Today we have a guest post called “Why You Should Read a Paper Bible” by CoCo. CoCo is a fellow member of the Young Writer’s Workshop, and she has her own blog called CoCo’s Chitchat where she shares life lessons as she pursues Christ in her teen years.
As I sat on the floor during youth group the other week, the small group leader asked for a volunteer to read the next Scripture passage. I instinctively reached for my Bible, which was lovingly zipped inside my bag, while several other students reached for their phones. That prompted a short conversation about how not many people read physical Bibles anymore, and it struck me as a sad truth. With the numerous copies available to us, why don’t we read physical Bibles anymore? Electronic Bibles on our phones may be convenient, but at least for me, they don’t have the same kind of impact.
That made me curious. What is it about my physical copy that makes it more meaningful to me? Why can’t I connect with God’s Word on the same level if I read the same words on my phone? I discovered four reasons why I believe reading a physical, paper Bible is more impactful than reading on an app or internet site. After I share them with you, I sincerely hope you will take the time to dust off your own copy and give it a read, or perhaps go buy one!
#1: Paper Bibles add excitement and intentionality to our reading.
Many avid readers will tell you that there’s nothing better than holding a real, physical book in their hands and turning the pages. It adds excitement to the story inside, and can even help the reader to connect with it on a deeper level.
The same goes for me and my Bible. I love holding it in my hands, turning the delicate pages, feeling the weight of the book as I read. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do have a Bible app and even use it regularly—but it’s when I intentionally take the time to pick up my physical copy that I am the most engaged. I read plenty of other stuff on my phone or laptop, such as news and blog articles, emails, college textbooks, and the list goes on.
Putting my phone to the side reminds me that those things are of the world, while what I hold in my hands is the Word of God. I can believe every single word that it says, unlike some of the things I find myself reading on a screen. The Word of God is immensely different, and taking the time to intentionally pick it up rather than just tapping on another app helps me to remember that. It sets it apart; it reminds me that it’s special; it helps me to better engage with its Truth. I rarely feel connected when I simply scroll through another stream of words.
#2: Paper Bibles help us to better own the Word of God.
If you don’t have a paper Bible that you are comfortable reading and/or having on hand in public, I would strongly recommend that you get one. I struggled for years with copies that were super heavy, had tiny print, or were easily bent or torn in a backpack. I didn’t enjoy reading them for one reason or another, and bringing them along for youth group or summer camp was a hassle. But last year, during a Labor Day sale, I decided enough was enough and sacrificed the money to get myself a nice one. To be completely honest, it wasn’t all that expensive, either! You can buy them pretty cheap nowadays.
All I have to say is, I love my Bible and it was worth every penny. It’s a pretty blue color, it’s small and lightweight without having impossibly microscopic print, and it has a handy magnetic strap to keep it closed. I even spent a little bit extra to get my full name inscribed on the front cover. I love being able to call it my own and know that it’s mine.
I don’t want to say that it’s the pretty colors or the cool features of a Bible that make it special, but those things can help make it personal. They can give us a sense of ownership and help us to better understand that the words it contains are for us today.
The Bible isn’t merely a collection of writings from the ancients or words that once meant something but are now void. Rather, it is “living and active” like Hebrews 4:12 tells us, and it is “inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” as we are told in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
It is imperative that we understand the relevance of the Bible in our personal lives, and having a copy that we are both excited about reading and comfortable taking with us can help us tremendously. Get yourself a copy that you like and are proud to own.
#3: Paper Bibles are more convenient for looking back at notes.
Like I mentioned before, I do actually use my Bible app quite regularly for my personal devotional time. I highlight, bookmark, take notes, and yes, I even put verses on pictures.
However, I’ve found that it isn’t as convenient to go back and look through all of those highlights and notes. Who wants to sit there and scroll through their feed in order to find something? And, unlike a paper Bible—where your notes are on the page right in front of you—you are less likely to come across an old note in passing. Lessons you have learned are more likely to get buried.
I have only had my Bible for a little over a year, but I love being able to go back and easily see at a glance everything I wrote down for a specific chapter. When I’m sitting in church or youth group, and the speaker has the audience turn to a passage somewhere, it makes me smile to see all the reminders I left for myself.
Another benefit of having a physical Bible is that you can use actual highlighters! Maybe I’m alone in this, but I love sitting in my room with my Bible in my lap, pen in hand, and all ten colored highlighters spread out before me. It makes me so happy to color-code the verses. Sure, I can press a little circle on my screen and have it colored for me, but where’s the fun in that?
#4: Paper Bibles help us to have the right motivation.
When I first started using the Bible app, I wanted to “friend” anybody and everybody that I knew (and to be honest, I still do). Because it’s structured similarly to a lot of other social media platforms, it can be easy to treat it as such. I found that I was reading with the motivation of being seen, and showing to other people that I do, in fact, read the Bible. It escalated to the point that it had almost become a competition: How many verses can I highlight today? How early in the morning can I post a picture? How quickly can I earn another badge?
I have nothing against having friends or posting on the app. In fact, I think it’s a great way to connect with people to do devotional plans together or pray for one another, and I love being able to share my thoughts in a public note for my friends to see.
However, the Bible is not Instagram. It should not be treated as such. Sharing should come out of an overflow of our personal reading, not be the main motivation for reading in the first place. If you can’t read the Bible in the secret place, with no one else around to know, and enjoy it just as much as when people are looking, then it’s time for a motivation check. An individual who genuinely loves the Word of God reads it as food for their hungry soul—not as a boost to their spiritual reputation.
Paper Bibles help us to read with excitement and intentionality. They give us a sense of ownership of God’s Word. They provide a great opportunity to look back at lessons learned. And they help us to read for ourselves rather than for others.
I have largely focused on the pros of reading a paper Bible, although I personally use both my phone and paper Bibles, and I recognize that each have their own unique sets of pros and cons.
However you choose to read the Bible, I hope and pray that you would make it personal. Don’t settle for a shallow understanding of God’s Word; rather, desire for it to be meaningful and deep. Dig in! Society may be going digital, but that doesn’t mean the Church has to.
Today, let’s ditch our phones, dust off our Bibles, and dig into the living and active Word of God.
Who’s with me?