How to use a Wide Margin Bible

A wide margin Bible is one of the best Bibles available for personal Bible study. Wide margin Bibles do not contain someone else’s notes. Instead, they give you the writing-room you need to make your own notes, thus creating your own Study Bible. One problem I have seen is that there is not a lot of information about how to use them. Many people (myself included) have bought a wide margin Bible in order to create a personal Study Bible, only to find they are not sure what to include. “OK. I have these nice margins. Now what?”

There are many ways we can use those nice margins in a wide margin Bible. It’s best to use a systematic approach and write notes that are useful, comprehensible, and succinct. Your notes should enhance your Bible study. As far as what to include… there are many options and methods of using those wide margins. The following is a short list of some of the most popular items to place in your wide margin Bible.

Notes

Notes can include commentary by other authors, charts, graphs, facts, translation notes, references, etc. If the notes are something that will be referenced by many verses you might consider writing the note in the notepaper in the back and write a reference to it everywhere you need to.

Commentary

Writing your own commentary will help you to remember the meaning of a passage. For difficult passages it is a good idea to have something in the margin that can explain the key points. This is especially helpful for teaching or witnessing. Margin space is limited, so there’s not much room for complete commentary.

Word Studies

Word studies include both the original languages and translation notes. I will make a mark over the word in the text, and then make the same mark in the margin. Then, I write my notes which are now keyed to the text.

Sometimes a word could have been translated another way. If it is a word that is difficult to understand, or if I find that a different word clarifies the text, I will write other words that could have been used.

For the original languages, I simply write the definition from a dictionary (Strongs, etc) of important words in the text.

References

Most wide margin Bibles include references, but some do not. If your Bible includes references, you still might want to add references that are not included. If yours does not include references, you have the opportunity to own a custom reference Bible. The problem is you have to add them yourself. That’s a lot of work, but when you’re finished your Bible will be more personal. A good reference Bible can be used as a pattern to help in choosing which references to include. You can also get references from Bible software such as Libronix.

Topical Chain

I like topical chain references. They allow you to work your way through the Bible on a specific topic. It’s best to know ahead of time which references you want to include in the chains. There are many resources available for topical lists.

One problem is the fear of leaving out verses. I try to get as many verses on a topic as I can before I start. Software such as Libronix has topical lists that can be used. Other sources include Thompson Chain Reference and Naves Topical Study Bible. Writing your own topical chain gives you the advantage in deciding what topics to include and how detailed to break up the topic into subtopics.

Here is a good topical list: UPCI Biblical Subject Index

Marking

It’s best to not use pencils, pens, or highlighters that can leave indentions or bleed-through. I recommend Pigma Micron markers and Prismacolor coloring pencils. Pigma Micron markers come in many colors and sizes. I use 005 for my marginal notes and 05 for underlining. Prismacolor pencils are high-quality pencils that do not indent the page, smear onto the opposing page, or bleed-through. For more information on marking your Bible see my article about my new Bible marking method.

Hints and tips

One of my favorite tricks is to borrow ideas from other Study Bibles. I occasionally go through all of my Study Bibles and see what I can pull from them. For example, my Thompson Chain Reference has a few added features that I’ve pulled from a few Study Bibles. I took the topical system from the Promise Keeper’s Study Bible and the Pentecostal Themes from the Life in the Spirit Study Bible. I have used both of those systems for years and I plan to add them to my Note Taker’s wide margin. Features such as reading plans, book outlines, word studies, etc., can be added to the margin or extra note pages in your Bible.

Another good source is books. I have recently read several good books, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist and The Ultimate Proof of Creation, that have information that I’d like to add to my Bible’s margins.

Other good sources include pamphlets and tracts. I especially like the pamphlets that fold up to go in your Bible cover.

I don’t recommend trying to copy someone else’s notes completely. I also don’t recommend trying to add a dictionary. Some word studies are great, but if you need a dictionary you are better off with a dictionary. It is best to write as little as possible when it comes to commentary. Also, when adding a definition, place the definition on one page, then on every other page that has the same word simply add a note to turn to the page with the definition. In this way you are not repeating the same note over and over. Don’t get too technical or mechanical in your note taking.

Use a systematic manual style. Use the same abbreviation throughout the entire Bible. It is best to use common abbreviations for the books of the Bible. Use v for verse and vv for verses, etc. As a way of developing your own marking style, I recommend printing a page from the Bible (a good source for a free wide margin Bible for printing is printkjv) and work with it until you’re comfortable. Then you’ll feel better about writing in one of those $150 Bibles (unless you buy an Executive Series Note Takers Wide Margin from LCBP for $55- which I highly recommend).

Use a ruler for making light lines to write on. Your Bible will look better and be easier to read later.

Your note taking should be part of your Bible study- not take the place of your Bible study. Always begin with prayer and ask God to lead you. God is willing to open our understanding and give us more light.

12 Comments

  1. Thank you for posting this, I have wanted a wide margin bible for sometime but fear that I would waste the space.  I will keep your info so I can better use the space.

  2. Is there a study bible with wide margins also.

  3. Bonnie,

    There are a few study Bibles that have slightly wide margins. Life in the Spirit Study Bible and Hebrew/Greek Keyword Study Bible are the main two, having about an inch margin on the outside page. Thompson Chain Reference was available in wide margin, but that edition has been discontinued. The standard-size Thompson has more room than most, especially on pages where Thompson doesn’t have much in the margin. There is a wide margin Scofield available from LCBP:

    http://lcbplansing.org/Bibles/Study.htm

  4. what do you think of interleaf Bibles? i’m trying to decide if i should get this note taker’s or an anchor classic note bible.

  5. I like interleaf Bibles. My pastor has the Anchor. The paper and the cover are not as nice as the Note Taker’s, but it’s a good Bible. You can do more with interleaf because you’re not restricted to just a margin. This is good for charts and large drawings. They are more difficult to add references because there’s no room next to the verse (neither include references). Not having margins can make it more difficult to work with the text because everything has to be keyed to the text on the opposite page. I like my Note Taker’s better because the Anchor is too thick and the pages are too small (for me). I can see an advantage to both.

  6. Thank you. You’ve helped me decide on the Note Takers. For me it was a toss-up between that and the Cambridge KJV. Even better, you have some good advice here, like using the ruler (although I wouldn’t a folded piece of paper work just as well: line it up with a couple of lines of text and draw lightly with a pencil). I’ve been actively notating a family Scofield for about a year now, and I can’t wait to get the financial go-ahead from my wife for my Note Taker. My first move towards more Christian mornings and evenings, about two years ago under the guidance of a pastor, was to start reading the daily offices of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Then, it occurred to me that if I am reading on this cyclical plan, I could be refreshed on a concept from my other theological reading once a year if it were relevantly keyed to a particular verse: it had never occurred to me to write in a Bible before. This aspect of strictly tying notes and thoughts to individual verses is what made me decide on the Note Takers versus the Cambridge, although I agree that the 50+ pages in back would be outstanding. Here’s one example from the other night of my kind of note: I’m reading a book about mediaeval Christendom, and I learn about the three “offices” of that society, namely, sacerdotium, magisterium, imperium, and their respective centers in France, Italy, and Germany. “Wow,” I think, I’d like to remember that, and it sounds like it can be “keyed.” So then, I merely looked in my concordance for “office” and found a mention in Acts, and finally added the note to that verse. It’s a satisfying combination of strict form and free-flowing content. Here’s the nuts and bolts of this system: on any given PAGE, the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth notes I take, irrespective of days, months, or years elapsing, are marked at the beginning of the corresponding verse with *, **, [dagger], [double dagger], and [paragraph mark], respectively. If necessary, I use [hash mark], [section mark], and so on. The note is in the margin with the corresponding mark. There are only a few instances where I’ve had to go over to another page, but it is true that I’ve started doing what you suggest not to do, namely, copying out long passages.

  7. I’m getting mine for my 40th birthday in a couple of months. 

    Randy, did you move all your notes from your older notated Bibles to your current one?

    Brendan 

  8. Brendan,

    Overall I’m not transferring complete notes. Instead, I’m using this Bible to start over. I am moving some of my notes. As I go back through, I find notes that I no longer agree with, notes that are irrelevant, and notes that could have been written better. I try to write my sources in my notes for definitions, etc. I’m finding better sources for some points and definitions. I haven’t written as much as I would like, but I’m not getting in a hurry.

    Happy birthday a couple of months early. Good choice for a birthday present.

    Randy

  9. I was wondering how have you progressed with you marking in your Note Taker’s.  Thank you for the information on marking in your Bible and about the Note Takers Bible.  I was looking for a wide margin Bible so I could make my own notes.  It will be very useful for when I teach.  I should be receiving my Bible early next week.  I would love to see an update and pictures of your Bible with notes.  Thanks again!

  10. I use my NASB International Inductive Study Bible every day. Although, I will admit that I am a Precept student but I also include some other notations in it. For example: I also write my word studies, personal cross-references and dates of meaningful and important verses. I’ve got some fellow Precept friends that use the updated New Inductive Study Bible but the marginal space is not as wide as the IISB.

    I love to get into the Word everyday, whether it be a Precept Bible Study workbook or just reading through the Scriptures. I loved reading this blog, thanks so much for sharing. Blessings from Glasgow, Scotland

  11. Thanks Richard! I’ve been meaning to look for that. I appreciate it.

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