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Question

Is it wrong to highlight and/or write notes in a Bible?

highlight a Bible, write in a Bible
Answer


Some people highlight passages in their Bible as they read, and some take copious notes about what they learn, writing in the margins, in the column divisions, between the lines—wherever they can cram some words in. Other people view such annotation as ill-advised or perhaps even sinful.

Those who consider taking notes in one’s Bible as wrong most likely take that position out of a healthy respect for God’s Word and an abundance of caution against sacrilege. They may also have concerns because of biblical warnings like this: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll” (Revelation 22:18).

Whether the concerns stem from fear of judgment or love of God, the short answer is, no, it is not sinful to highlight or make notes in a Bible. Here are some reasons why:

• Our Bibles are already filled with human-added “highlights” and “notes” in the form of chapters and verses. Chapter divisions were added to God’s written Word in AD 1227 by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Verse divisions were added to the Old Testament by a Jewish rabbi in 1448 and to the New Testament by a Christian in 1555.

Study Bibles contain commentary and references to related verses. Some of those commentaries contain errors, or at least express differing opinions among sincere Christians. That is no sin, however; the notes in a study Bible represent efforts to explain God’s Word and to help all Christians reach the goal of unity (John 17:23; Ephesians 4:13)—in this case, unity of knowledge of Scripture.

• Taking notes to help one grow in knowledge about what God has revealed is not adding to Scripture. One’s personal notes are easily distinguished from the text of Scripture. Writing “Praise the Lord!” in the margin next to John 1:12 does not make one an apostle, and no reasonable person is going to mistake that note for an attempt to augment God’s Word.

Some editions of the Bible have wide blank margins on every page, or wholly blank pages facing pages of text, for the very purpose adding personal notes. Notes people choose to make in their Bible include

– main points of an outline
– definitions of words
– highlighting repeated themes or words
– cross references to other verses
– markers of key passages relating major Christian doctrines
– pointers to the next passage in a list (e.g., for following the Roman’s Road)

There is no sin in any of these types of personal study aids.

It is not a sin to highlight or make notes in a Bible. The sin would be to ignore or neglect the Bible and never study it at all. The only way writing in a Bible would be sinful is if the one writing was being purposefully sacrilegious or twisting the Bible’s meaning in order to deceive others, as Satan does (see Matthew 4:1–10).

If those who take notes in their Bibles are trying to obey the command to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), they are to be commended.

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Is it wrong to highlight and/or write notes in a Bible?
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This page last updated: May 16, 2022