How I Use the ESV Journaling Bible


As a new Christian the Bible was entirely new to me. I didn't know who the Apostle Paul was, or well-known stories like that of Cain and Able, Noah and the Ark, or David and Goliath. I was hungry for the Scripture; I read it fervently and frequently. And I quickly purchased my own Bible. Of course I had a few of them, but my bible was the one I read and wrote in most of the time. It was the NIV Life Application Bible. Here's a photo from a page in that very Bible dating back to 1992.


By the late nineties I drifted from having one go-to Bible and would just grab whatever Bible was close by. Like many Christians in America, I had quite a few Bibles. It didn't matter which one I used since I kept all my notes in a journal. Maybe it's just me, but along the way I really missed having my Bible, one that was well-read and marked up.

In July 2006 Crossway released the ESV Journaling Bible featuring 2 inch ruled margins. I wanted one immediately, but wasn't sure I would use it. After all, I like to journal in actual journals. I finally purchased one about six years ago and ever since it has been my go-to Bible. They now have a single column version, which is beautiful. I prefer the black hardcover. It's inexpensive, lays flat, and is tough.

If you get one of these bad boys, and I think you should, what will you do with all that extra space to write in? I mostly do three things.

Summation, Connection, and Implication

I often write out a summation of certain truths, arguments, or passages that make things clear for me. Distilling things down to their essence helps me to see the big picture, or main point. I also like to lay out some of the connections between the truth, promise, or command in the passage I am currently reading to truths, promises, etc. in other portions of Scripture. And, I also note some of the implications of those truths/passages I'm currently reading.

Cross Referencing

Some people won't like that the ESV Journaling Bible doesn't have cross references, but I like that I get to add my own. It forces me to work my brain (or a concordance), and then I add only the most relevant texts.


I'm even write out helpful quotes from other writers/theologians when helpful to me or those I may wind up teaching.

An example. Once I was reading Proverbs 27 and verse 7 really caught my attention. "One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet." I used the margins to note that the rich forget their privileges, the comfortable forget their ease, but those who suffer savor even small graces. I wrote that I need to take note of my afflictions while savoring God's present graces and gospel promises. Later I came across Matthew Henry's comment on the passage and quoted him in the margin as well. He was explaining how the poor have a better relish of their enjoyments than the rich, and then wrote, "Hunger is the best sauce." That quote wound up in the margin.

If you're going to mark this bad boy up, what will you use? I favor writing in this Bible with a pencil because I sometimes write down the wrong verse and would like to erase something rather than scratch it out. Most often I use a Blackwing Pearl. I know others who use pens and write with the Pigma Micron 005, Zebra F-301 0.7 mm Fine Point, or the Pilot Hi-Tec-C 03.

For a full review on the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, check out the Bible Design Blog.

Joe Thorn

Joe is the Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL. He and his wife have been married for 20 years and have four children. Joe has written a few books that you may find helpful. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.