The Perks of Reading a Digital and Physical Bible

Feb 28, 2015

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on

This week God has been wanting me to stop using the phone first thing in the morning. Yes, it wakes me up. But as soon as I turn the alarm off, I am faced with a decision. In the past, I have unlocked my phone, and my blood pressure inevitably rises as soon as I see all of the messages and activity from other people. I then get sucked in and read updates, email, social media, etc. Before I even say a prayer, my day has started with busyness.

My heavenly Father wants me to start my day with him. Before anything else I need to humble myself before Christ and take up my cross. I invite the Holy Spirit to stand up in me, lead me, and give me wisdom for the day ahead. When I don’t start my day with God, I feel like a child who has almost learned to swim being asked to swim to the other side of a large pool without any floaties. At the end of the day or the other side of the pool I arrive with a stomach full of pool water, exhausted, stressed, and strained.

God tells us to be immersed in his word all day long not only for our health, but for the benefit of the next generations (Deuteronomy 6:7,8,9). With that directive, I believe an all-of-the-above approach to Bible reading and study is best. However, in order to really benefit it is important to match your intake to your needs and setting.

Every weekend service during the message Dan Carroll or a visiting teacher invites the audience to open their Bible or mobile device to read scripture. One of Dan’s mentors, Jack Hayford, has a preference for the physical Bible itself saying that it can become like a friend. I respect both men and in the past have been split on this issue of which device to use. Lately, using both digital and physical Bibles more regularly I have begun to form my own opinion.

Digital devices are excellent when commuting because while our eyes are on the road, our ears can be listening to the Bible being read by someone else. Ingesting the Bible this year has been wonderful and the majority of it has been via listening. I started in January 2014 reading the New English Translation, then switched to The Message version for a bit, I fell a couple months behind then decided to switch to listening. I tried audio from the New International Version, the King James Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, The Message, and settled on the audio from the New Living Translation. Since I got a high school teaching job in August 2014, I have been listening to it on my mobile phone during my 40 minute commute time. It has been a safety challenge, however, when I try to highlight an outstanding verse while driving.

When I first get out of bed now, I turn off my alarm, head to the living room and kneel down to commit my day to God. I pray and read the Bible with my eyes. I find the wee hours of the morning are good for memorizing a Bible verse when I have minimal distractions. And although I use my phone for scripture memorization (FighterVerses app), I also write down verses on 3×5 cards that when I reference them at a later date always speak strength to me. I sometimes get out my physical Bible to read the commentary (currently the NET version), highlight a passage, and hand write some notes, but more often I read on a device. I have thousands of highlights in various Bible apps and websites including Lumina, Bible Gateway, and YouVersion. The place I write the most is my journal books. It is there that I reflect on struggles, lessons learned, scripture, and dreams. However, I believe God now wants me to write more for a public audience, hence this blog.

The days may return when there will not be enough electricity or connectivity to read or listen to the Bible on my phone, but for now I want to use it as a resource with which God has blessed me. However, if you are a person that gets distracted easily, the physical Bible is the place for you to start your day. The chart below has some of the pros and cons of each way of taking in God’s Scriptures.

Pros for Digital Bible

Pros for Physical Bible

mobility, it’s easy to carry

distraction free interface

differentiated learning (e.g. audio and/or reading. I can listen to it during commute time.)

all your notes and highlights are more durable than digital bits and will not be accidentally deleted or made inaccessible

ease of accessing and cross-reference other literature (e.g. Bible versions, Commentaries, Concordances, Greek/ Hebrew word studies, Dictionaries, Maps, etc.)

creates a personalized heirloom for your children

Easy to share/copy/paste verses

communicates to others under the same roof that you are spending time in the Bible.

Cons to Digital Bible

Cons to Physical Bible

distraction prone

not as many cross-references to other Bible literature (e.g. Bible versions, Commentaries, Concordances, Greek/ Hebrew word studies, Dictionaries, Maps, etc.)

safety hazard if highlighting while driving

cannot read it safely while driving

too many options can leave you overwhelmed

cannot copy and paste it to share insights with others electronically without retyping

dependent on Internet connectivity and electricity

June 14, 2020

Reading this post five years later, I still agree with what I wrote back in 2015. I still wake up early to spend time with Jesus, eat my literary manna for the day, and spend time in prayer. I have gone through the whole Bible five times in the last five years. My favorite reading plan so far is the McCheyne Reading plan, and in YouVersion you can listen to it in any version of the Bible. However, this year I’m trying the ReadScripture reading plan from Francis Chan. The early morning hours contain fewer distractions and I can better listen to what the Holy Spirit would say. In a future post I plan to compare and contrast English Bible translations especially those published in the last 10 years (2010-2020).

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