Freed to live through the death of another.

Thinking About How You Read

A few years back I was struck by the realization that the way I read the Bible was being handicapped by the way the pages were laid out. Here are just a few examples.

  • The pages are laid out in columns. What other book is laid out like that? When I read the Bible, I was subconsciously aware I was reading the Bible, and that affected the manner in which I read. It occurred to me that I couldn’t really read the letters like they are letters or the stories like they are stories because I was thinking ‘this is the Bible’ while I was reading.

  • There are chapter and verse numbers everywhere. This means that all the problems from above apply, and more. Now I’m subconsciously inserting breaks in thought in wherever there are numbers on the page. But the writers of the Bible didn’t put the numbers there, and so very often the numbers are in awkward spots, creating divisions where there shouldn’t be one. I wasn’t seeing connections between sentences and paragraphs because my eyes were reading artificial breaks into the text.

  • There are paragraph headings. While these are sometimes useful if I’m trying to find something in a hurry, they are a pain more often than not. They tell me the point of what I’m about to read before I read it–which necessarily limits my own ability to process the text and analyze it on my own, which would result in better learning, and longer-lasting ability to recall what I’ve read.

  • The spelling is wrong. This only applies to those of us north of the border, and you can call me crazy or say I have OCD or whatever, but I do notice when a book spells words the American way (i.e. ‘Savior’ instead of ‘Saviour’). It just catches my eye and distracts me.

And then on top of these things, there is never enough room on a page of the Bible to write any good notes or draw lines connecting thoughts, or things like that.

So what have I done about it? I’ve taken matters into my own hands and created my own Bible. Sacrilegious as it sounds… it’s not. I go to the ESV website, adjust the preferences so that it doesn’t show chapter & verse numbers or paragraph headings, and then display a whole book. Copy and paste that into your word processor with Canadian spell check and bingo-bango, there ya go.

Once the doc is in your word processor, you can lay it out on the page however you want. I generally will do 1.5 line spacing, and leave large margins on the top, bottom, and sides of the page. Hit ‘print’ and you’ve got your own copy of the book to read, mark-up, and learn from.

Try it once and I guarantee it changes the way your read the book.

The way you lay out the words on the page will have a lot to do with your personality and the way you like to read and mark-up your Bible, so try a few different ways. Think hard about what distracts you from focusing on the words on the page and try to eliminate those to enhance your ability to freely read and understand the biblical text.

The only thing you need to do is respect copyright laws. Don’t distribute copies of your books. I think you’re okay to do this for your own personal use though (from the little I understand of copyright laws).

I’ve uploaded a couple pages of the book of James of my version, so that you can see it, if you like. I’ve only done the first little bit of the book here though, because I can’t reproduce more than 50% of the book.

Download the pdf of the first part of James.

Let me know if you meet with any success!


  1. Joe

    Good idea ! I’ve started to move towards single-column Bible reading myself. I’ve seen a few similar posts like this, where folks also add a blank page between their printed Bible pages for journaling, notes, etc.

    I like the look of the PDF of James from your example here. It’s definitely a new way to read.

  2. Mark

    But if God wrote “Savior” and not “Saviour” in the original English and the oldest manuscripts, who are you to change it?

    OK. I’m joking.

    This is an interesting idea, and I think you are right, it is good to do whatever it takes to be able to focus on the text itself, and not the little formating nuances.

    What you said about the column layout is interesting, I never thought about that before. It certainly makes readers eyes jump up and down rather than across the page! It’s laid out more like a newspaper than a book.


  3. DErifter

    The spelling is wrong.

    “Why are we always the ones to accommodate? :-)”

  4. NJC

    That’s a brilliant idea mate. I’ve had the struggle since travelling of having to have this mega small Bible that fits easily into my bag, which, while handy to have, means that I can’t write a thing in it, and it doesn’t have the handy study notes that I appreciate from my at home Bible!

    Can you print it out like that with the footnotes at the bottom still? I suppose that would almost defeat the purpose…

    Hey yeah, and I mentioned your service in my blog. Now you’ve reached true fame!

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