Choosing a New Preaching Bible

Roughly four years ago, I purchased my first ESV Bible. It was one of the Thinline editions, with a black spine and brown front face. I read from that Bible on a daily basis, taught through Mark’s gospel with it in our home group, took it on vacations and preached my first sermon with it.

After four years, my Bible had started to look pretty beat up, the way God intended—lots of underlining, crinkled pages and what may or may not have been some minor water damage. It was well read and well loved, to be sure (even if some pages were hard to make out because of all the underlining).

About two weeks ago, I realized that my preaching Bible had disappeared. Somewhere between church, work and home I managed to lose it… which means that it’ll turn up as soon as I buy a new one. It’s funny, though, I didn’t expect that I’d miss that Bible, the way that I do. Not in a creepy, idolatrous way, mind you—there are just a lot of fond memories associated with it.

Anyway, after several days of hunting through the house, I’ve finally given up and resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to have to purchase a new preaching Bible and study Bibles just aren’t practical for the pulpit or lectern (although I could hide my notes completely in one…).

Since I’m scheduled to preach at a friend’s church next weekend (November 20), I’ve got to get moving on this. I think I’ve narrowed it down to three options:

1. The ESV Thinline Bible which I’ve used for years already

2. The ESV Classic Reference Bible which features a reference column in the center of each page

3. The ESV Value Thinline Bible which purports to have most of the same features as the original Thinline but is going for around $10.

I’m kind of leaning toward the value Thinline because of it’s affordability, and we are striving to be very budget conscious in the Armstrong household. That said, I’d definitely appreciate hearing from the preachers out there—what are you using in the pulpit? What do you like about your preaching Bible and what kind would you recommend to another preacher?

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    As I age — and I hate to be so cliche! — but it’s about the size of the print. Can I easily read it without distracting others by how close I have to hold a bible to me face (or remove / put on glasses)?

    • Aaron Armstrong

      That’s a huge point—my vision is terrible as it is, which is why I’ve ruled out the compact ones :)

    • Chris @

      Not there yet… but that’s definitely worth considering !!! :)

  • Jgerb98

    The ESV valuethine line is a great choice!

    • Aaron Armstrong


  • Jared Totten

    The ESV value Midnight Flame is the Bible I currently use to study and preach (which I only do occasionally, to be completely aboveboard). In my opinion, it is a perfect Bible to preach from. There are no study notes or red letters or a cross-reference column in the middle of the page to distract the eyes while reading out loud. Plus, the cover softens up enough that you can set your Bible down open to a certain page and the book won’t close on itself and lose your spot. (I have had to do a slight repair job on the cover pulling away from the Bible at spots, but since then it’s been great).

    However, I’ve found cross-references to be an indispensable part of my personal Bible study, so my next ESV (a purchase I will be making in short order) will have to have cross-references in it this time.

  • Anonymous

     I have two preaching Bibles I use depending on the text. I have an ESV Thinline bible and an NET Readers edition. I use them based upon which translation seems to be best for the section of text I am preaching. I love the size and the font of the NET RE which is still compact but slightly bigger. The ESV is a beautiful calf-skin edition which there is no way on earth I would have every spent the $150 for, but it was a gift, for which I am thankful. If I had to buy another preaching bible in ESV, it would be a Truetone one which are both affordable and really nice. Thanks for your blogs Aaron!

  • Chriswu

    Great blog! I’m always encouraged when I read it. I’d say you should the version that you’re familiar with, so in your case, I’d imagine the ESV Thinline. 1) You’ve memorized key locations of Scripture (I have a shaky memory, but with constant exposure to God’s Word, my brain picks up on the general location of where I read it); 2) depending on your pulpit size (or guest speaking schedule) it may be more space saving to have a thinner bible. 

  • AWHall

    I like the ESV Personal Reference Bible (ISBN13: 978-1-58134-679-4).  I like having the single column, the lack of study notes, and the reasonable size (5″ x 7.25″); the one downside is that it is 7.5 point type, which can be a tad small.  I’ve had mine for almost 4 years and used it exclusively for preaching and am just about ready to replace it as well.

  • Jeph Maagdeleyn

    I use option 3 on your list.  For preaching, I like to keep it simple.  I don’t need a lot of cross references on the pages or maps or whatever.  I just need the text and any other references I need I have probably found in my prep work already.  I find it big enough to read, small enough to carry around and I don’t have to have something extra big or thick when I’m preaching.  I also like holding or carrying my Bible when I preach sometimes, so it’s nice to have something small and light-weight.  The biggest thing for me is that it’s basic and simple which is all I need for preaching.  

  • Tad Thompson

    I used a ESV thinline for a few years but it completely tore up.  About a year ago I purchased the ESV Single Column Reference….It a little bulk to it, but the words are easy to read and every verse has its own line, so it is very easy to find your place in the text.  I went for the calfskin, pricey, but it has a lifetime warranty and I plan to use this thing for the long haul.  Downside…it has been discontinued but some are still out there for the taking.  They are bringing it back in 2012 and calling it the verse-by-verse reference Bible, or the same format without cross-reference called the Single-Column Legacy, designed specifically for preaching.

  • Chris Poblete

    For preaching, I use the newer ESV Personal Size Reference Bible. It’s a great all-around Bible. It’s also the main print Bible I use for devotional readings and on-the-go witnessing. I would recommend it. The size is perfect, I think. And although the price is a tad higher ($29.99 lowest), I think a tiny price increase is worth the extra investment into a Bible, that is, assuming you can keep your eye on it this next round. ;)

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Assume nothing—I have young children and they hide things on me…

  • NDMuscutt

    I am still waiting for the popular consensus at this point, and I think ESV will have it because of their marketing machine. However, I must say that I currently use the HCSB for my preaching and my own English reading as well. It is the most easily understandable translation — even better than the NIV, I think — and I find it to be more accurate in translation overall than the ESV by quite a bit.

    • Aaron Armstrong

      I’m really enjoying the HCSB as well, but I’m not sure I want to make the jump to a new translation, especially after finally getting Emily on board with the ESV. I’ve been using it as back-up reading and for cross-reference work where I either like the way the translators have phrased it or believe it to be more accurate (John 3:16, for example). 

      On a related note, did you see the new ESV updates, by the way? Overall very helpful in terms of fixing the sometimes archaic sentence structure issues that exist in earlier versions. 

  • Joseph Louthan

    I had a ESV Value Thinline that went to pot rather quickly.  So I had it (beautifully) rebinded by Leonard’s Restoration.

    Now since the announcement of ESV2011, I asked Leonard’s what would it take to rebind a new copy and they said, “only $20″.  However, I have to go get the Thinline with Sewn Binding in order to prevent the $20 charge of cording the new BIble.

    My point: you can get any Bible you want as long as the font size is right for you. If you want to keep it for a long long while, have it rebinded.

    • Chris Canuel

      I would suggest sticking with the ESV Thinline. The Value edition is pretty much the same as regards the text and features…it doesn’t have the bookmark ribbon which bums me out…but not only that, you can definitely see the difference in the quality…I have one that I keep in my car, but it could never be my ‘main’ bible. If you are a regular user of your bible(I know you are) then you will need to go with quality…over a couple of years, you will end up saving money, as I’m sure you’d have to go out and purchase another one pretty quickly…I think if you get a hold of one of the value editions, you’ll see the difference in quality pretty quickly.

      Just my opinion.

  • Michael Ekstrand

    Not a preacher, so I can’t speak from that angle, but I would not go with the value thinline – the binding on the value editions does not seem to be as good. I have been quite impressed with all of the TruTone bindings I’ve encountered, which is how the non-value Thinline is bound.

  • Alex S. Leung

    My newest Bible is a ESV Premium Thinline w/the ESV 2007 text edition, new book summaries and maps placed between the old & new testaments (great spot for them imho). I previously used the old Thinline w/ESV 2001 text–my most marked up one, used mostly during my time at SBTS:). For using in the pulpit, I don’t find the cross references necessary at all; u just need something with a large enough font for ur eyes & hopefully it doesn’t take too much space on the pulpit ;-)

    Whatever you get, I would make sure it’s got the latest ESV 2011 text edition. The publication date will clue u in to that.

  • Aaron Armstrong

    Well gang, I did end up going with the Value Thinline edition. Since it’s not for my everyday reading, but primarily for preaching, I’m hopeful that it’ll hold up for a bit. If not, I’ll likely be investing in a better quality one in a few months :)

    • John Coakley, Jr.

      So, Aaron – how well did this one hold up for you? I’m curious because I’m on the same search for a preaching Bible now. Thanks.

      • Aaron Armstrong

        I used the Value Thinline a few times, but was (thankfully) able to find my higher quality Thinline, which remains my primary preaching Bible. If I were preaching at churches that use the HCSB more regularly, I would totally use that as my primary, since it’s a really nice leather one.

  • Chris @

    I recently switched to ESV bible. It’s become my favorite bible translation. I sometimes revert back to my NLT, but it’s good to finally have a word-by-word translation.