ESV Journaling Bible

ESV Journaling Bible

The last time we announced a new ESV Bible it was a joke meant to be a late April fools trick (and it worked). But today’s post is no joke.

Because so many readers of the Blank Bible series simply don’t have the equipment or time to make their own, I’ve received a lot of emails about my thoughts on the ESV Journaling Bible. So I finally decided to get a copy and try it out myself (this one came safely to my home in cardboard through FedEx).

After opening the box I had three immediate thoughts: “It’s a lot smaller than I expected” … “It’s more portable than I expected” … and finally, “It’s much more durable than I expected.”

Here are more notes after further reflection (and some field-testing).

1. Size. The font size is small but (as you can see in the picture) slightly larger than the ESV Compact TruTone edition. The marginal note areas are lined for a note taker with small handwriting. The top margin can also be used for notes.

2. Paper color. Also in this comparison you can see that the Journaling Bible features an off-white paper color compared to other ESV Bibles. This may not be a big deal but it does seem to make the already small font a bit tougher to read (by decreasing the contrast of the paper/text).

3. Pen bleed. The biggest factor in determining which Bibles can or cannot be written in comes down to how likely the pages are to bleed (pencils are not my thing). We put our safety goggles on, unlocked the door to our underground TSS testing laboratory and — with my poor handwriting skills and five different pens — we put this new ESV Bible to the test.

From top-to-bottom we used the following pens: a black Pilot Vball extra fine roller, a black Pigma Micron 005, an everyday black ballpoint, a red uni-ball micro roller and one big black uni-ball Deluxe roller (an ink pouring pen I wouldn’t consider for a Bible).

The results were fairly surprising because none (not even the uni-ball Delux roller) bled through the paper. No surprise, the best pen for this Bible was the Pigma Micron 005 available at scrapbook and craft stores. The regular ballpoint pen comes in second. But the bigger point is that these pages successfully absorbed all five inks without bleeding.

Join us tomorrow when we run the Journaling Bible through several more tests: The “Flame Retardant?” test, the “Ran Over By Car” test and (my personal favorite) the “Will It Float?” test. Actually, if I were serious this sturdy Bible would probably fare better than expected.

Unlike the blank Bibles I’ve created in the past, the Journaling Bible is compact and portable. It’s a good substitute if making a Blank Bible is out of the question. If you don’t mind the small font and the paper color, it is a very durable ESV with excellent margins and paper for note taking. You can get the black Journaling Bible for about $18 and the fancy calfskin version for about $41. A small price considering it enables you to carry your Bible and your reflections in one compact volume.


[NOTE: For our review we used the Terra Cotta/Sage edition of the Journaling Bible – ISBN: 1581348959]

16 thoughts on “ESV Journaling Bible

  1. Tony,
    Was the Bible you tested also $18.00. Sorry if I am confused. Thanks for the review!


  2. Hello James. It should also be $18 from Monergism, though I could only find the black edition there. Contact them to see about availability or check other sellers with the ISBN. Blessings! Tony

  3. Unfortunately, I have all but abandoned the ESV due to the small font type. While it is my favorite translation, I cannot bare the small print. I recently bought the new single line version and the cross references in the center column are a strain even with my reading glasses on. Disappointing!

  4. Thanks for the review, Tony.

    I own the calfskin edition and enjoy it greatly. I preach from the NKJV but am coming to find that the ESV and NKJV are often quite close. And even when they differ, each has a cadence of sorts to them that other modern translations don’t.

    A mechanical pencil is my utensil of choice and it works well. Type is smallish but clean and well laid-out. Ample journaling space for a Bible this size.

    Also, $41 for the calfskin is the best I’ve seen. That’s $15 better than Lifeway – and that’s w/a pastor’s discount card. The vastly superior feel (and look) of the calfskin version over its’ black hardback counterpart sealed the deal for me.

    Just a really neat Bible. Crossway hits it out of the park yet again. Go and get ya one. You won’t regret it.

  5. Tony:

    Nice to see you are keeping busy in your basement. When are you able to come out (summer)? I agree with Terry, I went and looked at it when first announced and had too much trouble with the small print and small space for notes. Nice idea but I guess not for the older generation that has fading eyesight.

  6. I keep hoping Hendrickson will put out the ESV in their loose-leaf version. They’ve already got KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, and NRSV.

  7. My big question when I considered the journaling Bible was whether or not I could preach from it. When I preach, I carry short outlines into the pulpit which could fit nicely in the journaling section. But I would want to be able to see the Scripture text with just a glance. I suppose it depends on how good one’s eyesight is. Tony, do you think the text is big enough to read while sitting in front of you on a lectern or pulpit?

  8. Bill: Indeed, my friend we will be taking you up on the offer to SoCal! My wife is due in July though :-/ … I’ll keep you posted. Have a great weekend reflecting on the Cross, Bill!

    Joe: Boy I don’t know if it’s big enough for pulpit reading. My first response is no. I’ve used the Compact TruTone ever since they came out so the small font is not new to me. I think I would struggle a bit. That would be an incredible accomplishment if you could pull off putting all your sermon notes in this journaling bible. I’m thinking a Blank Bible would be the perfect solution. Is this out of the question, Joe?


  9. Tony,
    I have had my journaling Bible for nearly 8 months. I set it aside after the pen I used bled through the pages terribly. I had pulled it out again yesterday morning intending to give it another go. How awesome was it that I read your blog? After work I went over to my local arts and crafts store and purchased a Micron pen. It worked beautifully.

    Thanks for the great review complete with great pics.

    Thanks Tony!!!

  10. Praise God, Michael! I’m humbled that God used this little blog to point you back into your journaling bible. Keep listening and writing as God reveals Himself. Have a great weekend meditating upon the Cross! Tony

  11. Ah yes, the blank Bible. If I had the time and the power tools to make one I might be tempted. Maybe I could win one in your next give-away.

  12. Nice review. I picked up one of these before I saw your article on the blank bible. I found it to be of very good quality and very attractive in its journal-likeness, but I wanted more room to write so I am intending to go the distance an make the blank bible. I have an ESV all ready to go as soon as I can get to a table saw, the project will be rolling. As for the unused journaling ESV, hopefully it will make a nice gift for a friend or family member sometime in the future.

  13. Hey there. Thanks for the review!

    I love this style of bible, and really want one for myself, and my friend.. (my friend had one, and lost it, so as a gift I’m going to get him one).

    My question is this:
    This version is the ESV. I am currently reading from the NKJV, and I like how it reads. What are the differences between the two? Similarities? And is there a NKJ version of the journaling bible?

    Also, after reading around on your blog, I found the blog on “blank bibles.” i’m slightly in a hurry (actually.. I’ve been procrastinating on reading my own bible today), and I didn’t get a chance to actually read the Blank Bibles post, but was curious about them.

    Thanks again for the review!


    ps – will it automatically update me when you reply to this post? if not, can you email me your response? Thanks!!

  14. Hello Robert. I would recommend reading the book The Word of God in English by Ryken for a detailed discussion on translations. The ESV is a great one. And you should take time to read the blank bible posts (I’m afraid I cannot do this for you). I think you will get some good ideas that may provide a second option to the journaling bible. Thanks for stopping in!


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