Scribbles in the Bible -- Disrespectful?


I was thinking about highlighting, marking things, underlining, and making notes in a bible to help me memorize and digest scripture. I used to take notes in a separate journal but I’ve found that in-text notes are much more helpful. I can’t help but think that there is some degree of negligence or disrespect when doing this.


If it helps you to better understand the Word, I don’t see why it would be disrespectful to write notes.


I don’t think so if it’s your Bible.


I don’t think it is disrespectful. It shows you are a serious student of Scripture! I used to highlight and underline in the Bible all the time when I was younger and attending certain Bible study classes.


No, I don’t think so. Side notes and such long historical traditions in the Church and among other Christians.

The Masoretic text is a Hebrew version of the Old Testament that had dots or other indications about the characters to ENSURE the correct pronunciation and interpretation, for example. I haven’t found a Jewish commentary that criticized that. That version is the basis of the modern Hebrew/English texts used by Artscroll and the Jewish Publication Society.

It is thought that earlier than that, some scribal notes on the earlier Hebrew versions had actually become incorporated into the text of the scripture. We like to think that the ancient Hebrew texts were all the same but they were not. Part of the historical criticism of the Hebrew scriptures was and is a matter of sorting these things out.

There’s little danger that your sidenotes will be incorporated by some publisher in the future. Some study bibles include margins for just that purpose of making notes. Most commentaries are exactly that, called catenas (chains) where the scripture is one link followed by notes followed by more scripture, etc.

I’ve had a NAB version since the early 1980’s that I bought at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Wash.DC. It’s all marked up from my earlier reading. I’m surprised what I found previously and highlighted that I now have no recollection of. It’s an aid to my reading, rather than the reverse.

To each his own.


It is good that you took the time to ask this. It is good to respect holy things.

Perhaps sticky notes would be more suitable. Or, I wonder, are there such things you can get that would cover pages, allowing you to write over them with a marker without damaging the page? Almost like laminating individual pages. That would be very handy.


I’m going to say it depends on intent. Since you’re doing it to memorize and better understand, I would say there’s no problem. Faithful people do it all the time, and there are even “journal Bibles” with extra wide margins just for the purpose of making notes. If you were defacing it to be disrespectful, that would be another story.


If you own the book, take all the notes you need. We don’t worship the paper. God would be very pleased to see you taking notes.


Let me be the first to say that it’s just you. I’m not sure I remember any hardline rules about the sanctity of a physical Bible. The Word is not bound to that of the paper it’s on. :shrug:


Michelle Arnold answered a similar question in this post:

I personally think that it’s just fine to write and highlight in your Bible if it helps you as long as you’re not purposefully writing things in there that are disrespectful.


If it’s your Bible, than I don’t see how that’s a sin. It’s helping you to get closer to Christ.


I had this same question cuz when I teach sixth grade the parish gives the kids a Bible and I wanted to use it. Every week we highlight the stories we are learning about. I asked if it was ok and I was told that using and marking in the Bible was encouraged. We use gel highlighters and they do not bleed through


I think we can distinguish between the Bible as a communication from God and a Bible as the copy you own, printed on paper pages with margins. The words and their meaning are sacred, but the pages and margins are just the medium. It seems to me that there is no disrespect in marking your personal copy of the Bible.


Absolutely no disrespect! I believe the Lord would rather us to make notes to help us study His Word. If it enables you to learn it is good. :slight_smile:


Scribbles disrespectful? Yes. Underlining and making notes? No.


Writing notes and highlighting things in a personal Bible is absolutely OK as a means of helping you appreciate or understand the Word of God. Scribbling your grocery list on the back cover might be a bit disrespectful, but notes related to the text within are certainly not so when the Bible is for your own personal use.


Many people do that sort of thing (though most that I’ve heard that do that are Protestants. The reason? Catholics generally try to look at scripture as a whole - which is why at Mass, we hear from long passages, not just individual verses taken out of context). I would honestly find doing so to be quite distracting from my reading, anyway. Catholic Bibles already have footnotes (though some translations have better footnotes than others - the NAB, while a decent modern language translation, IMHO, has horrible footnotes in places) and cross-references already marked in the text. And I find that every time I read through the Bible, I discover something new - and God speaks to me in a way that I wouldn’t get otherwise. I would think that having in-text notes would prevent me from doing this - or, would become messy as my understanding changed over time. Also, one has to be careful. Many Bibles are printed on tissue-thin paper, and ink could seep through the pages.

But congratulations on wanting to understand the Bible! My suggestion, though, would be to get a good Catholic concordance (with proper Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat) to go along with your Bible - it’ll help you understand the Catholic teachings in even the most difficult of passages (like when it appears, in the OT, that God is advocating genocide).


actually, I’ve heard it recommended that you get one Bible for study and one for prayer. :smiley:

Highlight a mark as you need in your study Bible… and keep the other for those times where you need to here the breeze and not the storm.


I personally do not believe it is disrespectful… I might have years ago before my conversion, but now, no. I believe God’s Word is more well loved when you have marks and comments. To me, it shows that you absolutely care about God’s word when you are pondering and milling over what He has said because its super important to you. (Jesus does command us to ‘chew’ over what He has said.) I imagine God would feel the same way as I do, that He would not feel any disrespect over it. Even scapulars get dingy and dirty and those are blessed and holy objects. I think as long as you aren’t *being *disrespectful in the comments then you are ok.

I once met a man right before my conversion who was a protestant and was helping me with some issues I had.  I was impressed because he had marked the whole thing up and down on every page and I could see the notes, highlights and comments he made in it was very helpful to him to help me.  His Bible was well used and well loved, and I think that's the way it ought to be.  I could tell by his Bible that what God says is **very** important to him. 

 If you think that there is some sort of disrespect in doing this, why not purchase another Bible that you keep clean of marks?


While I’ve not done this, personally speaking I can’t imagine it is that disrespectful, given you’re “scribbling” to aid your understanding! When I buy 2nd hand books I actually like seeing other people’s margin notes because it shows the book has been used and loved.

What is IN the Bible is incredibly special. But the physical object, is just like any other book. If you’d write in another book, write in a Bible. Maybe if you can, have a study Bible (maybe a larger size) to do this in, and a “neat” one perhaps for reading at other times. Just my pennyworth…

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