HOW TO CHOOSE A BIBLE
~Using the Karen England Method (patent not pending)
By (who else?) Karen England
You might think a blog post with a title like “How to Choose a Bible” would be quite spiritual or deeply theological or even just logical … It’s not. At least my post on the subject is not. The fact is, I didn’t even realize that my new bible, a bible I chose just this last week using the method I am about to divulge to you for the low, low price of free! was ESV (which stands for the English Standard Version) until I got it home, so ~ so much for any hope of advice from me on choosing bibles based on the version! Or anything else sensible.
I’m replacing a bible that I chose 15 years ago and, you guessed it, I used this very same method back then to pick it. It’s a method that I’ve perfected over my almost 50 years of bible ownership. That last bible turned out to be NKJV (New King James Version) when I got it home.
This is definitely not how my mother taught me to choose a bible. If I were to choose my primary bible by using my mother’s methods the bible version would be the one and only deciding factor. And, furthermore, that version would be RSV (Revised Standard Version). She will talk your ear off for an hour on the RSV’s finer points and she is, of course, correct. I had to say that, she’s my mom. But, although the RSV is very nice, I’ll grant it – I dare you to find one. It was replaced sometime in the last 30 (or thereabouts) years with the RRSV (ok, ok- that’s not what it’s called. If it were called that it would be really funny and we can’t have that in something as serious as the Word of God! But if it were, it would stand for the Revised Revised Standard Version. I heard you laugh! Anyway, it’s really the NRSV which stands for New…)
So, this brings me to point number one in choosing a bible using in my method-
1. Be open to at least several bible version options if you cannot muster the ability to choose any version of the Word. Limiting yourself to one specific version is not an option in my method. If you have an “aversion” to multiple versions, so to speak, maybe we can talk my mother into writing a blog too and then posting her method of how to choose a bible to it. If you are not version flexible now you might change your mind after hearing my Mom’s trials and tribulations in getting a RSV bible she likes.
2. Be shallow. Well, don’t be shallow generally. That’s obnoxious and nobody will want to be around you. No, I mean be shallow, as in not spiritually deep, in deciding on your day to day bible. There are many great versions out there, my father’s favorite was the NIV (New International Version) and I already told you about my mother’s, so I contend you can’t easily go wrong in the version department and I think you can use other criteria to choose. Pick one based on;
a. size. Is it big and heavy? Will you ever want to take it anywhere if it is so big? This brings up an ancillary point: I think you should buy your new bible in a bookstore and not online so that you can feel it in your hands. Is the bible small? If so, open it and see if you can easily read the small print inside?
b. cover color, cover design, cover materials… (In this case I say, “judge the book by its cover!” But just in this case.) Pick a cover you will enjoy looking at, one you will enjoy carting around with you. There are so many options from which to choose. There are black, red, burgundy, green, pink, etc. – leather, paper, cloth, etc. – patterned, decorated, etc. bibles on the shelf of practically every bookstore the world over. Go to one and test drive a few bibles.
c. next, do you like the inside paper?, do the pages turn easily? Navigating around a bible with pages that stick together is no fun. Also not fun is putting in those “books of the bible” tabs/markers that can be purchased separately. I won’t ever do it again. The paper of the pages began to tear after a while under the weight of the tabs. I was not pleased…
d. is the type/font easily readable? This is very important. No matter how beautiful to look at a bible is, or how perfectly sized and easy to carry it is- if you can’t easily read it, even the version won’t matter because, well, you won’t read it!
3. Be aware of the myriad of online tools available to everyone these days such as Bible Gateway. You may not need a bible with maps, study aids and a concordance in this modern Google age. I am only a fan and not a spokesperson for Bible Gateway, but you can go either on Bible Gateway’s smart phone app or on their website and you can read dozens of bible versions like all the ones I’ve mentioned in this post so far, as well as, Darby, Living, The Message and many, many more and in a multitude of languages! They also have other helps including bible commentaries, dictionaries, search engines (the modern exhaustive concordance), study aids, devotionals and more. https://www.biblegateway.com/
For the record the bible I’ve had for the last 15 years had absurd artwork throughout, artwork that had nothing to do with the scriptures surrounding each picture. It is embarrassing how much I like that fact! It’s embarrassing, I tell you. I chose a bible and read it, carried it, and used it for 15 years because it had “pretty pictures in it”. Talk about shallow! But that’s not why I’m replacing it.
Here’s my new bible and the old one together.
Why did I choose this new bible? It’s not like I’ve matured much in 15 years, I choose it as anyone can plainly see “because it has a really pretty cover”. Still shallow.
I also choose it because it’s a “journaling format” bible with wide margins on every single page for doodling. Uh, I mean “taking notes”. Now I can add the “pretty pictures” I like so much to my bible myself. That’s even more embarrassing really. Here you can see my first doodle- I colored in my favorite verses in all of scripture, (I might add that they are my favorite in every version I’ve ever read). I look forward to going back and adding more to it as time goes by.
Psalm 52:8-9 ESV “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.
Afterword – 20 plus years ago I bought a new bible (using my proven methods) (it was NIV) that I later realized, as I read it, was missing the New Testament book of Hebrews. It was the weirdest thing. I contacted Zondervan, the Publisher, and requested the missing book. I kinda like Hebrews. If the book of Numbers had been missing I might not have said anything. Honestly! I might not have ever noticed it was gone. Bottom line, Zondervan sent me a whole new bible, one containng the whole of the Old and New Testaments. Still – I can’t help advising everyone to make sure that whatever pretty bible version you choose has the book of Hebrews.