I used to underline or highlight words, phrases, sentences, or even whole paragraphs in my Bible. But when I bought my last Bible that I would use for my Bible reading and studies, I decided to not make any marks in the actual text itself. Instead, if I am reading for devotional purposes, I write them in a journal. When I do more in depth studies I usually print out a parallel text of the NASB and NLT, using the e-Sword software, and then make any marks on this printout. These then get stored with my notes and saved for later reference if I look at the passage again.
You might ask, why not just mark them in your Bible. I had given some thought to this and the simple answer is that every time I read a passage of scripture I want it to be like the first time I read it. I don’t want to be influenced by what I happened to think was important at some other time in my life but I want the text to come alive to me each time I read it with fresh eyes. God promises that His word is sharper that any two-edged sword and I don’t want to dull its ability to cut me to the quick when I read the text.
Hebrews 4:12-13 NASB For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
Hebrews 4:12-13 NLT For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
Now there’s nothing wrong with underlining and marking you your bible anyway you want if it helps you better understand the message being conveyed. But sometimes all the extra material can be distracting. Or you might miss something in the text or misinterpret it altogether. I want to accurately handle God’s Word so that I not lead myself or anyone else astray.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
So if you happen to look over my shoulder while I have my Bible open, don’t assume that it’s not well used just because it’s not marked up.
This is what I do, maybe it will help you along the way too.