I’ve got Bible study on my mind. I recently travelled, where I reconnected with a Christian who takes a very strict approach to his Bible study. He refuses to mark his Bible, not because he thinks the pages themselves are holy, but in reverence to the words of God. He keeps his physical Bible as clean, crisp, and pure as he can. He treats his Bible like the ideal apartment tenant: you’d never know he was there. I appreciate this respectful and intentional approach, but I use basically the opposite system and here’s why.
- Accountability: a blank Bible is clean and beautiful, but it is easy to hide that I am not reading. Underlining and note-taking is a form of accountability to myself. When I flip to a chapter that’s underlined, I know that I’ve read it. The more notes or arrows or underlines on a page, the more times I’ve read that page. To me, it’s almost a progress report. This is not to say that an underlined Bible necessitates the user’s consistency, but it is not often that an illiterate Christian has a well-annotated Bible.
- Reference: I do not have a good memory when it comes to where verses are. When the lightning rod strikes that I need to find a specific verse, usually when writing a lesson or sending texts, I start frantically flipping through my Bible with the vague and often erroneous sense that the verse I need is on the bottom left hand side right before a paragraph break. With things underlined, I have a much better system for searching. For the most part if I’m trying to find this great verse that happened to be a commandment, I can skim the pages around where I think it was looking for my commandment color, etc. It’s not perfect because often a verse falls in to many categories: i.e. it shows God’s love, God’s power, and I draw comfort from it. In that case it could be any of the three corresponding colors, but that’s still more help to me than searching through a blank page.
- Themed Research: similarly, if I need comfort, I can skim through a book reading all the verses underlined in my comfort color. If I’m looking for just Old Testament commandments, flip to the Old Testament and look at all the underlined commandments. This can be useful for a lot of different reasons, but especially when trying to put together a though on a specific topic or theme.
- Bird’s Eye View: with things underlined, I can look down at a chapter and get a quick idea of the tone or message of the chapter based on the colors used. I can also pick up on recurring themes that might have slipped past me, just by the colors. (This one is about promises. Do you know the goodness He’s promised you?)
Keep your eye open for a blog post on my underlining system! How do you study? Share in the comments below!