The most important decision in buying a Bible is to decide which translation you want. But there are some other basic features that may help you to narrow down your options. These are all a matter of personal preference and do not impact the content of the Bible. Consider these factors:

  • Text Format
    Every Bible is formatted by book, chapter and verse. So, John 3:16 refers to the book of John, chapter 3, verse 16. Some Bibles start each verse at a new line, while others are formatted by paragraph. Verse formatting makes it easier to find a specific verse. Paragraph formatting is slightly easier to read and has a nicer flow. But it’s harder to find a specific verse because the verse numbers are scattered throughout the paragraph and the numbers are usually very small. A particular version will utilize one format or the other, so take that into consideration when choosing your version.
  • Poetry format
    There are five books in the Old Testament that are poetry books. And throughout other Bible books there may be short sections of poetry. Some versions format this text as poetry, others do not. Again, a particular version will do one or the other exclusively. You can always turn to the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament (just about the center of the Bible) to see which format is being used.
Bible Poetry
  • Red letter edition
    There are many versions of the Bible that print the spoken words of Jesus in red ink.  Just check the gospels (the first four books of the New Testament) to see if a particular version includes this feature.
  • Personal pronouns
    Some versions of the Bible capitalize the personal pronouns (he, him, his, etc.) when that word refers to God and Jesus. Others use standard English grammar rules. A version will do one or the other throughout the entire bible.
  • Book summary
    Many versions include a summary of each book at the beginning of the book.

This was written by the editors and is not part of the Bible text. It will provide the major topics of the book and may include the name of the author, who it was written to and when it was written. It could be as short as one paragraph or as long as a complete page (or more).

  • Maps
    Almost every Bible will have a set of maps at the back of the book. Some have three or four, others have quite a few more. These can be quite interesting when you’re reading the Bible history books. But they may provide more information than is valuable to you. If this is important to you, you’ll want to factor that into your decision criteria.
  • Concordance
    Many Bibles have a concordance. Almost all study Bibles include one, but even some devotional Bibles and text only Bibles will include a concordance. A concordance will be at the back, before the maps and it looks like a dictionary. Instead of giving the definition of a word it will list the major Bible verses where that word appears and will show some of the text surrounding that word. This tool is really helpful in finding a particular verse or verses on a particular topic.
  • Thumb Index
    The thumb index feature comes with many leather bound Bibles and even some hard back copies. If you’re new to the Bible this can be a great help in quickly finding the book you want. If you find a Bible you like, but it does not have this feature, you can also buy tabs that you can be attached to the first page of each book. Be sure to stagger them down the page. If you put them behind each other they are hard to use. Once you’re familiar with the Bible you should try to memorize the book order, as that’s the fastest way to find a specific book.
Thumb Index