Rainbow Bible

In which the results of 15 years of Bible marking are compressed into a single blog post, and I share some observations on what worked, and what didn't.

(Spoiler: mostly what didn't).

Bible marking is a great way to help remember lessons and connections between Bible verses. It's a practise I've followed for almost 20 years, and in that time my methods have improved changed considerably.

If you expect me to reveal The Ultimate Marking Scheme then you're going to be disappointed. All I can promise is to show a few things that you almost certainly want to avoid.

NKJV: 1997-2007

I loved my wide-margin New King James; it was my primary Bible for over a decade. I've got all sorts of notes, some of which give me a chuckle when I read them now I'm a bit older. The majority make me realise how much I've forgotten.

Over 10 years I didn't have a consistent style. I used luminous markers which soaked through the pages, biros which carved small valleys through chapters at a time, and every shade of pencil imaginable.

In short, it was a mess. But the final push that drove me to a new Bible actually came from a different source: I was running out space. My penchant for long, chatty notes (I did actually write notes to my future self) and undisciplined teenage font-size 20 handwriting meant that key pages were, in fact, full. My adult self wanted to write more careful notes, so a new Bible was in order.

KJV (Oxford): 2007-2012

I dropped the (N) from my KJV because I was a rubbish public reader. Most churches I attend used the KJV for public reading, and having never used a KJV the language tied me in knots. Rather than continually ask to use a modern version I decided to jump to the KJV.

The biggest change I made with the new Bible was to use pencil. A nice, neat, mechanical pencil which would fill the margin with tidy notes. I standardised on a colour scheme (more on that in a later post) and this worked for me for a good 5 years or so.

The only major change I made in this time was to try out a new marking style: underlines, rather than block fill. It looks quite different.

It's all a matter of personal taste and aesthetics, but I prefer block fill.

KJV (Longprimer): 2012-Present

The Oxford wide-margin is a beautiful Bible but it's BIG. This discouraged me from carrying it about so much; partly because it was getting damaged, and partly because I was finding it increasingly awkward.

I bought the Allan Longprimer because it's much thinner, lighter, and more flexible. I also changed my note taking style again:

Along with my new Bible I bought a pack of Sakura Pigma pens, which can write a nice clean 0.2mm line with no bleed or soak. They work great on the India paper.

The reason for the switch back to ink was twofold: the pencil smudges and makes it hard to read the notes (I guess my hands sweat more than the rest of the world as I've never met anyone who has the same problem) and I wanted to use colour to make the notes easier to read at a glance.

As can be (mostly) seen below, I use black pen for titles, purple for key words, green for Strong's numbers, red for references, brown for text symbols/lists and blue for everything else. It's a hassle changing pens all the time, but I think it's worth it.

Although the margin of the Longprimer is much thinner than the Oxford, I actually appreciate the brevity (and ideally the resulting clarity) this forces me to use.

A wise man once told me to use pencil in my Bible so that I could always rub something out if I changed my mind on a subject. That is wise counsel. But having changed Bibles so many times, I've really come to value my original notes.

Yes, many were childish or seem obvious now that I'm older. But there's a strong link to the past there; a connection that isn't as easily replaced as a physical Bible. I'm not sure that I'd ever want to rub out a note, even if I disagreed with it later.

In a later post I'll dive into the exciting world of colour schemes and taxonomies, so if you have any comments on this or any other aspect of Bible marking, please share them on the Facebook page or via Twitter.


Bible enthusiast, husband, Dad, and tech-head with too many projects and not enough time.