BYOB: Build Your Own Bible!
Here’s a cool little exercise: if you could put together your “dream Bible”, what would it look like?
Think hard and see what you would consider to be the “ultimate,” all-purpose, everyday Bible for you. Do you have a preferred translation, features, or look and feel for what best suits you? If you had absolute total control over all of the different publishing houses like Zondervan, Crossway, Thomas Nelson, and others, and get them to collaborate to release your own dream edition, what would it include?
Before we get to the fun, keep in mind that there is no substitute for a good, plain Bible. Any solid, accurate English rendering of the original Hebrew and Greek texts done by a reputable translation committee is really all you need. Just as long as you sit daily with the 66 books of Scripture and let the Word of God transform you, all the other features are just “icing on the cake.”
So if I could “BMOB” or “Build My Own Bible,” what would it be?
ESV. Runners-up: NIV and LSB. While I use all of these translations (and more) in my studies, I think that the ESV is a straightforward, highly-accurate translation that still is fairly easy to read.
My main, “every day” Bible has been the NIV for a number of years now, but there are times I wish the wording was a little closer to the original Hebrew and Greek text. I love the newer LSB (Legacy Standard Bible), as well as the NASB95 on which it is based, but the literalness of the strict rendering can be a bit limiting to our everyday reading. Another honorable mention is the CSB for its astute balance between formal and dynamic equivalency.
It would be nice to have an ESV/NIV or ESV/LSB parallel, but those can be viewed electronically online; and in my opinion, would take up too much room on paper for my dream Bible.
Translation Notes/Cross Reference/Chain Reference:
Yes. The deeper I get into studying, the more I use these often-unappreciated resources.
Built-In Study Bible Commentary:
No. Whew! This option was a tough one to decide. I’ve gotten tons of mileage out of my NIV and ESV Study Bibles, as well as various other commentaries written by Bible scholars. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t refer to some type of wisdom or guidance from men in written form to help explain the text.
But of course, humans are fallible, and commentaries can be a theological crutch if you rely on them too much. At times it’s better to scour the larger passage and chapter, as well as being able to look up the aforementioned cross-references in other Bible books, to form a better exegesis of difficult-to-comprehend verses.
Lastly, do I love extended commentary notes on the translation of which I’m reading. So maybe a smaller amount of commentary notes on “here’s what the passage means” and more of “here’s what the original language of the passage reads.”
Yes. It needn’t be exhaustive, but thorough enough on the main subjects.
Oh, absolutely. I can’t get enough of this kind of stuff!
For the most part, a resounding “yes,” especially regarding maps and charts. I love them! I’m a severe nerd when it comes to that kind of stuff. I often find historical context articles and little featurettes you would find in study Bibles mostly helpful. Diagrams such as ancient Jerusalem city layouts or the rendering of the two Jerusalem Temples are fantastic!
On the other hand, photographs of items from archeological digs or ancient structures are hit and miss. Typically, I don’t need them. But it does depend on the context.
No. I do not want this to be a large study Bible with a particular theme. While I appreciate special Bibles for a specific audience or niche interest (Bibles for women or men, apologetics Bibles, First-Century culture Bibles, Q&A Study Bibles, devotional Bibles, etc.), that’s not what I desire in my fantasy Bible.
Study Bible Articles:
No. It really depends on what they’re about. I’m not a fan of pieces that give a heavy theological slant on things, even if they are mostly correct, such as the NLT Life Application Study Bible does. Please don’t give me a theologian’s or pastor’s opinion in a piece he’s written in the sidebar; let me read the actual Word of God and uncover that for myself.
I’m not super-picky. I’m not a huge note-taker in my Bibles, so as long as it’s large enough so that I can write a few brief points I’m happy.
Yes. Sure, leave them in. For those of you who may not know what I’m referring to, these are the brief sentences written by translators to describe a big chunk of passage that follows it, such as “Jesus Enters Jerusalem,” and are not part of the original Hebrew or Greek manuscripts of the Bible.
Words of Christ in Red?
Yes. It’s not a deal-breaker not to have them, but I “grew up” loving red letter Bibles, and I still get a benefit from reading the Gospels and seeing Jesus’ words in red. Ultimately, all of the Bible is the Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God, from Gen. 1:1 to Rev. 22:21.
Tetragrammaton (The Name of God) in the Old Testament:
LORD, instead of YHWH or Yahweh. Just a personal preference.
Capitalized. For clarity, and for respect of the Members of the Godhead.
It needs to be on the larger end, say 10- to 12-point font. I’m at the point where I need reading glasses for small text or reading in low-light situations, so this is a must.
I’m not picky, but I prefer it to be a clean, readable serifed font with well-spaced kerning in between the letters.
Yes, I would LOVE at least four or five (yes, that many) ribbons to bookmark pages. This is sadly lacking in most Bibles, where you’re lucky if you get one or two. I’m in multiple books of the Bible simultaneously for many different reasons, so ribbons do aid in keeping track of things.
The Bible must lay flat when opened, even if it’s Genesis chapter 1 or Revelation chapter 22.
Soft, comfortable, durable, and still pliable cowhide leather. Preferred color? I’d instead go with a lush, rich brown or a brown/grey combo than a “funeral black” look.
Thumb Index Indentations:
No. I’ve never cared for ’em.
Gilding (metallic edges to the paper):
Colors and Print on Paper:
While I love intuitive graphic design and sharp layout, I’d like the paper to be all white and the text to be all black (except for the words of Christ in red). No blue margins or weird gradients of tan or brown on the tops or bottoms of the pages.
There are numerous exceptions for adding color in particular spots, such as full-color maps, isolated article boxes or sidebars, or colors in charts.
Nothing too thin. I would rather the Bible be thicker and heavier than have my highlighter pens bleeding through too much.
Something relatively large, around 9.75 inches (17.15 cm) by 6.75 inches (24.75 cm) wide.
What about you? If you could build your own Dream Bible, what would it be?
Let us know in the comments below!