What’s In Your Bible? Questions or Answers?
By Beth Demme
What do you see when you flip through the pages of your Bible? Do you see highlights? Notes? Randomly placed bookmarks? I invited you to send in photos of your Bibles so I could see, What’s In Your Bible? Your photos taught me a lot.
Sometimes we mark verses for educational and, perhaps, impersonal reasons. But for the most part, I think we mark verses that speak to us. The reason for each note or highlight is unique to our life, our circumstances, and our relationship with God.
Sometimes reading the Bible leads to questions instead of answers.
Joy sent in this photo of the Bible she received as part of her confirmation class in 1990. She opened it to Matthew 2 for me. She has a note next to the Beatitudes describing them as a “Bill of Rights”—this was a new idea for me, so I added the same note to my Bible.
Can you see the question Joy wrote in the left margin? She asks herself whether God still speaks through dreams today. What do you think? Does God still speak through dreams today?
Where would you write that in your Bible? Is there a biblical dream that speaks to you?
Notice that Joy has underlined in both pink and in black. She probably studied this passage more than once. Sometimes our understanding grows layer by layer. Bible study isn’t “one and done.” Each re‑reading has the potential to reveal new information or lead us to a new insight. This doesn’t mean God is changing. Sometimes this reveals to us how much we’ve changed, how limited our initial understanding was, or how God has been with us on our journey.
Speaking of change, I have a note on Genesis 32:28 when God changes Jacob’s name to Israel.
This name change is important to understanding the rest of the Bible because it tells us the origin of Israel. It’s also important because Jacob becomes Israel by struggling with God, not blithely or weakly submitting to God. It seems Jacob doesn’t have the submissive and trusting faith of his grandfather, Abram. Rather, Jacob’s faith is strengthened by the struggles he experiences.
I relate to both men.
It’s worth reflecting on how my faith journey has progressed lately. Have I been struggling with God like Jacob, or saying “Yes, Lord” like Abram?
Also, this passage makes me wonder: if God changed my name, what would he call me?
Some of my notes are questions about things I would like to study further. For example, I have a note on Exodus 25:17-18. These verses are part of a long passage where God tells Moses how to build the Tabernacle.
Then you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its width. You shall make two cherubim of gold; you shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy seat.
I have a note here because I want to put more time into studying “the mercy seat,” but I also have a note that says: “What are cherubim? How did Moses know [about them]?”
In order for Moses to fashion cherubim from gold, he must have had some notion of what they looked like, right? My note reminds me to look into where, how, and when Moses might have gotten information on cherubim.
A few pages later I have a note that says only “underwear.” In Exodus 28:42, God tells Moses to have the priests (Aaron and his sons) wear “linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh; they shall reach from the hips to the thighs.”
On the one hand, this might make God sound like a prude and a micro-manager. On the other hand, it reminds me that God is all about the details.
My note about underwear makes me wonder, what is God doing with the details of my life?
The Bible is meant to be wrestled with (see Genesis 32:25-28 above), not handled delicately. It’s okay to dig in, make notes, and ask questions. In fact, I think it’s imperative for Christians to do this.
In asking you to let me glimpse into your Bible, I underestimated how personal that glimpse would be. It turns out, when you look into someone’s Bible, you look into their heart a little. Thank you to everyone who shared photographs and stories with me. If you didn’t send a photo, but you would like to, please do it! (E-mail me) I would love to see What’s In Your Bible.
I want to close out the series by sharing a few photographs of Bibles people received as gifts. These pictures remind me the Bible can be a gift in several senses.
The Bible is a gift from God because God uses it to share insights and truths with us that we can’t ascertain on our own. Also, the Bible itself can be given as a gift.
A Bible can be gifted to a child to encourage them to have God at the center of their life—like these Bibles, given to my husband when he was growing up.
A Bible can also be a special keepsake to mark an important occasion.
Remember my friend Yinka? The one who loves boiled peanuts and the Relevant Podcast? He told me that he recently visited his dad and found eight Bibles. Among them was a Bible his parents bought for each other to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. His mother has since passed away, but his father still has the Bible as a special remembrance of his beloved wife. Yinka was also moved to find this Bible, presented to his father by a mentor in 1985:
There are layers of meaning and significance in The Bible, but that can also be true of your personal copy of the Bible. This Bible was meaningful to the mentor, Yinka’s father, and to Yinka.
Thanks, again, to everyone who shared photos. You’ve taught me a lot.
What about you? What have you learned from looking at What’s In Your Bible? Are you more willing to write in your Bible than before? Do you have a new appreciation for a gift Bible that’s been lingering on a shelf? Tell me about it in the comments, by e-mail, or on Facebook.
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