When I first started taking notes in my Bible, I mostly marked words and phrases that grabbed my eye. I then read somewhere, that you should never highlight something unless you write a note about it. I did not do this all the time, but I started underlining, highlighting and adding a few notes here and there. Often times, I added asterisks with footnotes. Pictured to the left is a Bible from this phase of my life. This was a paper back New International Version Bible handed to me by a stranger on campus as I headed to class. My first read of the entire New Testament was in this Bible. I literally wore its cover off. Now I mark my Bible in one of two ways: General Notes or Kay Arthur Inductive Bible Study Technique.
I often read with a pen or pencil in hand. I mark my Bible the way I use to mark text books in college. A key concept or some phrase pops out at me and I mark it. Usually, I underline or circle it. I might make a note in the margin. This is my norm during my devotional reading and basically looks like what I did to the Bible pictured to the left.
Systematic Symbols and Colors–Kay Arthur’s Inductive Study Technique
When I study a book of the Bible more intensively then I use a very systematic method of marking the text. Note that this is what I do when I am studying a book of the Bible. It’s not the only study I do, but it is one method for taking a rather intensive look at a text. What I am about to describe is not what I do when I am just doing devotional reading nor is it what I do when I am looking at individual passages. When studying a book of the Bible I first read an introduction in a study Bible, Bible Dictionary or Bible Handbook. I familiarize myself with the book before reading. Specifically, I learn details like when was it written, by whom, to whom and what seems to be the central purpose. I also like to know who the principle people are and core themes.
What I mark
- Any divine references, i.e. God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Spirit, etc.
- Principle characters
- Great memory verses
- Contrasts and Comparisions
- Lists, for example: fruits of the spirit, characteristics of love, commandments, etc.
- Core themes, like praying, rejoicing, forgiveness, wisdom, etc.
- Add arrows, boxes, or other ways to tie together related materials
- Time references
- Geographic Locations
- Headings for new sections
How do I mark it?
I use colored pencils because they will not bleed through the pages and they give me lots of color options. I create symbols for most of what I mark. For example, in the picture above from my current study Bible, I marked the words “prayer” and “supplication” with a red underline that sweeps up and to the right and ends in an arrow. I choose meaningful symbols. For example, I use red on prayer words because that color is traditional associated with the Holy Spirit. It points up because our prayers are directed toward God. When marking people, I always mark pronouns and descriptive synonyms associated with those people. See for example, the references to “brethren” and other associated words all highlighted in light blue in the photo above. You can put all your symbols on a note card and used it as a book marker when you first start. This makes marking much easier. It also ensures consistent symbols as you move from book to book.
This is an intensive process that I only do when I am studying a book of the Bible in detail. If you are unfamiliar with this method you may want to pick up one of Kay Arthur’s inductive Bible Studies or skim the introduction of The New Inductive Study Bible. I essentially follow her method. This method was difficult when I began. I was so distracted with trying to mark the text “right” that I could hardly pay attention to the actual text. As I have shared this method with other people, they too experienced a short span of feeling awkward with the method. This passes quickly.
Overtime the method becomes second nature and then color codes and marks aid insights. I recall passages and understand them better now. I retain lessons longer. I find myself more attentive to significant details. Also, contrasts and comparisons leap off of the page. One the biggest benefits of marking texts, regardless of the method you choose, is that you train your mind to be far more attentive to what you are reading. You will mentally note details even if you are not marking the text.
ACTION STEPS TO BEGIN
- Read with a pen or pencil in hand
- Designate or purchase a Bible to mark
- Bring your Bible with you to worship and insert sermon notes.
EXTRA MILE ACTION STEPS
- Purchase The New Inductive Study Bible and some colored pencils
- Mark a Gospel using an inductive method
- Purchase a Kay Arthur inductive bible study and complete it