest daughter. I also found an ESV edition (scroll down) that is bound like a Moleskine and has a wide margin for making notes. Very nice… but the font face is miniscule (there’s no other word for it), and so must be the handwriting of anyone wanting to use it effectively. Once when he was giving a concert, I heard Michael Card say that he was reading his daughter’s Bible, which he explained that he bought each of his kids a Bible and read it before giving it to them. And as he read it, he made notes in the margins, speaking directly to whichever child’s Bible he was reading… so that years later as they read it, their father would be speaking to them in the margins concerning the text and its application for their lives. I was fascinated by this tradition… I loved it and wanted to do it immediately, but it scares me a little. I figure I’d get 1/3 or 1/2 through the first one, and that’d be it… one kid would get an incomplete effort and the other none at all. Still, it’d be powerful if I had more confidence in my own discipline to be able to finish it.
There’s a lot that goes into buying a new Bible. I’m wondering if others have particular memories, favorite versions or editions, or traditions to share concerning their own Bibles? Does anyone else have idiosyncrasies or preferences for their own “main” Bible?