How to Mark your Bible

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Have you ever met anyone who always seemed to be able to pull up just the right Scripture at just the right time? In this article we will pursue the subject of how you can best mark the Bible for the most effective studies possible.

Let me give you an example of how marking has helped me. A well-meaning neighbor, a member of a denomination that promotes active door-to-door proselytizing, came to our door just before my son went down to the city. She asked him if his dad was home and would I mind if she took fifteen or twenty minutes of my time. My son said "No, my dad wouldn't mind, let's go on in." She came prepared for a "kill." She had a tote-bag full of reference books and helps along with her favorite translation.

She began by saying that she knew we were Sabbath keepers and could I show her how I could justify this in the Bible. She began with the statement that the first time the Sabbath is mentioned is in Exodus 16 and that was as far as she got. I reached for my marked Bible and said, "That's not entirely accurate. The first time the Sabbath is referred to is in Genesis 2:1" and turned to it. All my Sabbath and Holy Day verses are colored in RED. I read her the verse and expounded upon it. Then I went on the next verse colored RED. And then the next, and the next. This went on for the best part of an hour. Her defense was that Christians are not obligated to keep the law today. I then turned to the verses marked YELLOW in my Bible that refer to God's Laws and Commandments.

Before we knew it more than two hours went by and her eyes began glazing over as she realized that she had never encountered anyone who could show, verse by verse, why they believe what they believe. Although we remain friends as neighbors, she has never brought up the subject since.

Why mark your study Bible?

The discipline of sitting down to seriously consider the essential teachings of the Scriptures will benefit you in many ways. Your faith will be strengthened considerably as you come to appreciate that your beliefs rest upon the foundation of the Scriptures themselves. It is one of the best ways to study your Bible there is (2Timothy 2:15). Your mind comes under the purifying influence of the mind of God and His Word. A well-marked Bible with one's personal notes becomes a "personal friend" and companion. If you can remember, for example, that Gentiles as well as Jews were taught on the Sabbath "somewhere" in the book of Acts, the verses will practically leap off the page at you.

What are the basic rules of study?
Kings of Ancient Israel and Judah
Map showing location of Old Testament Events
How did we get the Bible?

What studies do you mark?

What you mark in your Bible will depend largely upon personal taste and need.

Without a doubt the best way to mark is topically or by subject. Get all your Scriptures together on a subject or topic and assign a predetermined number, color or identifying sign to them and then chain them together. You should make your own index so you can find the first Scripture in your chain. Some may wish to list all the Scriptures in the back of his Bible.

Probably the best place to get all the Scriptures together that you want to mark is in a Topical Bible such as Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Nave's Topical Bible has, for example, nearly four pages listing occurrences of the Scriptures relating to the God's day of rest. If you want to find what God has to say, for example, about what our attitude should be about gossip or rumors, look under "Talebearing," "Busybody," "Slander," "Speaking Evil," "Accusation," "Falsehood," "False Witness," "Forgiveness" and related topics.

The use of underscoring for studies

One trick to marking your Bible is to underscore or underline important phrases you want to quickly access. Any number of quality fine-point pens can be used for the marking.

Using Symbols

Some people use a plastic template for making lines or symbols in the margins. You must predetermine which symbol you wish to represent each topic. Usually symbols are used to indicate a type of message in the Bible. A hollow star could be used, for example, for a prophecy. A solid star could be used for a fulfilled prophecy. A circle could be used for a command from God. A pyramid, either upright or on its side could be used to signify a promise from God. A square could mean a message from God, and so forth.

Chain Referencing

This is done by first gathering a list of all the relevant Scriptures that you want to have in your chain. Give each topic a consecutive number. God's Sabbath could be, for example, #1. Prayer could be #2. God's Law could be #10, etc. Now begin transferring your list to your Bible. Turn where you want to begin your chain and put the number of your topic in the margin with a little circle around it. Just beneath the circled number, neatly print the second Scripture in your chain. Now turn to this place in scripture and repeat the process. Write the number of your topic and, just beneath it, the third Scripture in your chain. Continue this process on through the whole list of Scriptures you want to chain. Be sure to put the key to your topics on a flyleaf of your Bible so you will always know which topics your numbers signify.

The strength of this method is that you will find all the Scriptures you are looking for. The weakness of this system is that you may have to go through an entire chain of Scriptures to find the specific one that you are looking for.

Using a Color Scheme

By far the most useful method is the color scheme. Below is one color scheme you could use.

Color Biblical Topic(s)
Light Blue Prayer, Praying
Dark Blue Healing, Sickness
Orange Resurrection
Red Sabbath, Holy Days
Pink Marriage, Divorce
Light Green Millennium, God's Kingdom
Dark Green Man's Mortality
Black / Gray Satan, Demons
Purple Promises to Israel and Heirs
Yellow / Gold Laws, Commandments
Brown Repentance, Baptism

Making a Bible study marking kit

A small plastic box such as a school pencil box is handy to use as your Bible marking kit. Your kit should consist of a set of pens for underscoring and note-taking, a mechanical pencil, colored pencils, a six-inch plastic ruler for underlining and "boxing in" a verse to color, a template for making uniform symbols, if any, a Bible-page size of thin cardboard, and a folded paper towel to wipe off excess colored pencil so it will not rub off on the opposite page.

A fine-line black pen is recommended for underscoring and note making. A fine-line red pen is recommended for underscoring important verses. Ball point pens work but may glob or bleed through the thin pages with the passage of time. Better are drafting pens, such as Rapidograph or Castel. Drafting pens, however, need refilling and occasional cleaning. I have found the Micron Pigma pens an excellent choice. The .01 and .03 fine points work best. Do not use felt-tip or roller points under any circumstances, because these will nearly always bleed through the page. It is best to test out your pen on a page in the back of your Bible before using it.

Use a thin lead mechanical pencil for outlining verses to be colored and to draw light guide lines for personal study notes. Use soft, thick, colored lead pencils such as Berol or Castel. These are "creamy" in consistency so that they cover well and are easy to work with.

Once you have decided which verses you wish to color code, begin by placing your page-sized cardboard or index card under the page you are going to color so that your markings do not make indentations on the page beneath it. Next, take your mechanical pencil and six-inch ruler and lightly outline all sides of the verse. This makes the verse stand out neatly and lets you "stay inside the lines" when you color.

After you have outlined your verse, take your colored pencil and, at about a thirty degree angle, lightly color in the verse, taking care to stay within the lines. Try for a "pastel" look rather than a dark, gaudy or heavy look. When finished, take your folded paper towel and gently smooth or smudge your colors - always towards the center - to remove excess color. This prevents the color from rubbing off onto the opposite page. It would be wise to practice your technique on an old paperback book before coloring for the first time.

It is not important that you adopt the exect Bible marking system suggested in this article. What is important is that you devise a workable system of your own - one that works for YOU. It is said that the best thing to do with Scripture is to know it in your head, stow it in your heart, sow it in the world, and show it in your life. Marking your Bible will help you to accomplish all these ends. Try it and see.

Additional Study Materials
Important People in the Old Testament
Important People in the New Testament
Timeline of the Old Testament
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