Bible Editions are Tools

A highly respected and faithful friend of mine heard me deliver this lecture on “Why Bible Typography Matters”, which aimed at getting people to read “reader’s editions” of the Bible, printings with no verse or chapter numbers. The presentation also included a call for future help: “Would you,” I asked the congregation, “let me know how it goes if you try reader’s editions?”

This highly respected and faithful friend of mine was the only person out of my 500 or so hearers to really do this. Many others provided fantastic feedback during the Q&A, but he set the Chinese Bible as a reader’s edition and has sent me valuable thoughts months and months later.

Here’s one of those valuable thoughts:

I have a bit more feedback from reader’s editions of the Bible.

Personally, I’m finding that memorizing from a reader’s edition isn’t as effective as from a Bible with the verse divisions. Yes, I can make myself aware of where the divisions are and what portion I need to memorize, but there’s something about having the verse numbers there that liberates me to focus on that one verse. This is true even when I’m committed to learning the entire passage. When the verses are in separate paragraphs, it’s even better. For some reason, it makes the effort of memorizing seem just a bit more manageable. When memorizing from a reader’s edition, I seem to get discouraged and quit a bit more easily.

That’s valuable feedback, because I never said that reader’s editions of the Bible should replace study and other editions. I said they should be introduced as a complement. Bible editions (like Bible translations) are tools which are useful for certain purposes. For reading big chunks of Scripture, reader’s editions are best, I think. For memorizing, stick with versified editions.

Thanks, highly respected and faithful friend.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.


  1. Andy Naselli on May 4, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    I strongly disagree. I memorize text that I’ve phrased after stripping out the verse numbers. I think it’s much easier to memorize sentences—not verses. More here:

    • Mark Ward on May 4, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      “Different strokes for different folks” (Hezekiah 45:55). =)

      Some more valuable feedback. Perhaps it depends, too, on where you’re memorizing. My good friend once memorized all of Psalm 119. With all that repetition, I wonder if the verse numbers ended up being helpful mnemonics. 1 Corinthians, on the other hand, is an epistle with a particular thought flow and logical order.

  2. barrystewartwilliams on May 5, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Hi Mark – I watched your video with great interest, and then invested in a reader’s edition of the ESV. The huge difference I noticed was that I just kept reading .. and reading … I didn’t break off after a couple of chapters, as I do when I’m following a daily reading plan. Consequently, I got the whole flow of Genesis in my mind in the course of one day. Ditto Exodus on another day. I still use other Bibles for study, but it was a wonderful discovery to find the very different impact it has on me as a reader to just read an entire book as a narrative. I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before! But it doesn’t have to be either/or – using a reader’s edition is great, but so is using the old Bible that I have been reading from for the past 40 years, which is chock full of my own notes (and which has verses, marginal references, etc).
    Best wishes

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