Get a Bible You Like to Use

This is a cut from my book that I’m not including so I can stay within my word count. This is from the chapter “The Role of Prayer and Scripture in Your Productivity”:

Have a Bible you like to use. It’s true that what really matters is the Bible itself, not the particular format it’s in. We should love the Bible simply because it is God’s word, no matter what kind of cover it has or what paper it’s printed on. But as long as you have a choice, get a Bible that you like to use, because you will probably use it more if you do. This can be dangerous—if you are more excited about the way your Bible works than the content itself, that’s a problem. But assuming you aren’t going to have that problem, get a Bible you will enjoy using.

I’m taking it out of the chapter because my focus is on how to read and study your Bible well (and faithfully), not what kind to have. But, the point is true (as long as you heed the caution as well).

And, though this wasn’t originally part of the chapter, I’d point you to Crossway as a great place to find such a Bible. They do a great job of making their Bibles a joy to use.

In fact, I’ll go one step further. About 8 years or so, shortly after the ESV had come out, I was at a banquet Crossway was holding at the Christian Booksellers Convention and they gave away calfskin versions of the ESV (or, at least a few of them–somehow I ended up with one).

Calfskin is a type of leather that is really cool. It’s the best type, or one of the best, and is much more interesting than regular leather or bonded leather. It’s also super expensive. I think most calfskin Bibles are about $150 or $200.

My first thought was “this doesn’t seem wartime. If this hadn’t been given to me, I’m not sure it would be right to spend this much on a Bible.” My thinking was: God teaches us in the Scriptures to be focused on others, not ourselves, and so the last place he would want us to spend a lot of money is on our Bible.

And, there is something right and good about that instinct.

However, I have really enjoyed the calfskin Bible that I received. For some reason, I just like it, and it is super durable and lasts. And so, when I got my next Bible, I also got a calfskin.

And so, if you are in the market for a Bible and able to, I recommend getting a calfskin Bible. That is super risky to say, because it truly would be horrible for us to get picky about what kind of cover we have on our Bibles and lose sight of the fact that the words are what matter. If losing sight of that seems like a temptation, don’t get the calfskin. But if that doesn’t seem like a temptation, go for the calfskin, use it a lot, and keep it for a long time. Crossway’s selection calfskins is here. (I don’t get any compensation for recommending them, by the way; I’m only recommending them because I find them so useful.)

Two final things on Bibles: If you have a choice between that cordovan (reddish) type color and black, I think black is better. More importantly, whatever kind of Bible you get, always get one that has a cross-reference system in it (where related passages and passages with similar themes are listed in the margin). Looking up cross references is one of the most helpful and significant ways to grow in your understanding of the Bible.

OK, enough on the logistics of choosing Bibles. What truly matters is that you read it, know it, believe it, and obey it.

  • Ben

    Matt, I would like to point to a post by Mark Bertrand of the Bible Design Blog, who takes on this question. I don’t think $100-200 on a high quality Bible is problematic when you consider the impact that quality binding, typesetting, sewing, etc. make on the usability and durability of a very important tool in our arsenal as believers.

    Also, I’m not sure the economics really work out that differently anyway: A high-quality goatskin Bible should easily last 10-20 years. Compare that with the ESV tru-tone thinline Bibles which—while the price is right—with substantial use will need to be replaced every few years.

    A great option, by the way, is the Cambridge Pitt Minion in goatskin. It’s only $100, extremely high quality, and has a decent cross-referencing system for its size.

    Here is Mark’s post on guilty pleasure with Bible design:

  • Brett

    Ben beat me to the punch. I read this post in my google reader and then came to your website so I could point people to Mark’s website ( But beware if you go the website, it may end up impacting your wallet. There is a “Bible Design Blog” facebook page as well. And you can get them cheaper used on ebay as well as at the “The Bible Exchange” community page on facebook.

    People spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on all kinds of hobbies, fine furniture, etc. Why not drop a Franklin or two a quality Bible that can last a lifetime and become a family heirloom?

    Rebinding a Bible with your already written notes in it is another great option. My wife’s ESV Bible is a deerskin rebind from Leonard’s in Indiana. She loves it!

    Thanks for posting on this topic, Matt.

  • Sam

    Ben and Brett both beat me to it.

  • Scripture Zealot

    You killed a poor deer so that your Bible would last longer?

    Many Bibles are sold pretty inexpensively for some reason. $100 for some thing of infinite value that feels good and lasts a long time isn’t self indulgent at all.