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My Perfect Bible

Yesterday, Eric Davis posted If I Could Design My Favorite Bible. His description of the perfect Bible is very nearly my own, so, having recently purchased my own nearly-perfect Bible, I thought I would post my own ideal. It looks like this:

Fine goatskin leather

Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but a good cover can protect it for years, even generations. Furthermore, the type of cover is, in part, what determines if your Bible will lay flat on its own, or flip shut on you when you let it go. The other part is the binding. Therefore, . . .

Smyth-sewn binding

While the fine cover serves an important purpose, it isn’t much good if the pages fall out. That is what will happen, eventually, with a glued binding. The more immediate benefit of a sewn binding is its flexibility. Lay it open on a table, desk, or your lap in church, and it will lie there nicely, leaving your hands free to restrain that rambunctious lad sitting next to you.

Large font

Once upon a time, not that long ago, in a land not so far a way—right here, actually—this didn’t matter. Now, it does. I don’t know why.

Double column

Single column is fine for compact editions, but on wider pages like you are going to have in any large print book, it’s easier to track from line to line across a narrower column. In my double-column Bible (contra Mr Davis), my eyes hardly have to move. In addition to reading ease, I have to believe that lessens eye fatigue.

Paragraph layout

Davis says double-column format “has the appearance of a dictionary or reference guide rather than a readable text,” but then, ironically, advocates one-verse-per line formatting because “verses are meant to be found, identified, and referenced.” Highlighting the irony, he admits that “it does interrupt the flow of the read a tad,” which is exactly why I prefer paragraph layout. Certainly, it is handy at times to be able to quickly pick out a verse, but Scripture is meant to be read and absorbed as a whole, not chopped up into disconnected bites.

Narrow margins

This is a personal preference of mine. As one who does not write in his Bible, wide margins are just space-wasters that add to the size of an already-large Bible.

Black letters

Red letters give the impression that some words are more inspired or important than others. Furthermore, not all Bibles agree on which words are Christ’s (compare various translations of the book of Revelation). Moreover, red print is harder to read than black.

Footnotes and cross-references

Center or side-column references are a distraction, and take up too much space. My new Bible places all notes at the bottom of the page.

No extra-textual additions

I would compromise and retain chapter and verse numbers because you have to have some point of reference if you want to remember where you read something, but I can do without the added headings.

Heavy-weight paper

For me, this is a balancing act. My hands don’t work well, so I don’t want a Bible so thick that I can’t easily get a grip on it. On the other hand, super-thin paper makes the pages difficult to separate and turn.

High-opacity paper

I didn’t know that high opacity adds weight, but I guess it makes sense. I can’t imagine, though, that it would be enough to make any perceptible difference. I like opaque paper, and if you write in your Bible, you’ll want it even more.


The NASB is still the most accurate English translation, and accuracy is the number one priority. The ESV is a great translation, but I honestly don’t think it’s such a great improvement in readability—or maybe I should say, I don’t find the NASB difficult. In any case, I would never trade accuracy for readability. If I need to improve my literacy to understand the text, so be it.

This is not to say the NASB needs no improvement. I’m sure it could be made more accurate, but that’s for better scholars than I to judge. I wish they would eschew the capitalized pronouns as the pseudospiritual affectation they are (as the ESV does); I wish they would do away with the replacement of Yahweh with Lord; most of all, I wish they would abandon tradition and entirely omit the extra-biblical passages found in brackets (most notably, Mark 16:9ff and John 7:53–8:11).

Fortunately, I don’t have to design my own to get most of these features. I recently purchased the most beautiful Bible I’ve ever held in my hands, the Schuyler Quentel from* It’s available in four translations (including ESV), three sizes (identically formatted and paginated), and five colors. My antique marble brown thinline fulfills my desires almost to a T.

Beginning with the binding, it’s goatskin covered (including the flyleaf) and smyth-sewn. At just under 1½ inches thick (1.1" advertised), it’s easy to grip. The page edges are “red under gold,” the effect of which is that they appear red or gold, depending on the light and angle at which they are viewed.

The paper (28 gsm) is quite a bit thinner than Davis’s ideal, but it is thick enough to handle nicely, and considerably thicker than the typical thinline (as is the Bible itself). Opacity is not listed, but I’ve seen pages a lot more transparent than these. Line matching is also employed, which means the lines on both sides of the page line up, eliminating the shadow effect you would otherwise see between the lines.

The font is a clear 11-point. The layout is simple and elegant: two columns of paragraphs in black print with dark red page headers and chapter numbers, with notes at the bottom of the outside column and cross-references at the bottom of the page. The only distracting feature is the extra-textual headings included, but that’s a small complaint.

Other than several nice maps and blank, lined pages in the back, there are no extra features, which suits me fine. I’ve never seen a back-of-the-Bible concordance that contained anything I was looking for, anyway. No extra features keeps the bulk down.

I love this Bible. It’s a sturdy binding, with easy-to-read format and print, but not bulky. And it’s beautiful. I ordered the antique brown, because I’m usually wearing brown shoes (yes, I’m serious). I’ve thought of getting a matching black one for when I’m wearing black shoes (still serious, but I probably won’t).

The price was a bit steep, but if you own a smart phone, you’ve spent as much or more on a gadget you don’t need, is probably hurting you, and you will replace—probably already have replaced—many times.

Did I mention, I love this Bible? It could very likely be the last one I buy. I can’t imagine finding one that fits my requirements more exactly.



* This is not a paid advertisement. I just really like this Bible.

Posted 2018·03·08 by David Kjos
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