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Choosing a New Preaching Bible


Almost ten years ago, I purchased my first ESV Bible. It was one of the snazzy Thinline editions, with a black spine and brown front face. I read from that Bible on a daily basis, taught through Mark’s gospel with it in our home group, took it on vacations and preached my first sermon with it.

After four years, my Bible had started to look pretty beat up, the way God intended—lots of underlining, crinkled pages and what may or may not have been some minor water damage. It was well read and well loved, to be sure (even if some pages were hard to make out because of all the underlining).

Then, a few years, ago, I realized that my preaching Bible had disappeared. Somewhere between church, work and home I managed to lose it… which means that it’ll turn up as soon as I buy a new one. It’s funny, though, I didn’t expect that I’d miss that Bible, the way that I do. Not in a creepy, idolatrous way, mind you—there are just a lot of fond memories associated with it.

Anyway, after several days of hunting through the house, I’ve finally given up and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to purchase a new preaching Bible. I looked at a number of different editions before settling on the ESV Value Thinline Bible… mostly because it was cheap.

And then, I found it. The Bible I thought was gone forever came back, and I resumed using it as my preaching and reading Bible, and my Value Thinline collected dust (until I finally gave it to a small church as part of a collection of Bibles to use in outreach).

But now, after nearly 10 years, this Bible’s days are coming to an end. The text itself is out of date (I think it’s still the 2001 edition, rather than the most recent). The cover and pages are in pretty rough shape, worse than it was when I first wrote this post. It’s well-worn, and hopefully I’m the better for it.

So what did I wind up choosing?

This time, I splurged. Although, there’s a bit of a story behind this.

I actually now have two preaching Bibles, both of which are quite lovely, because I have two primary translations I’ll use, depending on the wishes of the church I’m visiting.

Translation choices

When it comes to translation, nine times out of ten, I’ll stick with the ESV, in part because I’m very familiar with it. But I’ve also grown quite fond of the HCSB, a translation that’s fairly popular among Southern Baptists (and is growing in popularity beyond their ranks). I really enjoy using it in my personal reading, and the translation team did a really great job of bridging the gap between the ESV and similar translations and the NIV.

Edition choices

Which brings us back to the editions I’m using:

While neither sit perfectly flat (and really, that’s not the end of the world as far as I’m concerned), one of the things I love about both of these is the cover. The feel of calfskin leather is amazing! That might be a silly thing to enjoy, but there you go. Those tactile elements really do change how we feel about our books and Bibles, regardless of whether we’re aware of it or not.

From a text size perspective, both are plenty easy to read, which is super-helpful. The new ESV is a single-column edition as well, so that changes the feel a little bit. It’s a little more like reading a standard book. It doesn’t change the way you understand or read from the Bible, but it is a little change that requires getting used to if you’re used to a two-column one.

Will I stick with these forever? While I can’t say they’ll be my “forever” Bibles (since one never knows what will happen in the next five to ten years), these are definitely the ones I’m enjoying right now.

Your turn, preachers: What are you using in the pulpit? What do you like about your preaching Bible and what kind would you recommend to another preacher?

Updated December 2014

Photo credit: __o__ via photopin cc

24 thoughts on “Choosing a New Preaching Bible”

  1. I use the NASB and have been using it for at least 40 years. I love that it is a very literal translation, though I have used the ESV, and even the HCSB, a few times. I was introduced to the NASB as a young Christian, and through college and seminary it has been my main translation.

  2. Well gang, I did end up going with the Value Thinline edition. Since it’s not for my everyday reading, but primarily for preaching, I’m hopeful that it’ll hold up for a bit. If not, I’ll likely be investing in a better quality one in a few months 🙂

      1. I used the Value Thinline a few times, but was (thankfully) able to find my higher quality Thinline, which remains my primary preaching Bible. If I were preaching at churches that use the HCSB more regularly, I would totally use that as my primary, since it’s a really nice leather one.

  3. My newest Bible is a ESV Premium Thinline w/the ESV 2007 text edition, new book summaries and maps placed between the old & new testaments (great spot for them imho). I previously used the old Thinline w/ESV 2001 text–my most marked up one, used mostly during my time at SBTS:). For using in the pulpit, I don’t find the cross references necessary at all; u just need something with a large enough font for ur eyes & hopefully it doesn’t take too much space on the pulpit 😉

    Whatever you get, I would make sure it’s got the latest ESV 2011 text edition. The publication date will clue u in to that.

  4. Not a preacher, so I can’t speak from that angle, but I would not go with the value thinline – the binding on the value editions does not seem to be as good. I have been quite impressed with all of the TruTone bindings I’ve encountered, which is how the non-value Thinline is bound.

  5. I had a ESV Value Thinline that went to pot rather quickly.  So I had it (beautifully) rebinded by Leonard’s Restoration.

    Now since the announcement of ESV2011, I asked Leonard’s what would it take to rebind a new copy and they said, “only $20”.  However, I have to go get the Thinline with Sewn Binding in order to prevent the $20 charge of cording the new BIble.

    My point: you can get any Bible you want as long as the font size is right for you. If you want to keep it for a long long while, have it rebinded.

    1. I would suggest sticking with the ESV Thinline. The Value edition is pretty much the same as regards the text and features…it doesn’t have the bookmark ribbon which bums me out…but not only that, you can definitely see the difference in the quality…I have one that I keep in my car, but it could never be my ‘main’ bible. If you are a regular user of your bible(I know you are) then you will need to go with quality…over a couple of years, you will end up saving money, as I’m sure you’d have to go out and purchase another one pretty quickly…I think if you get a hold of one of the value editions, you’ll see the difference in quality pretty quickly.

      Just my opinion.

  6. I am still waiting for the popular consensus at this point, and I think ESV will have it because of their marketing machine. However, I must say that I currently use the HCSB for my preaching and my own English reading as well. It is the most easily understandable translation — even better than the NIV, I think — and I find it to be more accurate in translation overall than the ESV by quite a bit.

    1. I’m really enjoying the HCSB as well, but I’m not sure I want to make the jump to a new translation, especially after finally getting Emily on board with the ESV. I’ve been using it as back-up reading and for cross-reference work where I either like the way the translators have phrased it or believe it to be more accurate (John 3:16, for example). 

      On a related note, did you see the new ESV updates, by the way? Overall very helpful in terms of fixing the sometimes archaic sentence structure issues that exist in earlier versions. 

  7. For preaching, I use the newer ESV Personal Size Reference Bible. It’s a great all-around Bible. It’s also the main print Bible I use for devotional readings and on-the-go witnessing. I would recommend it. The size is perfect, I think. And although the price is a tad higher ($29.99 lowest), I think a tiny price increase is worth the extra investment into a Bible, that is, assuming you can keep your eye on it this next round. 😉

  8. I used a ESV thinline for a few years but it completely tore up.  About a year ago I purchased the ESV Single Column Reference….It a little bulk to it, but the words are easy to read and every verse has its own line, so it is very easy to find your place in the text.  I went for the calfskin, pricey, but it has a lifetime warranty and I plan to use this thing for the long haul.  Downside…it has been discontinued but some are still out there for the taking.  They are bringing it back in 2012 and calling it the verse-by-verse reference Bible, or the same format without cross-reference called the Single-Column Legacy, designed specifically for preaching.

  9. I use option 3 on your list.  For preaching, I like to keep it simple.  I don’t need a lot of cross references on the pages or maps or whatever.  I just need the text and any other references I need I have probably found in my prep work already.  I find it big enough to read, small enough to carry around and I don’t have to have something extra big or thick when I’m preaching.  I also like holding or carrying my Bible when I preach sometimes, so it’s nice to have something small and light-weight.  The biggest thing for me is that it’s basic and simple which is all I need for preaching.  

  10. I like the ESV Personal Reference Bible (ISBN13: 978-1-58134-679-4).  I like having the single column, the lack of study notes, and the reasonable size (5″ x 7.25″); the one downside is that it is 7.5 point type, which can be a tad small.  I’ve had mine for almost 4 years and used it exclusively for preaching and am just about ready to replace it as well.

  11. Great blog! I’m always encouraged when I read it. I’d say you should the version that you’re familiar with, so in your case, I’d imagine the ESV Thinline. 1) You’ve memorized key locations of Scripture (I have a shaky memory, but with constant exposure to God’s Word, my brain picks up on the general location of where I read it); 2) depending on your pulpit size (or guest speaking schedule) it may be more space saving to have a thinner bible. 

  12.  I have two preaching Bibles I use depending on the text. I have an ESV Thinline bible and an NET Readers edition. I use them based upon which translation seems to be best for the section of text I am preaching. I love the size and the font of the NET RE which is still compact but slightly bigger. The ESV is a beautiful calf-skin edition which there is no way on earth I would have every spent the $150 for, but it was a gift, for which I am thankful. If I had to buy another preaching bible in ESV, it would be a Truetone one which are both affordable and really nice. Thanks for your blogs Aaron!

  13. The ESV value Midnight Flame is the Bible I currently use to study and preach (which I only do occasionally, to be completely aboveboard). In my opinion, it is a perfect Bible to preach from. There are no study notes or red letters or a cross-reference column in the middle of the page to distract the eyes while reading out loud. Plus, the cover softens up enough that you can set your Bible down open to a certain page and the book won’t close on itself and lose your spot. (I have had to do a slight repair job on the cover pulling away from the Bible at spots, but since then it’s been great).

    However, I’ve found cross-references to be an indispensable part of my personal Bible study, so my next ESV (a purchase I will be making in short order) will have to have cross-references in it this time.

  14. As I age — and I hate to be so cliche! — but it’s about the size of the print. Can I easily read it without distracting others by how close I have to hold a bible to me face (or remove / put on glasses)?

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