When I started Bible journaling, there were only a couple of journaling Bibles to choose from, and I am so glad that was the case! I don’t know how I would choose today.
I hope to simplify the choices for you.
If you already have a translation of the Bible that you prefer or that is used in your church, you might start by looking for a journaling Bible in that translation. To start searching, just go to Amazon and enter the translation you prefer and “Journaling Bible”. (Catholic friends, a New American Bible, Revised Edition, will soon be available as a Journaling Bible.)
If you don’t have a strong translation preference, then I would recommend the English Standard Version (ESV). Like the King James Version, this is a word-for-word translation of the Bible. The Bible is suitable for scholarly study, reading in worship, and devotional reading. I like this translation of the Bible in every way. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are the previous generations of this Bible. The RSV is the translation my church gave me when I was little, and the NRSV is what I studied in college.
Crossway makes beautiful ESV journaling Bibles that hold up well to all kinds of art supplies. Don’t be confused by the number of different covers. There are just three basic models:
- Double column, a smaller Bible (Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 7.2 inches)
- Single column, just the right size with plenty of room for art (Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 8.4 inches). There are large print options, too! (Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.6 x 9.8 inches)
- Interleaved, a bigger Bible with a whole blank page for art (Dimensions: 7.1 x 2.5 x 10.1 inches)
Personally, I prefer the single column. I like the way that the art and the text intermingle with the single column format. If you want lots of room for art, you might prefer the interleaved. I find the big blank page to be intimidating.
Below is a picture of the three Bibles to help you see the relative size…
And here is the inside so that you can see the different format options…
Beyond the basics, there are now coloring Bibles and so many to choose from. Coloring Bibles are fun because they draw you right in. You don’t have to plan out or design the page yourself; you can just start coloring and spending time in God’s word. If you don’t like how a page is decorated or you just want to do something different, you can either add a tip-in or just cover up the original artwork. I just find it’s nice to have a starting point.
I’ve been quietly collecting coloring Bibles. Often people say that the best place to begin reading the Bible is with the Gospel of John, so I started there and colored the first page of the Gospel of John in seven different Bibles. What surprised me was how each version helped me to reflect on the opening passage from the book of John in a new way.
The coloring Bibles come in different translations. Just to provide some perspective I’ve listed some common translations from the most literal word-for-word translation (King James) to the most paraphrased (The Message).
- The King James Version (word-for-word)
- The New King James Version (word-for-word)
- English Standard Version (word-for-word)
- The Holman Christian Standard Bible (a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought)
- The New International Version–More Bibles are sold in this translation than any other. (A balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought)
- The New Living Translation (Thought-for-thought, a successor Bible to “The Living Bible”)
- The Message (Paraphrase)
We are blessed as English-speakers to be able to read the Bible in our own language at just about any reading level. I think the goal of all Bible translators is to convey the original meaning of the ancient texts while making Scripture inviting and readable. And if we have questions, about a specific translation we can compare it to others or even go online and explore the original Hebrew and Greek.
I’ll share a little about my experience with the various coloring Bibles…
The Inspire Praise Bible: This is a brand new edition of the Inspire Bible with all new line art and a theme of Praise. It is available in the New Living Translation.
What I liked? This is a wonderful devotional Bible. The illustrations are fresh and fun. The Bible has a youthful feel.
Who would like this? This is a good choice for most women, of any age, and a fun Bible to share with those that may be new to the Bible.
How I plan to use it? I plan to use this in my every day devotions. I’ll use it together with my Illustrated Faith Bible Journaling kits, starting this month with Gratitude Documented.
The Inspire Praise Bible devotes a whole page to this passage. The verse that stood out to me with this illustration: “And his life brought light to everyone.”
The Inspire Bible: This is the first edition of the Inspire Bible. I thought it was wonderful. I can’t believe they started from scratch! And I like the new one even more. It’s available in large print.
What I liked? My favorite thing about the Inspire Bible is the selection of verses that are illustrated. They are verses that have spoken to generation-after-generation. I love being about to open the Bible and just start coloring.
Who would like this? A good choice for most women, of any age.
How I plan to use it? I haven’t filled this Bible up, so I’ll continue to use it for my daily devotions when I’m not using the Praise Bible.
In the Illustrated Faith Word Nerd Devotional Kit, the author suggested journaling the first passage of John and focusing on something new. Every time I read this passage, I discover something new!
The Message Canvas Bible: The Message now is available as a journaling Bible and the editors and artists did an amazing job.
What I liked? The illustrations are amazing and so much fun to color. I love how the thoughtful illustration made me reflect on the text.
Who would like this? Anyone who loves The Message or who loves to color. The illustrations are less flowery than other coloring Bibles. I would feel comfortable giving this to either a man or a woman.
How I plan to use this? This is a Bible I would grab to relax, read, and color. It’s a joy!
The illustrator combined the ideas of light and life in this sun with vines. I love the light bursting over the open grave as an image of a light that darkness cannot overcome. As I colored I thought of Jesus as the life and the light. I wondered about the “I am” statements of Jesus in the gospel of John and wrote them all out: The bread of life, the gate, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way the truth and the life, the vine. This was my very favorite page for coloring and meditating on scripture.
My Creative Bible: This is a coloring Bible in the King James Version with many nicely done illustrations.
What I liked? I enjoy coloring and reading the beautiful language of the original King James.
Who would like it? Anyone who prefers the King James Version of the Bible.
How I plan to use it? The Bible has a bit more of a vintage feel to it, so I was thinking of using it together with my Distress inks and markers to create a Bible that has the feel of an art journal.
The Creative Bible puts the most famous verse from each chapter of the Bible on the first page of each chapter. I wanted to focus on John 1, so I made a tip-in inspired by an art journalng page from kath-allthatglitter.blogspot.com.
Praise: A Creative Journaling Bible: This is another illustrated Bible of the King James Version. The illustrations are largely plants and flowers. One strange thing about this Bible: Most journaling Bibles have faint lines for writing. This Bible has thick black lines, thinly spaced. I’m not sure who writes that small?
What I liked? All the artwork is drawn by artist Laura Elizabeth Marshall, which gives the Bible a cohesive feel. I love the gold edge on the pages.
Who would like it? Gardeners and people who like flowers.
How I plan to use it? I’ve been dreaming of doing a Bible journaling project on plants of the Bible.
I colored each of these leaves with three shades of green. As I colored this simple illustration I was filled with awe about how much color and detail goes into all of creation. Since I plan to use this Bible to celebrate God’s creation, I thought it made sense to focus on the verse: “All things were made by him.”
The Beautiful Word: The Beautiful Word Bibles from Zondervan are a series that comes in both small and large print and in two versions (NIV and New King James Version). Some Beautiful Word Bibles come with full-color art. Check and double check that you have the version you want! (Zondervan also produces lovely journaling Bibles without line art in the NIV translation.)
What I liked? I like the simple art. It provides a good beginning for adding detail. For a verse selection starting point, this Bible worked with BibleHub to identify the most searched for Bible verses. The art will draw you into the Bible verses that people are searching for!
Who would like it? Sunday school teachers.
How I plan to use it? The NIV is the translation currently given to children at my church. Since I teach Sunday school, I plan to journal the memory verses and the Bible stories in this Bible.
I added some artwork from Karla Dornacher’s book Bible Journaling – Everlasting Hope to the simple illustrations already on the page. The verse is: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” I enjoyed how the message paraphrases this: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” As I worked on this page I thought about how hope lives in the Gospel of John and also how hope lives in our neighborhoods as Christ lives in each of his followers.
The HCSB Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible for Teens: This Bible says that it is for teens; I think what makes it for teens is that there are some pages inserted with questions that teens often ask about Christianity and the Bible with thoughtful answers. I think this Bible would be fine for any age.
Just speaking personally, I don’t find HSCB translation as inviting as some of the easier to read translations like the New Living Translation. And it doesn’t have the comforting, familiar feeling of word-for-word translations like the King James or the English Standard Bible.
What I liked? I like that the illustrations are more abstract, the text is nicely laid out on the page, and the paper is a crisp white.
Who would use it? Suitable for men or women.
How I plan to use it? I was thinking of using this Bible to write prayers, thoughts, and memories for my husband.
I pulled some colors from the cover of the Bible and just focused on God’s grace. I do love how the HCSB translates John 1:16: “Indeed, we all have received grace after grace from his fullness.”
Can you have too many Bibles? It may take me the rest of my life to fill these in. I think each of these Bibles will end up having a distinct feel and purpose. All of them gave me plenty of inspiration.
Thoughts on Journaling Bibles for Children.
For my kids, age 5 and 10, I simply bought them each a Crossway ESV Journaling Bible. Once a child starts coloring in a Bible and adding stickers and detail, any Bible becomes a children’s Bible. I think The Message Canvas Bible would be a good choice for boys or girls. The Inspire Bible would probably appeal more to girls. Another option for younger children who want to join you in Bible Journaling is My Own Keepsake Bible, a storybook coloring Bible…
Ultimately, the best Bible is the one that you will use and my prayer is that you find one that fits your needs and draws you into the Word and closer to Jesus Christ, light of the World, the Word made flesh.