Do YOU know bow to get the most out of marking your Bible? Do you know how to make Bible-marking USEFUL and helpful? Here are some marking KEYS which you may find very helpful in marking YOUR most precious possession!
THERE IS NO single, "sure-fire" marking system which everybody can profitably use! Bible marking is, in many respects, a personal, individual matter. Nevertheless, Bible marking should NOT be a sloppy, haphazard, hit-or-miss matter, either! You CAN mark your Bible — so it will be much more USEFUL in your Bible study!
Why Mark Your Bible?
There are certain suggestions, and certain keys, which you should keep in mind in marking your Bible. There is more than one reason for marking a Bible! Here are three basics: FLOW, DOCTRINE AND PERSONAL CORRECTION. Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:16, that God's Word is profitable for "doctrine, for reproof and correction, and for instruction in righteousness." In my earlier marking systems there had been no distinction of marks to separate these three categories. If I read a particular verse which applied to me personally, I coloured it bright red, for example. Or, if a minister read a verse which helped to clarify a basic doctrine, I marked it in the same way. Similarly a key verse of context received the identical nondescript mark. As a result, I soon discovered that some chapters had so many good scriptures that virtually the whole chapter became marked! I would have been better off to leave the entire page blank. Therefore, a good system of Bible marking 5h024ld include a separate mark for each category. The precise mark is not critical and can be adapted to personal taste. To mark these three categories, here are five styles of markings which can be used: (1) colouring, (2) underlining, (3) circling, (4) brackets, or (5) signs in the margin. Others are a variation on these basic types. But now, which of the five should you use? And more important, which ones for each of the three categories? Of all reasons to mark a Bible, FLOW is of major importance. When you open to a particular passage, it is essential to immediately have your mind focused on the main subject. Therefore, the strongest mark needs to be reserved for the main flow. It must also be easy to make, in case you wish to mark the flow during a sermon or Bible study when the minister is speaking rapidly. Therefore, I personally selected underlining for flow. On the surface, colouring the verse might seem better. But not so — it is usually too slow. Underlining in free-hand is fast, neat and is the most NATURAL form of emphasis. What about doctrine? What mark should be used? Imagine a page with the flow underlined and the doctrine coloured. Just look at your own Bible. A coloured verse stands out more than one underlined. Therefore, coloured verses would obscure the flow. In fact, any type of mark put directly on the text itself confuses the marks for flow. So reconsidering the four remaining marks, I selected the brackets for doctrine. And to my surprise, they worked very well. The brackets are easy to locate, yet do not disturb the flow. And similarly, the flow marks do not obscure the doctrine marks. Lastly, what about the selection of a mark for personal correction? Would it be colouring, circling or margin marks? Again I felt that colouring could not be used. This left circling or margin marks. Circling would have been my choice but after a little thought I rejected the idea because any flow underlining on the same verse would cover the circled words or phrases. Therefore, 1 was left with symbols in the margin for personal correction. Underline for flow, bracket for doctrine and symbols in the margin for personal correction. This is my system. I have used it, and am truly amazed at how much it improves the usefulness of my Bible. Not only this, but it is a system adaptable to ministers, college students, and Church members as well. I now can open to any chapter marked in this way and immediately see the context. Or if I want to explain a doctrine, the brackets lead me efficiently. And those verses one likes to remember for personal reasons, stand out clearly with a small symbol in the margin. But the real blessing is this — ONLY ONE TOOL IS NEEDED — an ordinary pen. No elaborate box of coloured pencils! No special drawing pens! Just what you can find or borrow anywhere.
Adding Colour and Refinements
If you wish, a few extras can be included in this basic system. I have discovered that a little colouring is handy. However, ONLY FOR MAIN FLOW. Because of its strength it should only be used to emphasize important, KEY verses! This will become especially useful in chapters where the subject changes often or is divided like the seals of Revelation 6. One additional need in Bible marking, not included in the main system, is explaining words or phrases appearing in the text. For example, "conversation" in Philippians 3:20 should read "citizenship." How can you mark this, yet not confuse the main system? Simple! Just put a bracket around "conversation" and make a note in the margin. You won't confuse this with a doctrinal mark because these should be used on whole verses only. If it ever becomes necessary to explain an entire verse, rather than just a ward or two, don't mark it at all. Just write a note in the margin. Some people like to draw lines between words or verses on the same page to show a connection. Do so if you wish, but with caution. Too many such marks can confuse the flow but a few could be useful, especially in certain places.
Another type of Bible mark that needs mentioning is chain referencing. How, for example, should you mark a series of scriptures taken from a sermon or booklet? Many seem to profit from this type of Bible study. The best way I have found is to simply make a note in the margin and put no mark at all on the verse itself. If you wish, you can number these chains. For example (3) for Sabbath, (5) for Faith, etc., but don't be tempted to colour all the verses on a particular subject. You will too often find that the same scripture is needed in several chains. Which colour would you make it? But a numbered note in the margin does not obscure other notes already there. Chain referencing is of limited value and should be used with wisdom. In the days of my initial enthusiasm for learning all of the basic doctrines, I added several chain references to my Bible. Yet today I cannot think of a circumstance where I have used them. Chain references may often be put in the back of your Bible, leaving the actual Bible pages free for more useful notes.
A Word of Warning
I have already mentioned multi-colour systems but they need special emphasis by themselves. Generally speaking, they should be AVOIDED. Certainly, they should only be used with great discretion, if at all. Take the advice of those who have learned the hard way. They can cause confusion. And you are at a loss without a battery of special pencils. Keep your marking system simple. One exception to this might be in the Proverbs where the flow is not as clear as other places. Here colour might be used CAUTIOUSLY to separate the several, distinct topics discussed in this book. But do this after careful study and not in a haphazard way. In marking your Bible, always use caution. An improperly marked verse will remain in your Bible, confusing you every time you turn to it. THINK BEFORE YOU MARK!! Be sure you really do understand the verse. Several places in my Bible show the unsightly remains of hurried notes added before I correctly understood the verse. I later had to erase or cross them out and neither is very neat. In particular, go extremely slow on marking scriptures for personal correction. I have so often returned to a verse marked earlier for personal correction and wondered why I ever marked it. Impulsive marking is a poor habit. Take time to digest comments and ideas before you permanently mark your most important personal possession.
Don't Neglect This Vital Tool!
Whatever you do, don't fail to mark your Bible! Even a poorly marked Bible is better than a blank one. Regardless of the system you use, therefore, be sure to MARK YOUR BIBLE! A marked Bible, a well-used Bible is often a sign of a growing and overcoming Christian. A person who is really GROWING in God's way and His truth will be studying God's Word — and applying it to his own life. Marking the Bible can be a vital help in Christian growth! To some, the whole subject of Bible marking might sound too complicated — too bothersome. Such an attitude may be a sign of spiritual lethargy! Often it is a sign of sheer neglect and laziness! A person who is marking his Bible is obviously studying his Bible — intently. Whereas an unmarked Bible may be indicative of a Biblically "blank' mind.
Don't Be Afraid to Mark
I well remember a particular lady I once visited who was highly offended when I laid her Bible on the floor for lack of space elsewhere. She was up in arms immediately. To her the Bible was a "Holy Book" and it was a gigantic SIN to let its cover touch the floor! Of course, such reasoning is not true. Jesus Himself said, "The WORDS that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). The message contained IN the Bible is the important thing. The words Jesus spoke are spirit and life. But the ink and paper on which God's Word is printed is not "holy." God nowhere sanctifies the ink, paper, binding, or other physical components of the Bible. Therefore don't be afraid to go ahead and MARK your Bible. Make use of it. Study it carefully, diligently, and mark it with wisdom. If you don't have a good quality Bible for marking, try to save enough money to purchase one — a Bible with easily readable print, good-sized margins, printed on good quality paper. Perhaps a National Bible, an Oxford or Cambridge Bible would be most suitable for your needs. Many ministers and Ambassador college students have found one of these Bibles to be most useful. They can be obtained through almost any large bookstore. Remember the admonition of the apostle Paul: "STUDY to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15). Study your Bible more effectively. Use it as a handy tool. Make it USEFUL by means of a systematic, practicable, and simple marking system. Make your Christian "sword" — the Word of God — sharp and glittering and effective by MARKING your Bible!