I’ve written a lot about using more than one Bible. I even have a guest post on Bible Design Blog about this very topic. In my opinion, a Bible that’s designed for a special purpose, such as reading or marking, is better for its specific purpose than one Bible that tries to do everything. With that said, there are times when it makes sense to use an all-purpose Bible.
An all-purpose Bible is a multi-tool. Multi-tools are useful, but they’re not as good at each task as a tool made just for that task would be. I believe specialized Bibles are better suited for their purpose, but it’s not always realistic to have more than one Bible. Sometimes you need a single Bible that can be used for everything. In this article we’ll figure out how to choose an all-purpose Bible.
Why Get an All-Purpose Bible
First, why would you need an all-purpose Bible? There are lots of good reasons and my reasons might be different from yours. The first thing that comes to mind is going into the mission field. Another reason would be going on a trip and you have limited space. Maybe you have limited space at home. Perhaps the number one reason is budget. Having lots of Bibles is great, but that can be expensive. Maybe you just want to get to know and grow with a single Bible that’s your personal friend. A Bible you’re more familiar with is easier to use.
Make a List
There are lots of ways to choose an all-purpose Bible. I prefer to choose based on my personal needs. I find it helpful to make a list of those needs.
Make a list with two categories. The first will be a list of features you can’t live without. The second would be a list of features you’d like to have. This list will help you narrow down which Bible best fits your needs. I have to warn you though… finding a Bible that has everything on your list can be frustrating. This is why it’s important to be as honest with yourself as you possibly can about your lists.
Within both of your lists you’ll describe the features such as font, paper, size, etc. Choose for yourself which are your priorities. Be as specific as you can within your lists, but also give a range that you can live with. Instead of a 10-point font, maybe you can live with a 9 or 11.
Here’s what my current list would look like. I’ve made some notes explaining my choices. I recommend adding your own notes as it will help you thing though your process.
Features I can’t Live Without
- Overall size – 8.5 x 5.5 x 1. (8-9 x 5×6 x 1-1.25)
- Cover – anything that will last and lay completely flat in Genesis 1. No stiff tabs, cover must stay all the way open.
- Font – 10 (9-12)
- Clean text with no distractions (could have small reference and footnote keys, and pronunciation marks for hard words)
- Dark font – medium to dark.
- Paper – 30-32gsm, highly opaque, easy to turn.
- References – 55k (40-60k) near the verse they correspond to
- Translator’s footnotes
- High quality maps – 8-16
Features I’d Like to Have
- Gilt – gold (I don’t have to be as careful)
- Updated words in the margin (I can see them at a glance)
- Dictionary/concordance/topical index combo
- Pages for notes
- Index to maps
Find Your Bible
Once you have your list, take a look at Christianbook, Amazon, review sites, and Facebook groups to see what comes the closest to your needs.
For example, a few Bibles that would fit, or come close, to my needs in KJV include:
Problems with Choosing an All-Purpose Bible
Most likely you’ve already tried to find an all-purpose Bible. There’s a good chance you’ve gone through a lot of Bibles and are still looking for “the one” – that one perfect Bible that solves all of your needs. Trust me – chances are high that Bible doesn’t exist.
Why? For one thing your needs change over time. What I needed in a Bible 20 years ago is different from what I need in a Bible today. My ministry is different today (as a pastor) than it was 20 years ago (as my pastor’s helper). The first difference that comes to mind is font size. Another is block size. Another difference is use; I now need to carry a Bible to preach from.
Another thing that comes to mind is tools. Now we have access to tools online, in e-books, on our phones or tablets, and in massive libraries within Bible study apps. We no longer need our primary all-purpose Bibles to provide us with everything we need. We just need to have what we use the most.
Although I think it’s best to use a Bible for a specific purpose (reading, carry, study, marking, preaching), I also think we need an all-purpose Bible. An all-purpose Bible should be easy to carry, easy to read, and have some basic study tools.
This Bible might end up being the one you use the most, but it doesn’t have to have everything in it – just enough to get you by based on your needs. If it doesn’t fit your needs you won’t use it. If you don’t use the features it contains then you probably should reconsider your list. You might even need to revisit your list as your needs change over time. Your needs will be unique to you. Be as honest with yourself as possible about what you really need.
Use this list as your starting point and you might just end up finding the best all-around Bible for your everyday use.
Where to buy (includes some affiliate links)
and many local Bible bookstores
Photography by hannah C brown and Randy A Brown