Category Archives: Bible Design

Mark Bertrand on “Reference Bibles” vs. “Reading Bibles”

My friend Mark Bertrand has penned a column about a new niche of Bibles designed specifically for reading sessions. Perhaps you have given this subject little thought in the past. If you are serious about engaging with God’s Word I highly recommend you take the time to read, and think through, his points.

For those of you who are not sure what a “Reference Bible” is, I’ll explain. A reference Bible is one that has other Bible verses listed on the page so that you can easily “cross reference” other Scriptures which are related in subject matter to the verses you are reading. For example, here is a photograph taken of the TBS Westminster Reference Bible (can be purchased HERE):

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 12.22.54 PM

As you can see in the picture above, to the left and right of the Bible text itself, there are lists of other Bible verses that relate to the subjects presented in what you are reading. Many Bible readers love to pause and search out these other references to see what else the Bible says on this subject. It is an excellent tool for deeper Bible study.

However, aesthetically, when it comes to design layout, a reference Bible seems to have more in common with a dictionary or encyclopedia than a traditional book that you would read cover-to-cover. Hence, the recent trend toward producing “reading Bibles.”

Compare the image above with the new ESV Reader’s Bible from Crossway (available for purchase HERE):

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It makes for a dramatic difference in your reading experience. I encourage you to read Mark’s take on the impact of the design of the Bible you choose to read.

Happy 400th to the King James Version!

May 2, 1611 – The King James Version Bible (KJV) was first published. No other book in the history of the world has had a greater impact than this edition of the Bible. The KJV  is a masterpiece from both a literary and a scholarly perspective. Over fifty scholars collaborated in producing this monumental work that has ministered truth to millions over four centuries. Praise be to God for His Word!

I took a quick snapshot of four of my King James Bibles:

Top to Bottom – Calfskin Royal Ruby (Trinitarian Bible Society), Calfskin Windsor Text (Trinitarian Bible Society), Genuine Leather Pilgrim Study Bible (Oxford), Calfskin Executive Series Large Print (Local Church Bible Publishers).

Some of you might be thinking that perhaps you should go buy a new King James Version since this year is the 400th anniversary of the KJV. I recommend you do. But I also recommend that you do not go anywhere to do it. Instead do your homework on the internet and then order one online. The best editions are attained through the mail rather than found in stores. The Bibles you find in your average Christian bookstore are medium to low quality. I recommend you purchase one that will last a lifetime and, therefore, can be passed down to your children and grandchildren. If you want a KJV with that kind of quality binding, you need to choose one of the following: Cambridge (England), R. L. Allan (Scotland), Trinitarian Bible Society (England), or Local Church Bible Publishers (Lansing, Michigan). The former two will require a substantial amount of money, but the latter two are amazingly affordable for the quality of their bindings. Make sure you get a calfskin or goatskin leather binding.

As for my preferences, although I do not have a Cambridge  KJV, I do have several Cambridge Bibles and love them. I have one R. L. Allan; it is fabulous. Trinitarian Bible Society  (TBS) Bibles are basically reliable workhorses at incredibly low prices. Local Church Bibles are a nice combination of both endurance and luxury. Cambridge and Allan are the cream of the crop, and the pricetag on their Bibles reflect that (and increasingly so with the plunging American dollar vs. the British pound).

If money is no object, then I recommend (based on research from reputable sources) that you look at the goatskin R. L. Allan Long Primer or the R. L. Allan 5c. But be ready to hand over $150-200. Testimonies from owners say that they are worth every penny. I have yet to own a Long Primer, but the 5c I have and it is an amazing little Bible. For about the same amount of money as one Allan Long Primer, you can equip yourself with the same stack of Bibles I’ve pictured above.

Even if you don’t buy a new KJV, if you are a parent, why don’t you take some time today to teach your children about the KJV and it’s impact? I plan to do that this evening. If you need some ideas, try these websites:

As for where to buy a good copy of the KJV online, try these websites:



The 2011 NIV: Facing the Challenges

I hope the revision of the NIV Bible is wildly successful, both in its faithfulness to the original languages and in its reception by the public. If it is not faithful to the original languages then I hope it is a commercial failure. I am not an expert in marketing or business. I am not an expert in linguistics. I am not an expert in Bible translating. I am simply a pastor who love’s God’s Word and desires to help people be transformed by God’s Word. So it is with much humility that I offer my thoughts on what it will take to make the 2011 NIV a success:

Continue reading The 2011 NIV: Facing the Challenges

The 2011 NIV: Challenge #3

Previously I suggested that increased competition and the gender-neutral language debate were two challenges facing the new NIV to be released in 2011. Here is the third challenge:

3. DESIGN and MARKETING – Easily my most subjective post in this series, I believe a final challenge that Zondervan and Biblica face in extending the NIV’s dominance in the English-speaking world is to return to the front of the pack in packaging and presenting the product. In my humble opinion, Crossway (ESV), Tyndale (NLT), and B&H (CSB) are all ahead of Zondervan in these two crucial areas. Let me expand on these two thoughts:

Continue reading The 2011 NIV: Challenge #3

On Red Letter Bibles

The red letter Bible, the first edition of which was first published in 1900, is a very popular feature for a lot of evangelical Christians. I am not a big fan. Here are three reasons why:

(1) It is less pleasing to the eye when reading.

(2) It implies that more weight should be given to the words in red, when in reality we believe that ALL the words of the Bible are from Christ! There is even a group who label themselves as red letter Christians, intentionally emphasizing the words of Jesus (although I would argue they conveniently ignore a lot of the theological teachings of Christ).

(3) Even among the red letter editions, sometimes the “red” comes out more pink or orange than red.

For more on this subject…

…Nicholas Gray of the wonderful Scottish Bible publisher, RL Allan, has asked for opinions about red-letter Bibles in his latest blog post.

…Mark Bertrand has an excellent post on the subject.

…Wikipedia has an entry on red letter Bibles, explaining their origin.

Nicholas Gray of the wonderful Scottish Bible publisher, RL Allan, has asked for opinions about red-letter Bibles in his latest blog post.

In Praise of Single Column Bibles

I am a huge fan of single column Bibles.

There, I said it. Yes, I know I am a Bible design geek and I even laugh at myself about this fact. And I know that most people, upon reading the first sentence of this post would probably react, “And the price of tea in China is…?

But I also have the heart of a pastor, which is another reason why I want to devote this post to this rather obscure subject of double column vs. single column Bibles. As a pastor I want to help people in whatever ways I can to read the Bible more. More pleasurably. More often. And with greater impact. And I truly believe that a single column Bible will in a small way help people experience those things in a greater way.

Like many people, I never paid much attention to the difference between single column vs. double column Bibles, until I came across J. Mark Bertrand’s outstanding blog (Bible Design Blog). Truth be told, I previously preferred double column Bibles, albeit subconsciously. I remember back in college days looking at a friend’s Life Application Study Bible one time and saying to myself, “Something about this Bible doesn’t feel right.” That something was the single column. It didn’t feel right because I had a preconceived notion of what a Bible was supposed to look like, and that was double column. In other words, I was bound by tradition, familiarity.

ESV PSR Bible photograph by J. Mark Bertrand (

Continue reading In Praise of Single Column Bibles

Modern English Bible Translations

I’m teaching on this subject tonight at the church office.  Here is a short preview of what will be covered in about 90-105 minutes:

– Overview of Modern English Translations since 1950

– A Look at the List of Best Selling English Bibles

– Overview of Modern Translations Philosophies

– A Comparison of the Modern Versions (we will read several passages together from several different versions)

– Recommendations on Which Versions to Use and Why

– The Basics of Bible Design and Binding