I was going to title this “In defense of Thinline Bibles, but the truth is, it’s not only about thinlines.

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to listen to our newest young associate pastor at our church preach at an evening service. I noticed he was hanging onto a big Bible with what appeared to be a navy blue cover and silver page edging. After the service was over I approached him, apologizing for bothering him but I’m a Bible junkie, and I was wondering what Bible he was using. He laughed and said it was a “brick”! It was the NIV Life Application Study Bible. I didn’t comment on the type of study Bible it was; I figured he’s a young guy preaching especially to young people. Anyway, it was a big honkin’ Bible!

I myself have a number of study Bibles, including an old NKJV MacArthur Study Bible in large print. Now that is a big honkin’ Bible! It’s something like 7 1/2 inches wide and 10 1/2 inches tall, by some two inches thick! I almost had to use a wheelbarrow to take it along to church. It was like hauling around a big cement block.

The fact is, a big study Bible like that is fine if you are using it on a table. The same is true for most full-size study Bibles, even if they’re not large print. I’ve always been a little surprised at the big study Bibles people will carry along to church. If I was still teaching a class, I’m sure I’d bring along either my NIV Study Bible or my NASB MacArthur Study Bible. But since I’m not teaching, I find the big study Bible to generally be overkill. I don’t need all those notes, unless I’m teaching, and then it’s mainly for reinforcement of what I already know (or think I know.)

What I’m carrying along to church these days is usually my TNIV XL Thinline Bible, which is a relatively large-print Bible, but without any cross-references, but with frequent text notes. It does the job for me, and it’s a breeze to carry. Sometimes I prefer to bring my NASB Giant Print Personal-size Reference Bible. It’s not a thinline; it’s over an inch thick. But the personal size is a fair bit smaller than the usual 6X9 that is usually considered a “standard” size Bible. Yet it has type that is a good 10 pt or larger, and is very dark, almost like bold print. And this Bible has the amazing NASB center column cross-reference and text notes system, so it’s almost like a real study Bible anyway.

One of the main complaints I read about thinline Bibles is the thin paper that is used. And to be honest, that’s one of the main methods that is used to make Bibles thin, and it can be a problem. Thin pages are more difficult to separate. It’s just harder to get a hold of one page with a thinline. There are also problems with ghosting, that is, the showing through of print from the other side of the page, or even from other pages behind the one you’re trying to read. If you like to write in your Bible, the thin paper may allow more ink to leak through the paper and interfere with the print on the other side of the page. Often it is easier to crinkle the pages with very thin paper. Some people find that such thin paper will tear more easily as well.

So why do I continue to use thin Bibles? Easy! They’re lighter to carry and use, and they’re often cheaper than a full-size Bible. And if you shop wisely, you will often find a thin Bible with print as large or larger than that in your typical full-size Bible.

Of course, the idea of smaller Bibles can be carried to extremes, and you have to keep in mind your own optical abilities. I’d love to be able to use some of the compact Bibles on the market, but I find fonts that are less than 8 pt. to be very hard on my eyes, no matter how clearly they are printed. And that has frustrated me in recent years when I have searched for NRSV Bibles, because many NRSVs come in a font no larger than 8 pt. Many compact Bibles use a font in the 7 pt. range, and some are as small as 6.2-6.5 pt. So they’re simply out for me. I can’t use them at all.

If you shop wisely, you will find that thinlines and personal-size Bibles are sometimes available in a genuine leather cover; more often they are using the new soft leather-like imitation leather which is supposed to last much longer than bonded leather.

Study Bibles are great, but if you’re old and tired like me, take a serious look at the thinlines and personal-size Bibles.