I have spoken to so many people that want to get started Bible Journaling, but they don’t know which Bible to choose. In the last year the market has exploded with so many great options for Bible Journaling enthusiasts! I have scoured the net to find and compile a list of every option I could find. In this post I will not only compare and contrast these options, but I’ll also address questions regarding translation, readability, and ease of use. To begin, I’d like to provide a short glossary.
- Bible Journaling: Responding to scripture in a creative way. This can be anything from journaling thoughts or writing poetry to all-out painting in your Bible. It includes everything from illustration to stamping, water color, stickers, hand lettering and more. It is what you make it!
- Journaling Bible: Any Bible that provides large areas on each page for the reader to take notes and / or respond to the text in a creative way. Also referred to as a “Notetaker’s Bible,” an “Illustrator’s Bible,” or a “Writer’s Edition.”
- Double Column: two columns of text appear on each page. This is the way we are used to seeing the text arranged on the page in standard Bibles.
- Single Column: the text is arranged in one column on each page. This is the way we are used to seeing text arranged on the page in novels and text books. Most Journaling Bibles will have a single column format so that notes and doodles can be arranged right next to a passage rather than being separated by a column of text. Unless otherwise stated, the Journaling Bibles in this list are single column. Also called a “reader’s version.”
- Translation: Translating the Bible from ancient languages into modern vernacular requires a certain amount of interpretation by scholars that specialize in understanding the languages and forms of the original texts. Some focus on word for word translation (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV), some focus on thought for thought translation (NIV, HCSB), and some offer more of a paraphrase of scripture in modern language (MEV, NLT, The Message) There are also “Study Bibles” that include commentary on certain passages, devotional bibles with inspirational readings, and there is the AMP, which provides explanations within the text where helpful. Speaking of translations, I’ve included a chart to help with all of those abbreviations.
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Crossway’s “Plain Jane” (My name, not theirs)
This is the Bible I use. (Tour my Journaling Bible here.) It is a black, hard cover, ESV Single Column Journaling Bible. It was around $30 when I bought it from Lifeway. The pages are thicker than the onion paper in most Bibles, and made for holding ink. It has faint, dotted lines in the journaling margins for neat and easy writing. While I prefer to draw, I don’t find the lines distracting. Eventually I plan to paint the cover of my Bible, so this hard cover option was perfect for me. I’ve also seen this hard cover version in red, but could not find it today. But, I DID find with a customizable cover! More on that later.
Fancy Schmancy Options
There are so many beautifully bound Journaling Bibles! Crossway has several beautiful canvas covered options in beautiful prints. Other publishers offer Bibles with stamped leather covers, and others with vibrant colors and patterns, like these Polka Dots, this Antique Floral Design, Sumer Garden, Blue Flora,or something more rustic.
People ask me all the time if you have to be an artist to start Bible Journaling. The answer is a resounding, “Absolutely not!” With templates (download one of mine for FREE!) and stamps and washi tape and stickers and…well, you get the picture. There are so many ways to be creative that no one should worry about their drawing skills. AND, there are several Bibles out there that have illustrations in them ready to be colored along with blank areas for the reader to add original work of their own. No muss, no fuss! There are several options:
The Praise Bible (300 illustrations to color as well as spaces for creative response, KJV only)
My Creative Bible (400 illustrations ready to color as well as spaces for creative response, KJV only)
The Message Canvas Bible (“nearly 300” illustrations ready to color as well as spaces for creative response, Message Only)
The Promises of God (160 illustrations ready to color, MEV, Double Column, mix of blank space and ruled lines in the margin, words of Christ in red.
The Illustrator’s Note-taking Bible (600 illustrations to color, including filigree, Scripture quotes, and drawings that illustrate the topic of the corresponding Bible text, NKJV, HCSB, also available in a version for teens that features 24 pages of inserts at the end that will offer study helps and beautiful black-and-white illustrations that can be colored.)
Thrive Devotional Journaling Bible for Women (No illustrations, NLT, Double Column, a yearlong journey through the Bible with Daily devotionals and ruled margins for responding) There is also Thrive: A Coloring Book Devotional For Moms, but it is unclear whether they are related or not.
Specific Versions and Different Formats
Notetaker’s Bible (HCSB, NASB, NIV, KJV, NKJV, Amplified 2 Columns. This Bible has so much awesome space for responding! There are wide spaces on the outside margins as well as space on the bottom of the page as seen in the writer’s edition. Also, this is the only NASB Journaling Bible that I could find.)
Interactive Notetaker’s Bible (HCSB, double column, along with wide margins for creative response, this Bible also features middle column cross references and a concordance–features not usually found in Journaling Bibles…I mean, MINE doesn’t have one.)
Interleaved Journaling Bible (ESV, This version has included entire a full, blank page next to every page of Bible text! Check out this beautiful “Autumn Song” cover! Imagine all of the amazing things you could do with this Bible!) Also on my wishlist.
Personal Reflections Bible (No Illustrations, double column, No lines just beautiful blank space for creative response, KJV only)
Customizable Cover (This Bible’s white canvas cover is ready to be personalized! single column, ESV)
Catholic Journaling Bible (I am not Catholic, so I can’t offer much insight on how this version is tailored to the Catholic church. However, I can tell you that it comes in two separate editions: New Testament, Proverbs, and Psalms and Old Testament. It has large spaces for creative response and boasts paper five times thicker than standard bible paper.)
Finally, Some things to consider:
- How dark are the lines in the margins? Do I even want lines in the margins, or just blank space? How much space do I want? Do I want a whole page of blank space?
- Do I want illustrations? Do I want a lot, or just a few?
- What translation (also called version sometimes) do I want? Which is easiest for me to understand and connect with? Is the Bible I prefer available in the translation I prefer?
- Do I want a single column version only, or do I want double column?
- Does any of this even matter!!??? Let’s just get started! 🙂
OK! I hope you’re not overwhelmed, but I wanted to give you all of the information you could possibly need, and I’m sure that I missed something. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment and let us know what you might add to this list!
Sarah B. 🙂
My earnest prayer is that God will grow this page and that it will reach more Christians that want to engage with God’s Word in a creative way. Please take a moment to share this post on Facebook and Pinterest. I appreciate your time and your support.