Do You Still Read a “Paper” Bible?

Derek Ouellette —  December 17, 2010

I own many bibles. So many, in fact, that I have lost count. I just bought another one a few weeks back (because I love the way it felt when I held it), and I had purchased another not too long before that. Despite the fact that my church projects the scripture readings via power point at the front of the sanctuary, I still bring my paper bible with me – even though I often don’t even crack it open. I carry one in my bag at all times and pull it out regularly. I attend an old fashion bible study when I am able to make it on Friday nights where those bible drills I remember doing in Sunday School comes in handy. Paper Bibles are everywhere at that study – though once or twice I was the odd ball out by using my computer.

I have read the bible front to back at least ten times. The last few times I used my handheld “Franklyn” computer because it was convenient to pull it out at work. That was back in the 90’s. I have not since read my bible through.

I generally know what’s in there, but I hardly pull it out during personal study any more. Instead I rely on electronic sources to help me out. My favourite is the Online Parallel Bible. The advantage to using this online bible as opposed to some other bible programs or a bible concordance is the usefulness of its “search” and the readiness to the Greek and Hebrew. Unlike other electronic bible programs I have used in the past which require you to know how a verses is worded in a particular translation in order for the search to find a match, the Online Parallel Bible will search all of the available bible translations simultaneously to find a match to the verse you are looking for.

In the old days people would memorize their bibles in specific translations. This would help people find that verse they are looking for quickly. They always used one bible translation – say, the KJV or NIV – to guarantee they could find the passage via the concordance at the back. This was my approach back in the 90’s, and the NKJV was my translation of choice. I have come to learn, however, that there are no perfect bible translations when studying and I tend to use a wide variety of them. I like the NRSV, the NASB, and the ESV. I tend to consult the (N)KJV from time to time, and I still go to the NIV frequently. As a result, while I may recall what the Bible says, I may not know precisely which translation words it the way I recall it. Thus I run my typing fingers over to the Online Parallel Bible to help me out.

Last year on Covenant of Love I encouraged my readers to read through their bible in 90 Days. It was the “90 Day’s Challenge”. Many people got behind this but only two got back to me having completely the challenge. One fellow blogger who reported that the challenge was fruitless, and my pastor who documented his journey (though it took him 110 days to complete the challenge, the fact that he followed through is impressive). I did not complete it.

My mind, in many ways, has grown slack. While learning the scriptures and struggling to understand the message in them is an indelible part of my life, and not a day goes by when I do not consult them in some way, still – and perhaps because of societal pressure of a busy life – I rarely take time out of my day to sit down it read a few pages of scripture.

Do you still read your bible routinely? Do you plan to read your bible through this 2011 year? How do you do your bible devotions: do you take a time out in the morning to do it? In the evening? Do you carry it with you and do it whenever you can? Do you never take time out to read your bible anymore?

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • William Birch

    I admit that I am not too keen on electronic Bibles, though I do use on-line Bible tools. I’m thankful for the one to which you linked. I’ll be using that one as well.

    I first read the Bible through the year I came to know the Lord (1995-1996). I had purchased a NIV Study Bible, and enjoyed reading through it — even the tougher passages with genealogies, etc. This past year I read it through on a daily schedule and enjoyed that format as well (though I did not necessarily enjoy reading the genealogies). I plan to do it again next year. This past year I used mainly the NRSV, but at times I used the TNIV, sometimes the NASB and NKJV, and also went through a brief NET Bible craze. I could not survive without a paper Bible :)

    I admit that, having studied Scripture over the last fifteen years, I do not study it as often as I once did. Has familiarity bred contempt (or laziness)? If so, then I need to repent, because I have no doubt that I have yet to plummet the depths of God’s word.

    Daily I pray the Collect, and then mediate briefly on the daily passage(s). Deeper study, however, is usually reserved for after class(es) and homework — if I can get to it. I think your causing me to think over these things has been good for me. I want to make Bible study a daily exercise, as when I first came to know Him.

    Thanks for this! God bless.

  • Michael Sanders

    I love the program “theword” and not a day goes by that I’m not deep into writing an article or researching for a lesson. But there is something kind of sterile about reading devotionally on a computer. Maybe it’s just me but my electronic bible(s) are tools my paper bible is, well, my bible.

    I am appalled at how little bible reading and bible knowledge the average pew-potato has. I visited a congregation once that had bibles in the pews and the page numbers printed in the bulletin. The reason was that it was taking too long for folks to find the passages in their bibles and it was embarrassing to have to tell them where to look.

    Even among church leaders I’m finding too many know little about the bible – not the technical stuff but the names of the books, sections periods in which they were written etc. I’ve found I can get folks to read books about scripture but have a hard time getting them to actually read it.

    It’s all very distressing – Maybe we need to develop a wii Bible Battle game.

  • Dave Leigh

    Having just about every translation available via my htc Evo in numerous formats, including the free Kindle app, YouVersion, Olive Tree, and Cadre Bible, apps which also make foreign and ancient language versions readily accessible, has spoiled me. I rarely use my paper Bible unless I want to consult a study Bible–but even those are available in digital formats now. Interestingly, the last time I used a paper Bible for personal devotional reading I found I kept getting out my phone to consult various other translations or cross references. So, unless I’m in a group Bible study, my favorite study Bible pretty much stays in the back seat of my car.

    Your raising the question, though, has prompted me to think about selecting a new version in paper (say, the NIV 2010) and reading it through in the new year. I’ve been doing this with the free CEB NT on Kindle. But I think it’s time to renew some devotional practices and a new Bible that “feels good when you hold it” might do the trick! Thanks!

  • Sandy Hovatter

    I read a variety – paper, on my computer (desktop and laptop) and on my Kindle. Most of my devotions are done at my computer or laptop. I also bring my paper Bible to church even though Scriptures are displayed in Powerpoint. When God speaks to me personally, I want a Bible handy to find Scripture that He brings to mind. Often the verse He brings to mind, or verses near it, are significant for me or someone else.

    I strongly encourage reading through the Bible systematically, though, regardless of how one does it. Two years ago I began “Resting at the River’s Edge” in my blog and at our church – encouraging everyone to read through the Bible in a year, providing schedules for us to follow together and frequently blogging about the content of a day’s reading. Many people found that to be too much reading, so last year and next year we’re reading on a schedule that has us read through the OT in 2 years while reading through the NT and a few OT foundational books each year.

    Many people view reading through the Bible as unachievable, but our current schedule requires only that one reads three chapters each day, five days a week. Reading through the whole Bible in 1 year is just a little more than 4.5 chapters 5 days/week.

    Sorry for so much detail, but encouraging people to read through the Bible systematically is a passion of mine. (How can we have the whole counsel of God if we don’t read the whole counsel of God? And what nuggets can be found in the less read books!)

    Anyway, on my computers I read using QuickVerse. I also vary the translation, but find myself returning to favorites after reading through each “new” translation.

  • Pumice


    Interesting question and one that I hope stirs up a lot of thought. My personal worship involves both paper and electronic. Let me sketch a “perfect day” for Monday-Friday.

    I try to go to bed at a reasonable time because of the next step. The next step is I get up extra early to spend time with the Lord. I find that my mind loses its sharpness as the day goes on and if I wait until after work or the evening, it isn’t going to happen.

    Before I leave home I read (paper) a chapter in Proverbs as I explain on my blog. I find that going early in the morning cuts my commute time so I have more time for study. I go to a Panera that is in spitting distance to my job and settle down with coffee and a fired up computer. On a good morning I can get in 45 minutes to an hour. One reason I am writing a blog is to focus my mind. I study better when I have a reason. If I finish my study of Proverbs I go to another book I am working through.

    My days are faced with much more joy when I am able to do this. On weekends I add reading from (currently) C.S. Lewis and John Wesley. Weekends are great because I have no deadlines or time clocks, unless my wife has plans for me.

    I don’t like the idea of reading through the Bible as a regular exercise. It tends to make it work instead of worship. I find that if I am serious about my study I visit many books of the Bible.

    Kind of long, but you asked.

    Grace and Peace.

  • Derek Ouellette

    Hey all, thanks for sharing your stories. Pumice, as I’ve been pondering this post a thought had occurred to me that maybe setting a fixed bible reading schedule is not the way to go. Everyone is different, of course, and some people are very disciplined and are able to worship God through meditating on his word in a very systematic fashion. But I might take up your approach and make my bible reading more, for lack of a better term, organic.
    Billy, you are right that – too often – familiarity does breed contempt. When it comes to being a “seasoned” Christian, perhaps “familiarity” may be the most sly of all sins common to Christians.
    Dave, I have never even heard of most of those techno-gagie things :-)

  • Teirrah McNair

    I am quickened by the content and delighted that you are stirring us to get ‘Berean’ anyway we can. Be it electronic or paper we all need to search the scriptures daily. I see far too many of us hindered in worship services by unfamiliarity with this precious book. I like to feed my self in my car with the Bible on tape and then do lots of things topically throughout the day as I am directed by the Holy Spirit. This lamp unto our feet and light unto our pathway is a must read cover to cover, with much meditation on it day and night for this incredibly awesome year that is coming our way.
    Thanks for the jump start.