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Biblical Annotations

In our home, we have several Bibles. One is a English Standard Version (ESV) study bible, embossed with my name on the cover. It has beautiful maps and illustrations in the book, along with detailed explanations, historical contexts, and other supplementary information. Another belongs to Andy, and it was his grandmother’s Bible. Another is a large print family Bible that was gifted to us by my father-in-law. There’s a pocket sized King James Bible on our bookshelf, along with children bibles given to Maggie and Hazel after their baptisms. My personal favorite bible is the one I color and write all over.

Annotation is a way of interacting with the text. By highlighting, writing, and sometimes drawing, this enables me to have a deeper comprehension with what I’m reading in lieu of passive reading. For me, when I annotate my Bible, I think of it like I’m passing notes in class between myself and the text. Sometimes the intended recipient of my notes is the character of the story; sometimes, it’s the author; sometimes, it can be God.

I find that the utensils used in Biblical annotations needs to be carefully selected if you wish to annotate your own Bible. Bible pages are extremely thin and delicate. Any ink used will bleed through the page, so I don’t use markers, pens, or highlighters. What has worked best for me are crayons, colored pencils, and pencils. I prefer crayons. The crayon is vibrant, works well with the delicate paper, and leaves a waxy coating over the surface.

Depending on the section or simply the availability of what I have to work with at that moment, I will sometimes have colors mean something specific. Yellow is general highlighting. Green pertains to money or finances. Pink pertains to love. Orange sometimes represents key words. Blue sometimes highlights an important person. Sometimes, I color everything yellow, just because that’s what I have at that moment. Sometimes, there‘s no color, like I don’t want to overlay crayon on Jesus’s red words, so I‘ll stick to pencil.

Certain passages lend themselves to illustration. I don’t consider myself a particularly good artist. I have an idea of what I want to convey, but my fingers don’t always cooperate. I’m better at manipulating images than I am in creating art from scratch, even though I do enjoy pulling out my sketchbook and seeing what happens. Regardless of medium, any art form is an expression of something. What makes it good, in my opinion, is how powerfully it expresses the intended purpose or message.

“The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashback and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the seam, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen” (Psalm 77:16-19 NIV). The imagery is obvious, the storm clouds, rain and water. I colored directly on this passage (and on several others) with the pictures that came to mind.

I do this as part of my faith practice because annotating and interacting with my Bible helps me learn and reflect on God’s message. It’s like school. As a teacher, I would teach students to annotate their text, whatever text it may be. If they did it in earnest, they understood it better. If they didn’t, if they merely passively read, they didn’t. It’s that simple. Everyone learns differently, but the way I personally learn best is with my book, some crayons, and a pencil.



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