Bible Marking

The Bible is like a treasure- the more you dig, the more you discover. Studying the Bible is like an archaeological dig- the more you uncover the more exiting it becomes. Rightly dividing the Word of God is in itself a lifetime of study; marking your Bible helps in that study. Bible marking helps in remembering what you’ve learned, helps to memorize scripture, and helps to put things in context.

God wants us to study His Word.

2 Timothy 2:15  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 3:16  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Jude 1:3  Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

1 Peter 3:15  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

The Bible is part of the Armor of God.

Ephesians 6:13-17  13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

More than just reading, studying the Word includes rightly dividing the Word. Rightly dividing the Word of Truth is a commission to each Christian. We are all to study the Bible and hide it in our hearts, but how? There are many sound principles of Bible study. Some work for some but not others. No one method is best for everybody. In this article I’d like to cover one aspect of Bible study- Bible marking. Bible marking is not for everyone, but it is a Bible study aid that has helped me in my Bible study for many years. In this article I want to share my methods of Bible marking.

When I first started studying the Bible over 25 years ago I got hooked on topical study of doctrine. I studied the Godhead, salvation, holiness, prophesy, etc. I thought it would be a good idea to color the verses in those topics so that I could find them quickly. I started with five topics. Over the years I’ve added to those topics. I now have about a dozen topics, each with many sub-topics. I color the main topics and handle the subtopics by writing the name of the sub-topic in the margin and coloring that with the same color as the main topic. For example, in Isaiah we find many verses that use the phrase “Holy One of Israel”. I color that phrase, then in the margin I write Holy One and color it the same color. In my Thompson, Holy One is already written in the margin, so I just color it and the reference that it gives.

Yellow              – Godhead
Red                  – Salvation
Blue                  – Holiness
Dark Green       – Contending for the Faith, studying the scriptures
Orange             – Prophesy
Purple               – Healing
Light Green       – Miracles
Light Blue         – Gifts of the Spirit
Flesh                – Works of the Flesh
Black                – Wrath of God
Tan                   – Faith
Brown               – Creation (light blue on Pocket PC and Palm)



The colors you choose would depend on the type of study you do. I’m very doctrinal and topical focused, so these topics work great for me.

For my next Bible I am considering modifying the color code. I use OliveTree on my Palm Centro and it has fewer colors. I’ve been using light blue on my Palm for Creation. I’ve gotten so used to light blue for Creation now that I will probably keep that color for Creation in my next Bible. Also, many times Miracles and Healing are used interchangeably in scripture, so it can get complicated trying to color them. The idea is to make it easy to use and follow.

Color Pencils

I started coloring my Bible several Bibles ago (luckily they were cheap) and I’ve changed my choices in pencils several times. I’m not telling you to use any of these pencils. I’m just saying they’ve worked for me. I used to use Prang. They were more expensive but cheap enough for me to afford and they worked really well. My last pack of pencils was Crayola. Crayola are much better than they used to be, but the set of 36 pencils does not include purple. I recently bought PrismaColor pencils on clearance (I got a $70 set of pencils for $18). I’m considering using them for my next Bible. I can replace each pencil individually for $1.50 each. If you get pencils make sure you practice on something before trying them on your main Bible. Pencils can leave indentions in the pages which can be seen through several pages, especially if you press hard on the page. I like pencils that do not take much pressure to apply the color. This way I don’t leave those indentions. Some colors can be difficult to see through, but they might be good for underlining or drawing boxes around the text instead of highlighting the text itself.


I started writing in my Thompson with a red Pilot fine point pen. It worked really well for me because I write very lightly. It did not smear or indent the paper. I recently bought a Bible marking pen that is basically the same pen except it has black, red, blue, and a pencil all included. It works great too. Lately I’ve been considering archival pens. There are two sets that look interesting.

The first is PrismaColor. These come in a set of 8 colors and several tip sizes. 005 would work great for writing notes, and 05 would work great for underlining.

The second set is Pigma Micron from Sakura. They have 14 colors available (in 05) and they come in several different tip sizes. I’m leaning toward Pigma Micron just because of the number of colors.

I’m considering just using 005 in various colors for writing marginal notes and continue to underline with color pencil. Another option for me is to use 03 or 05 and underline or draw boxes around the text.

Marking Methods

My current marking method includes coloring over the text itself for the main topic of the phrase I’m coloring, and underlining the text with another color if it has a secondary topic. I don’t color the whole verse unless it’s all part of the topic. In the margin I write a subtopic and color it and its references the same color as the main topic (or in my Thompson I simply highlight what is already written in the margin and add what I need to).

It can get difficult to see through some of the colors, so for my next Bible I am considering only underlining or drawing boxes around the text. Some colors can be difficult to distinguish in dim lighting. The pens will be brighter than the pencils, so I might just use pens on my next Bible.

For Bibles with little room in the margins, symbols can replace the words. For example, instead of writing the word “rapture”, you can use an arrow pointing up. I like symbols, but they can be difficult to draw consistently. Keeping the symbols simple enough to draw is essential. Also, the symbols should have a visual meaning that is easy to relate to the subject.

Another option is to write letters in the margin that is short for the topic. For example, SF can stand for Spirit Filled. Using this method is virtually unlimited, but it can get confusing when trying to remember what all of the letters stand for.

I always write a code-key in the front of my Bible. This key tells what every color, symbol, and letter stands for. This way anyone can pick up my Bible and use it. It also helps me to remember what everything stands for.

Mark sparingly, unless your goal is to have every verse marked. The more marks your Bible has the less the marks can mean, which weakens the impact. If everything is marked… well… everything is marked. Then, nothing stands out.

As I study I sometimes change my focus of topics. Over the past 10 years I’ve done more study of Creation and scientific topics. I added Creation as a topic but I’ve already colored some of those verses in other colors, and now I am considering adding Science as a topic. Technically, Creation is a sub-topic of Science, but it’s OK to have a sub-topic as a main topic if that’s the focus of your study. I could also include Archaeology in Science, but it could clash with Creation, causing both topics to need their own color. It can get out of hand really quick.

The point of all of this is not to get technical and learn the Word only. Bible marking is just a study tool. The scriptures say that the letter can kill but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 3:6  Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

We are to worship God in spirit and truth.

John 4:24  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

We are not to just study the scriptures and ignore our spiritual life, but at the same time we are not to worship in spirit only and ignore the scriptures.

Marking the Bible helps us to wield the sword in battle. It also helps in memorizing the scriptures. Marking your Bible helps you to compare scripture with scripture by simply looking through the text for a certain color for every verse on a specific topic. This works really well for a topical Bible study. The point is to dig into God’s Word because it is a treasure. The Word of God is a treasure, so seek to learn it, hide it in your heart, understand it, and treasure it.

Do you mark your Bible? If so, what works for you?


  1. Very helpfull explaination.

  2. Hi – just a short note to say thanks for this article. Very good.

  3. I am seeing that pens are good for underlining and pencils for highlighting. I mean it wouldnt make sense with a pen anyway. I was curious as to whether you do word studies or just with topics/doctrinal.

  4. Thanks David. I do topical for my coloring and marking, but most of my topical includes word studies. In the margin I will write a definition from the Greek or Hebrew. When I write information about a word (such as word studies or commentary) I usually mark a symbol (such as a dot, square, etc) over the word and make the same mark in the margin to link the two together.

    Another thing I had considered when I was developing my new marking method was to just use Pigma Micron pens instead of Prismacolor pencils. There are enough pens for my colors, but I also wanted to highlight the text and not just underline. So I would agree that using a pen for highlighting wouldn’t make sense.

  5. Nice! I like it. It looks like you’ve written more notes in your Thompson that I have. I’ve been toying with my marking methods for a while, so I’ve changed my methods a little. The more detailed I get with my color-coding the more difficult making choices of how to mark each verse becomes (I’m marking individual words with specific colors, based on their topic- sometimes the topics cross over each other). I’ve considered trying something else: I’m thinking about getting a new Thompson and only marking the topics in the margin, leaving the text clean for reading. I’m just thinking about it for now.

  6. I hate marking my bible for the reasons you mentioned plus it can look messy, etc.  I have some marking but by pencil so I can erase later.
    A system I haven’t quite finished developing involves using post-it flags, instead.
    There are 8 colors, maybe 12, but some are markers with the whole marker being of a color. The end part is color with the rest being clear and are repositional.. Both parts can be written on and coded however I wish.  As I refine the system I can remove the tags without any damage to the bible.   Yes, I will end up with a lot of tags sticking out of my bible. :)


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