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?
I’m just overwhelmed by your journey. It’s impressive. You are very disciplined and organized.
I bought 3 small NIVs … one for me and one for each of my kids this year. My intent is that we’ll read them together. But it hasn’t happened yet. My favorite Bible so far is my NASB/Message which has both on each page so I can compare them or not as I choose. I don’t tend to write in my Bibles, mainly because there is never enough space. I am more likely to journal about a passage of scripture, so I have notebooks (now a Moleskine) and computer files all over the place, because I’m not organized about it at all.
And … I’m not so sure about the Michael Card thing. I’d rather that my children hear from God in the Bible and not me (or my husband). It sounds all warm and fuzzy, but in the family line I come from attempts to “leave a legacy of faith” like that don’t work so well. If, after 18 years of parenting, I have failed to get my message across … well … it’s a sweet sentiment and I’m glad he did it. But I think everyone might carefully evaluate how it would work for their own family and children before going for the sweetness. That’s all far harsher than I mean it to sound … I’m really trying to let you off your own hook ;-)
I still have — and use — my original $2 Bible. It has the best concordance of any Bible I’ve ever owned, space in the margins for jotting down notes, and various crayon marks from my kids who thought underlining in the Bible was a little more random than I thought it was…
The folks at YWAM call it my “Duct-tape Bible”, because that’s what is holding it together.
I have a little metal-covered NLT Bible which is the one I take on trips and particularly YWAM outreaches; it’s smaller and packs easily, and the metal cover both protects it in transit, and is shocking orange so it’s easy to spot if I’ve put it down somewhere and can’t quite recall where.
I have a paperback copy of The Message, which I also enjoy, but my old $2, Duct tape NIV is still my most-used.
I recently traded in my NIV for a NLT. The NIV was a nice compact size I like to carry around, but it was definitely giving me eyestrain. What a drag to have to plan our lives around our fading eyeballs!
I think my favorite Bible ever was one my husband bought for me in the midst of a spiritual/emotional crisis a dozen years ago. It was NRSV (I found I missed the inclusive language when I went back to NIV), and in that nice compact format. Most importantly, dear hubby had embossed the words, “Maria, you are loved” on the cover. I left it behind at a hotel where we were doing an Alpha retreat several years ago, and was really sad to have lost it.
Personally, I rarely write in my Bible; I also don’t like study Bibles. It’s been my pet peeve that whenever I lead a Bible study people start reading back the study notes instead of looking at the text. I prefer just a few cross-references in the margin. If I’m really studying, I’ll use commentaries or other reference material.
can you imagine what a non Christian would think of this discussion? hehe…what an oddity we are eh?
I just lost my favorite bible ever and I’m so sad. It had some really personal notes and prophecies in it. It was an NIV Greek/Hebrew study Bible that was just awesome for study but not so practical to carry around. I called it my I’m holier than you bible because it was big and black and with all the hebrew and greek made me sound smart ;)
I like the New Living as far as translations go but I also like my ESV a lot and it’s my “carry around” bible.
Mostly when I’m studying I use online bibles. I’m getting a bit fond of the TNIV but I’m not sure what I want to replace my “holy bible” with – – another hebrew/greek study version for sure but not sure what translation.
I really want that moleskine esv…maybe that will be my next one instead.
That tradition of writing in the kids’ bibles in intense and WAY COOL. I still have a chance with my itty bits so maybe I’ll do it.
I only have one things to say:
My two cents.
These days I usually carry around the thin leather TNIV I got for free at some convention. But for size and durability I’m still loving the NLT Heavy Metal Bible a friend at Tyndale gave me. It is completely encased in metal and closes magnetically. I once had a nearly full bottle of Pepto Bismol explode in my luggage – most everything was ruined except for the metal bible.
I gave up on my NIV Study Bible mostly because it had all of my notes from high school when being a republican and a dispensationalist were the two most important aspects of my faith…
oh – one more thing. It’s been weird living in the Christian mecca of Wheaton and knowing lots of people who worked on the various translations (or for the publishing houses that put them out). The politics, power plays and bully pulpits involved have at times turned me off to reading various versions. I’ve heard too much about the inner workings of Crossway to ever be comfortable reading the ESV.
It was fun and interesting to read your story of the various Bible versions you have used over the years. I have used quite a few also. I have just linked to your post from the Better Bibles Blog.
I’ve been using a NASB for most of my life, but have recently undertaken the task of finding a modern translation in easier-to-read English for everyday reading and “casual” study. My first NASB was an Open Bible edition that my parents gave me when I was 12 or 13 — I still have it and love to look through it for memory’s sake; I’m now using a large-print reference edition from Foundation. I used a New English Bible in college and later picked up the Revised English Bible, but still hung onto the NASB as my primary Bible.
When the ESV came out, I initially bought into the marketing about it being a â€œmore readable NASBâ€?, but kept drifting back to the NEB/REB for a reading Bible and I wasn’t ready to give up the NASB. Through reading various blogs and online commentaries, I’ve recently added editions of the TNIV and Holman Christian Standard Bible to my shelf. In addition, my church has standardized on the NLT (Second Edition, 2004) as its pew bible.
I’m currently working through a comparison of the REB, TNIV, NLT and HCSB on my own blog, with the hope that one of them will stand out as my “new” Bible. So far the TNIV seems to have a small edge over the NLT, but I’ve only compared OT passages.
You’re right, there IS a lot that goes into buying a new Bible. At least, there SHOULD be.
Thank you for this insight. You brought up things I’ve not thought about. Also, thank you for mentioning the idea that Michael Card shared. Wow.
I would also like to ask if you could post a photo of this Bible of yours that has all of the notes in it. I enjoy seeing how others take notes / mark their Bibles.
Laura, thanks for the link. I won’t need the mailed copies, I think this shows me what I wanted to know, including which volumes are out. I would try to hit you up for review copies, but I don’t tend to just sit down and read any of these through cover-to-cover …the commentaries or the Bible! ;^)
I’ve got the page for the Bible purchase open from an online bookstore, but I’m wondering if Tyndale sells their minor-flawed seconds out the back door anywhere, directly or through select resellers? Guess for acceptance of a scuff or two, I’m always wanting to save a buck… ;^)
Sorry, we don’t sell flawed copies, so that we don’t complete with bookstores.
However, I would be happy to send you, and any other blogger (for a limited time), a free copy of any one of the Cornerstone Commentaries if you plan to review it in your blog. (email LauraBartlett at tyndale dot com)
I’ve replied via email to take you up on your kind offer. I am looking forward to a closer look at the Cornerstone Commentary series. Also as I said in the email, I appreciate suppliers who make efforts not to subvert the supply chain — it’s good to treat resellers well.
With a name like that, it took me a minute when your comment came through to be sure it wasn’t spam! Thanks for the linkage.
I think it’d be neat to try and scan an image to post, good idea – I’ll see what I can do; if the scanner doesn’t work well due to the thin paper, I’ll have to try a photo.
It is important to consider the available Bible Versions in the Bible Stall and pick up the version of the most you the user and not make purchase simply to obtain a copy of the Bible.