A recent article at Slate.com has me thinking about the notes that we leave in our Bibles. The writer of the article picked up his mother’s King James Bible after she died—and found that she had filled it with notes, observations, and thoughts.
Many of us have parents or grandparents with Bibles in a similar state; reading those margin notes, highlights, and annotations would be a wonderful way to trace the spiritual journeys of people we love and respect.
It’s natural to take notes on (and in) a deep, complex text like the Bible. Even if you’ve never scribbled a note in the margins of your Bible, it’s already annotated: the verse and chapter numbers that organize the text are a way in which we’ve “commented on” the Bible. And that’s not to mention the footnotes and cross-references your Bible might also feature. Many modern Bibles come with an array of useful notes from the translators and scholars.
But as useful as those notations are, reading the Bible is a deeply personal endeavor, and it’s natural to want to interact with the text yourself—to highlight, to question, to make observations. Looking back at our own notes, we can see how we’ve grown (or regressed); we can follow the twists and turns of our spiritual journey.
I used to quite actively take notes in my Bible. If you were to open to a few passages in Matthew in my old blue faux-leather Bible, you’d find the margins filled with little notes and arrows. Somewhere along the way I switched to taking my notes in a notebook that I carried with my Bible; and slowly that shifted to a notebook and a smartphone with the Bible Gateway iOS app.
There are times that I miss taking notes in my print Bible, though. I can recall surprising moments in church when I opened my Bible to a passage only to relive a part of my life through jots in the margins and triple-underlined phrases.
What about you? Are you a note-taker? Do you underline and highlight your Bible?