The Value of a Blank Bible

Did you see the new ESV loose-leaf Bible?

I’m the “blank Bible guy” which explains why a handful of you contacted me via email to ask me this question. Between the lines I can hear what you’re really asking: Is this a suitable replacement for that little homespun, labor-intensive, finger-endangering, blank Bible project you’ve been trying to convince us to undertake?

Well of course the new loose-leaf will certainly make the goal of the blank Bible easier to achieve (namely blank space) and you will more likely keep all your fingers. But I have my misgivings. It’s not cheap, for one. And I personally prefer the portability of the smaller blank Bible (as outlined in my series). I’m not sure I want to haul around a binder.

To date 25,000 folks have visited the blank Bible tutorial on this blog. A few dozen have completed the blank Bibles. I’ve seen photos of many of these completed projects and they look wonderful.

But whether you choose the most personally gratifying option (making a blank Bible) or you choose the route of least resistance (loose-leaf), it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you use it, take notes in it, and make good use of all that blank space.

Apparently Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte (1836-1921) made good use of the white space. While reading his biography the other night, I learned that he used a blank Bible. And from the sound of it, he really liked the Bible, too, so much so that he wanted to convince others of the usefulness of the blank Bible (sound familiar?).

In his early 60s, Whyte mailed a blank Bible to a youg friend. He included a note that was reprinted in the bio, a note I think you might get a kick out of reading (and perhaps get kicked into making your own blank Bible).

In a note to a young pastor, Whyte wrote:

Edinburgh, May 13, 1901.

Dear Hubert,

I send for your acceptance today an Interleaved Study Bible. I have used such a Bible ever since I was at your stage of study, and the use it has been to me is past all telling.

For more than forty years, I think I can say, never a week, scarcely a day, has passed, that I have not entered some note or notes into my Bible : and, then, I never preach or speak in any way that I do not consult my Interleaved Bible. I never read a book without taking notes for preservation one way or other. And I never come in my reading on anything that sheds light on any passage of Scripture that I do not set the reference down in my Bible over against the passage it illustrates. And, as time has gone on, my Bible has become filled with illustrative and suggestive matter of my own collecting; and, therefore, sure to be suggestive and helpful to me in my work.

All true students have their own methods of collecting and husbanding the results of their reading. But an Interleaved Bible is specially suitable and repaying to a preacher. The Bible deserves all our labour and all our fidelity; and we are repaid with usury for all the student-like industry we lay out upon it.

If you wish a talk, and have anything to ask me about this method—come and let us have a talk.

Praying that you may be the most industrious, prayerful, and successful of ministers.

With high regard,

Alexander Whyte *

Whyte’s little letter surprised me and made me think, perhaps other blank Bibles have been used in church history? Besides Whyte and Jonathan Edwards (whose blank Bible was my inspiration), have you read anywhere of other famous folk using an “interleaved” or “Blank” Bible?

How about you? Do you have a blank Bible? Use it? How have you benefited?


*As quoted in G. F. Barbour, The Life of Alexander Whyte (Hodder & Stoughton 1924), pp. 289-290.

Blank Bible featured in Seattle

tsslogo.jpgStephen Smith serves as both editor of the ESV blog and Crossway’s Director of Information Services. This past weekend he presented a lecture at the BibleTech08 conference in Seattle on “The ESV and Bible Usability.” In his presentation he cited the Blank Bible “phenomena” started right here on The Shepherd’s Scrapbook. In his presentation he says,

The typical physical features of a Bible are familiar: its type size, physical size, layout, and binding. Also important are any extra features in the Bible—from maps to notes to cross-references. But just as important are things that people do to customize their Bibles. Some people buy a cover for their Bibles; some people decide to re-cover their Bibles; and some people want so much more space for note-taking that they take a printed Bible, slice off the binding, insert empty sheets of paper between the Bible pages, and rebind their Bible more to their liking. The result is what’s called a “blank Bible.” A number of people have created these Bibles; I like to link to them from the ESV blog because it shows how people can get really invested in their Bibles. I get the feeling that we’d value our Bibles a lot more if we had to assemble and bind them ourselves.

You can read more of Stephen’s presentation here, and download a PDF copy of his presentation slides (see slide 31).

And of course you can see our very own Blank Bible Index to find information (and motivation) to create one of these Bibles for your own use and growth.

Happy slicing, punching, and binding!

Successful Blank Bible

tsslogo.jpgStephen Newell is the Associate Pastor of Louisville Baptist Deaf Church and a blogger. Currently his blog features a series documenting his successful Blank Bible project. The series is titled, The Blank Bible Chronicles, and Stephen took some nice photos of the entire process. I encourage you to check it out.

Patterned after the TSS Blank Bible series, he did a great job following our instructions with precision (note the gender stereotype undermined here).

Nice work on your Blank ESV, Stephen!