We live in a technologically driven age. As such, anybody can, at any point in time, pick up their phone or tablet and read God’s Word. There are many apps that give quick and easy access to Scripture Reading Plans, Devotionals, Study Tools, and so much more. YouVersion, Oliver Tree, Logos…the list goes on. God’s Word. Right there. Just a few clicks away.
Personally, I find reading the scriptures in this way simple. I can have notifications pop-up on my iphone every morning, reminding me what passage to read for the day. I can have my daily reading sent directly to my email inbox. And I can quickly and easily keep track of where I am in a reading plan.
However, in my own personal reading times, I’ve began to notice a disturbing trend by reading or studying in this manner. I’ll come across a scripture passage that I previously highlighted, and have no real idea why I highlighted it in the first place. Sometimes I’ll recognize a note that I wrote (or typed) for a specific passage, but the study note makes no sense to me. “That’s fascinating,” I’ll think to myself. “But I have no idea why or how that information is useful for me right now.” It becomes quite clear that I didn’t include enough detail as to why I wrote it to begin with!
Due to this, I’ve been re-working how I’ve chosen to read and study God’s Word. I will often read a passage, sometimes on my phone or iPad, or sometimes I’ll grab my HCSB or NLT Study Bible, and then I’ll take the opportunity to journal out some thoughts on what I’ve read. I often use a real notebook. Actual pen and paper. Crazy, right?
Well this week I received something that may help in this regard. The HCSB Journaling Bible.
The HCSB has been one of my go-to Bible translations since it was first released. I won’t say it’s the best translation on the market. I will simply say that the best Bible translation is the one you’re reading. But the HCSB is a very good translation. If you’re unfamiliar with it’s origins, you can read more about it here. But what I really want to focus on today isn’t the translation, but the Journaling Bible as a whole.
This image here shows some of the go-to Bibles I have on my shelf. From bottom to top, it includes the NLT Study Bible, HCSB Study Bible, Disciple’s Study Bible, HCSB Ultrathin Large Print Bible, and the HCSB Journaling Bible. By comparison, the HCSB Journaling Bible is about as thick as the Disciple’s Study Bible, but not as tall.
(Note: The Disciple’s Study Bible is no longer in print. If anybody at Broadman and Holman would happen to be reading this, please consider the possibility of updating this excellent Study Bible and re-releasing it.)
The Font of the HCSB Study Bible is 8 pt. It feels a little smaller than what I’m used to. I used the HCSB Ultrathin Large Print Bible for many years, and became very accustomed to the 10 pt. font it uses. However, I haven’t yet felt any strain on my eyes when reading through the Journaling Bible.
The cover of the Journaling Bible is technically considered Bonded Leather. In my opinion, the cover looks and feels like the cover a journal. It’s not overly feminine (something important for men when considering a Bible), and it’s sturdy enough to stand on a shelf without needing additional support on either side. Personally, I would prefer a softer cover like my leather-bound Study Bibles, but that’s really just a matter of preference.
The primary feature of the HCSB Journaling Bible is the ability to take notes or write “journal” entries on the side of each page. There are no cross references. No Greek/Hebrew word studies. No study notes. And no introductions for each book. It’s God’s Word, and your notes on what He has to say.
The back of the Bible has a few extra features as well. It includes HCSB Bullet Notes, a 52-week Scripture Reading plan, a concordance, and a few maps of ancient Israel.
How to Use It:
Everybody reads and studies God’s Word differently. For example, years ago I was encouraged to color a Bible in order to see specific themes throughout the text. (Note: Some of the colors didn’t translate correctly in the included photo.)
- Yellow = Glory of God, His Person / Character / Attributes
- Green = Grace of God and Gospel verses
- Red = Blood, Death, Suffering
- Blue = Direct Statement or Command from God
- Light Blue = Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
- Brown = Judgment, Punishment, Sin, Temptation
- Purple = Prayer, Promises
- Orange = Word of God
Using this system, I colored a good bit of the New Testament. However, I found this system to not keep me engaged long-term. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a viable reading/study method. I know people who have used this method every year for over 20 years! But it wasn’t how I best study.
With the HCSB Jouraling Bible, I took time to think through how to best use it. I concluded that I wanted to keep my notes broken down into just 4-5 categories:
- Study Note – Summary of the passage, or other useful info.
- Journal Note – How to apply the passage, or a note on the character of God.
- Personal Prayer
- Question & Answer – Question about a passage or a term in the passage, and then a brief answer included after doing a bit of research.
Having been journaling in a notebook for quite some time, I wanted to test the durability of my writing on the pages. While the pages of the journaling Bible are thin (you can see the bleed-through of my writing on the back-side of the page), it wasn’t unbearable. Choosing a good pen that maintains a light touch on the page will prove beneficial to those using it long term.
Who is it for?
The HCSB Journaling Bible is for anyone who is looking for a Bible they can use to read as well as write their own journal notes in. I believe it would be useful for both men and women who are not looking for detailed study notes, but who simply want to read God’s Word and answer questions such as, “What is God inviting me to do?” or “What is the key principle God is communicating in this passage?”
While a number of apps are available today to read the Scriptures, the HCSB Journaling Bible does not give you the option to quickly transition to your email or other apps. In other words, you’re not going to be distracted by receiving a text message, but will instead stay focused on the Scriptures until you’re finished reading and writing. In today’s busy world, that’s enough of a selling point for me.
I would rate the HCSB Journaling Bible a solid 8.5/10. The cover is sturdy and durable, and as noted above, the HCSB is a very good translation of the Scriptures. The look and feel should be attractive to both men and women, which I see as a plus.
In full disclosure, I received a free review copy of the HCSB Journaling Bible from Broadman & Holman Publishers. Nevertheless, I intend to use it regularly and will update this review if any of my opinions change in due time. Those interested in purchasing an HCSB Journaling Bible can do so here.
. . . . .
Have a question about the HCSB Journaling Bible? Feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to reply soon!