The first step to effective Bible study is to observe what is in God’s word. I know of no better way to observe what is in God’s word than by using colored pens while reading the Bible.
For years I have used a system of six different colors of pens to observe what is in God’s word. In this post, I will show you how to use specific colors to distinguish different elements of God’s word in order to make the most of your Bible study time.
Before sharing how I use colored pens, let’s look at the benefits of using colored pens when studying the Bible. Here’s what I know about using colored pens to study the Bible:
- Brings out material from the text on the page. No longer is it just text, it comes alive when you color it.
- Helps you notice what is there more quickly. When coloring text you are able to know what category of genre or literary elements are in the text without having to read the text.
- Colored pens engages the right side of your brain which is the creative side.
- Keeps you focused and engaged in the Bible study. It can be easy to get distracted when reading the Bible, but when you have colored pens handy and you are actively engaging with the text, it helps you stay focused on what you are reading.
I’m not the only one to believe that using colors to highlight various elements of the Bible is a sound practice. Billy Graham helped edit an entire New Testament with different colors to show the themes and different elements of the New Testament. Using colors in this way helps readers to see which verses are in which context.
Here are the various colors I use when studying the Bible to help me have an effective Bible study time.
The color blue is used as the main color when reading the Bible. I use it when making a general observation, if I simply want to underline a text, or make a comment on a specific verse. If I am not sure what color to use on a specific verse or to make a comment on, I use blue. It is the go-to color for all observations if they do not neatly fit into one of the other categories I will outline in this post.
The color black is used to underline and make comments on character qualities of the biblical characters. If there is a specific Bible character I am making an observation about, I will normally put a square around the character’s name and then underline the verses that reveal something about his or her character. If I am making my own observations about a biblical character, I also write that in black in the margins of my Bible.
The colored red is used to write my questions in the margins of my Bible. Rarely to I underline text with red. I often find myself asking the following questions with the color red:
- What I’d ask the character in the story
- What I’d ask the author of the text
- What I’d ask the readers who were originally reading the text
- What I simply do not understand in the text
Interestingly, I have noticed that as I have studied the Bible longer and became more knowledgeable about it, the number of questions I have has increased, not decreased.
The color green is used to underline verses and write observations about theological topics. An example would be when Jesus says something about what a person might need to do to have eternal life. I would underline that in green and maybe write a note or two in the margin of my Bible to share my thoughts on that theological topic. Because my knowledge of Christian theology is somewhat limited, I notice that I do not use green very often.
The color purple is used to bring attention to recurring words, phrases, or themes in the text. If I notice the same word being used over and over again in a passage, I put a square around those words. If I see the same phrase repeated several times, I might go through and underline each time that phrased is used. This helps me see the pattern and repetition of thought of the author.
6. Blue and Red
I used the colors blue and red together to underline verses and make notes about things I need to apply to my life. Because I read the Bible to observe and seek to understand, I don’t use blue and red together as often as you may think. Examples of text I might underline in blue and red are when Jesus talks about the requirement to love others or when I read a good proverb. I would underline these in blue and red as a way to show I want to apply this to my life.
After using this method of underling text and making notes in the margins of my Bible I find a surprising comfort when opening my Bible. The underlined text and notes are reminders of my past attempts to observe, interpret, and apply God’s word to my life.
As finite human beings we will never be able to fully understand our infinite God, but I believe using this method or one similar to study your Bible will help you. It will help you study your Bible more effectively, learn more about God, and hopefully live out your faith better.
Ready to start using colored pens while studying your Bible? Here’s the colored pens I personally use and highly recommend.
Question: What method do you use to color or highlight in your Bible?