Category Archives: Blank Bible

The Value of a Blank Bible

Did you see the new ESV loose-leaf Bible?

I’m the “blank Bible guy” which explains why a handful of you contacted me via email to ask me this question. Between the lines I can hear what you’re really asking: Is this a suitable replacement for that little homespun, labor-intensive, finger-endangering, blank Bible project you’ve been trying to convince us to undertake?

Well of course the new loose-leaf will certainly make the goal of the blank Bible easier to achieve (namely blank space) and you will more likely keep all your fingers. But I have my misgivings. It’s not cheap, for one. And I personally prefer the portability of the smaller blank Bible (as outlined in my series). I’m not sure I want to haul around a binder.

To date 25,000 folks have visited the blank Bible tutorial on this blog. A few dozen have completed the blank Bibles. I’ve seen photos of many of these completed projects and they look wonderful.

But whether you choose the most personally gratifying option (making a blank Bible) or you choose the route of least resistance (loose-leaf), it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you use it, take notes in it, and make good use of all that blank space.

Apparently Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte (1836-1921) made good use of the white space. While reading his biography the other night, I learned that he used a blank Bible. And from the sound of it, he really liked the Bible, too, so much so that he wanted to convince others of the usefulness of the blank Bible (sound familiar?).

In his early 60s, Whyte mailed a blank Bible to a youg friend. He included a note that was reprinted in the bio, a note I think you might get a kick out of reading (and perhaps get kicked into making your own blank Bible).

In a note to a young pastor, Whyte wrote:

Edinburgh, May 13, 1901.

Dear Hubert,

I send for your acceptance today an Interleaved Study Bible. I have used such a Bible ever since I was at your stage of study, and the use it has been to me is past all telling.

For more than forty years, I think I can say, never a week, scarcely a day, has passed, that I have not entered some note or notes into my Bible : and, then, I never preach or speak in any way that I do not consult my Interleaved Bible. I never read a book without taking notes for preservation one way or other. And I never come in my reading on anything that sheds light on any passage of Scripture that I do not set the reference down in my Bible over against the passage it illustrates. And, as time has gone on, my Bible has become filled with illustrative and suggestive matter of my own collecting; and, therefore, sure to be suggestive and helpful to me in my work.

All true students have their own methods of collecting and husbanding the results of their reading. But an Interleaved Bible is specially suitable and repaying to a preacher. The Bible deserves all our labour and all our fidelity; and we are repaid with usury for all the student-like industry we lay out upon it.

If you wish a talk, and have anything to ask me about this method—come and let us have a talk.

Praying that you may be the most industrious, prayerful, and successful of ministers.

With high regard,

Alexander Whyte *

Whyte’s little letter surprised me and made me think, perhaps other blank Bibles have been used in church history? Besides Whyte and Jonathan Edwards (whose blank Bible was my inspiration), have you read anywhere of other famous folk using an “interleaved” or “Blank” Bible?

How about you? Do you have a blank Bible? Use it? How have you benefited?

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Note:

*As quoted in G. F. Barbour, The Life of Alexander Whyte (Hodder & Stoughton 1924), pp. 289-290.

Blank Bible featured in Seattle

tsslogo.jpgStephen Smith serves as both editor of the ESV blog and Crossway’s Director of Information Services. This past weekend he presented a lecture at the BibleTech08 conference in Seattle on “The ESV and Bible Usability.” In his presentation he cited the Blank Bible “phenomena” started right here on The Shepherd’s Scrapbook. In his presentation he says,

The typical physical features of a Bible are familiar: its type size, physical size, layout, and binding. Also important are any extra features in the Bible—from maps to notes to cross-references. But just as important are things that people do to customize their Bibles. Some people buy a cover for their Bibles; some people decide to re-cover their Bibles; and some people want so much more space for note-taking that they take a printed Bible, slice off the binding, insert empty sheets of paper between the Bible pages, and rebind their Bible more to their liking. The result is what’s called a “blank Bible.” A number of people have created these Bibles; I like to link to them from the ESV blog because it shows how people can get really invested in their Bibles. I get the feeling that we’d value our Bibles a lot more if we had to assemble and bind them ourselves.

You can read more of Stephen’s presentation here, and download a PDF copy of his presentation slides (see slide 31).

And of course you can see our very own Blank Bible Index to find information (and motivation) to create one of these Bibles for your own use and growth.

Happy slicing, punching, and binding!

Successful Blank Bible

tsslogo.jpgStephen Newell is the Associate Pastor of Louisville Baptist Deaf Church and a blogger. Currently his blog features a series documenting his successful Blank Bible project. The series is titled, The Blank Bible Chronicles, and Stephen took some nice photos of the entire process. I encourage you to check it out.

Patterned after the TSS Blank Bible series, he did a great job following our instructions with precision (note the gender stereotype undermined here).

Nice work on your Blank ESV, Stephen!

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Blank Bible pictures

tsslogo.jpgMarcia over at the Ruminations and Ramifications blog just completed a Blank ESV Reformation Study Bible in 11-volumes. Wow! And it looks great, too. Check out her post here for pictures. Marcia recently wrote to thank us for the Blank Bible Series we posted last year. Like Jonathan Edwards, you can make a custom note-taking Bible. Begin by reading the TSS Blank Bible series index.

Thank you, Marcia, for the kind comments!

Tony

And the winners are…

“Blank Interlinear” contest

Winner: Joshua G. (Indian River, MI)
Runner-Up: Dallas P. (Las Vegas, NV)

Joshua, your testimony is very powerful. You were the clear winner of the “Blank Interlinear.” This bible is the very one we built and photographed on this site (and to my knowledge it is the only completed copy of its kind). Thank you for loving the souls of your people enough to endure the difficulties! I really appreciate that you had such a clearly defined need for the bible. This blank interlinear will be useful and a great encouragement towards your future faithfulness to God’s Word and His people. (Collectively, the four-volume set also doubles as a shield to protect you from drunk women). Dallas, your commitment to making this bible for your pastor is a noble gesture. I’m certain it will encourage him. I am sending you a copy of the interlinear with the binding removed and sized blank pages ready to be inserted and bound. Congratulations!

“Blank Valley of Vision” contest

Winner: Philip N. (Cumming, GA)
Runner-Up: Bill W. (Laguna Niguel, CA)

What can I say, Philip? Jonathan Edwards spoke, the Spirit of God moved, and you did what many pastors could never do – act upon conviction, not comfort. By leaving a church of 7,000 members because of conviction, you modeled for us the depth of carefulness and prayerfulness we should bring to the direction of our lives. Someday I want to read the notes you take in this “Blank Valley of Vision” because I know they will be thoughtful and profound and will cause you to consider your ways carefully. Thank you for your testimony! Bill, how God used the words of David Brainerd on the sovereignty of God to shift the center of your life off of yourself and onto God was truly amazing. Understanding deep theology – especially the sovereignty of God – saves marriages. Amazing! Thank you for your testimony. As runner-up you win a 7-disc audio version of the Valley of Vision narrated by Max McLean. Thanks to Steve Burlew, the Banner of Truth has donated free copies of the Valley of Vision to the three other finalists (Scott N., Midland Park, NJ; Allen M., Amherstburg, Ontario; Jeff C., Sumas, WA).

Thank you to everyone who submitted essays. Each finalist carried an important message that we can all learn. I would encourage everyone to read all of the essays for the “Blank Interlinear” and the “Blank Valley of Vision.”

Blessings,

Tony

Finalists for the “Blank Interlinear”

Finalists for the “Blank Interlinear”

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Three months ago I accepted a call as pastor of a rural church in Northern Michigan—a church that had been without a pastor for almost three years. While I greatly appreciate my seminary training, I quickly became overwhelmed. Within the first week (a) a much-loved member of the congregation died, (b) feuding church members attempted to recruit the new pastor to their side, (c) the annual budget process began, (c) local dissident ministers ‘welcomed’ me to the area with the hopes I would sign a letter to the editor condemning the Pentecostal movement (I declined, and was subsequently included in the letter), (d) a family left the church because I was not a KJV-only advocate, (e) a congregant demanded that I bring one of the deacons up on church discipline charges for repeatedly shaking his hand too hard, (f) a church volunteer was caught using pornography, (g) and I was slapped in the face by an intoxicated local mother when I informed her that the youth group was running 15 minutes late returning from an outing (actually, I believe the slap was during week two).

As an experienced professional counselor previously in private practice, the unique nature of these various scenarios are not particularly surprising. Yet, I was caught of guard with the excessive demands on a pastor’s time. My dream of spending 20 uninterrupted hours each week preparing for Sunday’s sermon was hopelessly dashed. Instead, I scrambled to teach my brain to study & think in smaller, sporadic units of time. Although nervousness is expected while preaching (and even the most veteran ministers inform me this never goes away), for the first time in my life I felt the panic of not being fully prepared as I walked to the pulpit. It is a sickening sensation. At that moment I felt like a charlatan – some devious pagan simply pretending to be a man called by God.

Your website article on constructing an interlinear note-taking bible is an incredible adaptation designed specifically with the busy pastor in mind. Not only would this allow me to retain some semblance of Greek proficiency, but would also allow the great advantage being able to record my thoughts on Scripture while occupied with various pastoral tasks (sitting in the hospital waiting rooms, waiting in the prison/jail visitor lobby, or stealing an extra 15 minutes in the local diner after a pastoral care lunch appointment). It has the potential of being a portable, conveniently-sized, and organized record of years of reflection on the Holy Word.

I do love the ministry. These first three months have been demanding, and our gracious Lord is reminding me that I must not rely on my own strength. That He has begun to teach me this lesson so early is proof of his love for me. If in His providence He so chooses to gift this Bible to me, it will be another reminder of His indefatigable love.

Pastor Joshua G.
Indian River, MI

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In order to answer this question, I must first explain the predicament with which I face. You see, I am a seminary graduate. And like many seminary graduates who are busily engaged in pastoral ministry, one of the many disciplines that easily slips away is a continued working in the original languages of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. However, in many ways I am not like many seminary graduates because a majority, on average, keep up with the rigors of language study, but do so with only their Greek New Testament. What I have discovered is that many pastors completely abandon their time with the Hebrew Old Testament {obviously I am generalizing here, but it appears to be the case on average}. Not so with me. I was an Old Testament major. So, I have continued in the discipline of keeping up my Hebrew {I love it! See Psalm 119 for a Biblical plagiarizing of my thoughts!}. But sadly, and quite contrary to most pastors, my Greek is fading. Like yesterday’s Top 40 boy band, my competency in Greek is disappearing from the caverns and recesses of my mind.

This blank interlinear just might be the key to get me out of the Hebrew enough to focus on sustaining my Greek/New Testament studies. This interlinear might be the animal skins in my Greek garden, the wind that blows open the Red Sea of my Greek Bible, the trumpet sound that crashes down my Greek Jericho, the smooth stone that slays the Greek Goliath that taunts me day after day, and the breeze that moves across my valley of dry bones and brings my Greek to life. But lest this begin to sound self-serving {it really is, I am a sinner!} my motivation is based on my desire to see God glorified and His people encouraged. In my ministry, preaching, blogging, discipling, etc, my desire remains the same for the church: To make the Scriptures easy to understand, hard to forget, and impossible to ignore. The gift of this interlinear would enhance and serve this purpose for the church to the glory of God.

Benji M.
Garland, TX

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At fourteen years of age I dedicated my life to the preaching, teaching and the study of the Word of God. It has been my passion from that time to prepare myself not only to communicate effectively God’s Word through various avenues of proclamation but to know Him more deeply and more intimately every time I open the pages of the Bible. I study not to prepare a sermon or a teaching lesson, but to know Him. John said in his gospel, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). I want the “life” that the beloved apostle is speaking of. I want the “life” that comes in the knowledge of the Holy. I want the “life” that comes in having a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. According to John, that “life” is only found in a knowledge that comes through the study of God’s Word. Knowing Christ Jesus as He is revealed in the pages of the New Testament is the purpose of study. This blank interlinear New Testament will aid in the giving of “life.”

With the original language so accessible and the option of extensive note taking at my disposal, it will aid me in the preparation of public sermons and private study. It will then become help to others as they seek to grow in their Christian life. This Bible will be a direct outlet and record of my personal study time in the presence of God and will allow me to keep my notes, thoughts and meditations in a central location instead of various notebooks and scraps of paper. It would be most helpful and will no doubt become a tool in my study like no other. I foresee this Bible allowing me to open the New Testament in a fresh way each time I go to its pages. As a preacher and teacher in the New Testament church I feel it is of vital importance to know the New Testament as well as possible that the church would grow in the knowledge of Christ and receive “life in His name.” I would use this New Testament for the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ and the glory and exaltation of His holy name.

Warm Christian greetings,

Dustin B.
Louisville, KY

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I would like to enter into this contest for the ESV Interlinear Blank Page Bible. I serve as Pastor of Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington, KY and am currently pursuing my DMin in Expository Preaching from Southern Seminary. My desire is to take our 221-year-old church into an era of her history grounded fully in the Scriptures. Sadly, 221-year-old churches are often wrought with man-made and senseless traditions which may seem culturally relevant to this body but are not Scripturally mandated. As we go through the Scriptures, little-by-little and piece-by-piece those traditions are falling by the way-side. The result is God bringing in the increase with a love for God and a love for His Word. Whereas we averaged approximately 135-140 at the beginning of the year, we are now averaging 175-180 – not with gimmicks or promotions but a desire to preach and teach God’s Word.

I am an apologist for the ESV at my blog (http://www.matt-perry.com). I believe it blends readability with accuracy. My desire for this Interlinear Bible is to build on the foundation being laid here through the Word of Christ to help me preach more diligently and accurately, rightly dividing the Word of truth to my beloved people here. This tool will be crucial in that aim.

Thank you – and blessings,

Rev. Matthew P.
Lexington, KY

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II Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

These words greeted me at the entrance to Moody Bible Institute back in 1967. The thought of studying every subject from a biblical perspective, not to mention classes for in-depth study of the books of the Bible, was almost overwhelming to me. Other than my daily quiet time, I didn’t really know how to go about personal, in-depth study for myself. My days at Moody were the beginning of a great adventure.

While working toward my diploma in foreign missions, two classes had great impact in my life. In “Bible Study Methods” I learned various ways to approach Bible study, and then worked through assignments applying each method. This forced me to become very careful in my observations, and depend first on the Holy Spirit rather than man to guide my study. The beauty of that class was the excitement it engendered in digging deeply to find the treasures that lay in God’s Word.

New Testament Greek also stands out in my memory. Someone suggested I should take Greek for my foreign language. I had never considered it until another class I registered for was full. What an enhancement it became to my personal study.

After graduating from Moody, I got my degree in nursing and eventually went to Hong Kong as a missionary. Unfortunately, with the busyness of life, I again slipped back into the habit of depending more on what others had written, rather than delving into study for myself. I married, moved back to the States, had a family, and forgot most of the Greek I had learned. We home schooled our children and it was during this time that I began to “remember” the great thrill it was to study God’s Word on a deeper level.

Since then I have tried several ways of recording and preserving study notes, and haven’t really been completely satisfied with any of them. I’ve never had an interlinear Bible, but can see the great value that it would be in having so much information at my fingertips with extra pages to write personal notes as well. I would love to study the New Testament with this Reverse Interlinear ESV Bible.

Violet T.
Happy Valley, OR

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My Pastor and I were having a conversation on the Lord’s day about a month ago expressing our joy in the release of The ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament as well as the ESV Note Takers Bible. We had both conveyed our belief that having the thoughts the Lord blesses us with would be more beneficial and edifying if we could have our notes next to the text, and we both expressed frustration that no Bible we had seen had adequate space to record the results of our meditation on God’s Word. No more than a week went by when God’s providence showed us a way to grant this desire of our hearts.

I stumbled across Tony’s blog at the prospect of obtaining the 16 volume John Owen complete works at a substantial discount (can you blame me?) which I did purchase by the grace of God. I was fascinated at his blank Bible series and have been anxiously waiting to do my own. Seeing that he would be giving away a blank Interlinear I imagined how it would benefit my private studies while preparing for the ministry or preparing for the occasional Sunday School lesson my pastor graces me to give. It did not take long to see the best way this work could benefit me. What better way to edify myself through this great gift than to give it to my pastor and see the fruits of his labor from the pulpit? Not only would I be blessed by the outpouring of God’s Spirit through this gift but my Pastor’s entire flock would also be encouraged and blessed as well. Our spiritual lives would be enhanced not only through the improving on his already Christ centered preaching, but it would inspire us to dig deeper in our own devotional times with God as well. This could only lead to deeper fellowship within my church and a certain spill over in passion as we evangelize as well.

It was God’s grace that lead me to Tony’s site to see a way this desire of maximizing the benefit of mine and my pastor’s spiritual lives could be achieved. If it is a free gift or a result of a few days of spirit lead work, there is no doubt in my mind that it is my delightful duty to give this to my pastor for the blessings of many.

Dallas P.
Las Vegas, NV

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As a current seminary student pursuing a Masters in Divinity, I suspect that obtaining a copy of an ESV Blank Reverse Interlinear New Testament would be extremely profitable for my studies. It is my conviction that the study of the original languages of the Holy Scriptures is foundational to an effective and Godly pastoral ministry such as that which I plan to pursue to as a church planter. The concept of a “blank” Bible is one which I have found to be particularly helpful in my studies already. I utilize my copy of the ESV Journaling Bible to great effect, and appreciate the ability to record my thoughts adjacent to the text. However, this resource has thus far been confined to the English Standard Version text. As a result, I have found myself constantly adding small notes concerning the original Greek or Hebrew terms behind the English translation. The result is difficult to decipher, as well as a chore to continually note. The possession of such a “blank” version of the ESV New Testament combined with the Greek text would be invaluable to me in that I would have both texts before me for commentary. I particularly would be happy to own such a text because of my appreciation for the English Standard Version. I have found the accuracy and style of the ESV to be very commendable, enough that it has become my primary English language translation of the Scriptures. Perhaps most of all, having a spiral-bound copy of the New Testament would be incredibly helpful to me in itself. Our seminary has a small weight room in the basement where I often go to run on a treadmill. The value of being able to simply lay the Scriptures open flat to read as I run would be quite awesome.

Bryan P.
Wynnewood, PA

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Receiving a blank ESV reverse interlinear would be a great blessing for me this Christmas. I am a twenty year old student of Scripture and I am going to begin studying Greek at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky next spring. Presently I lead a Bible study in my hometown of Brighton, Tennessee and I often feel so limited by my lack of understanding concerning the Greek text. Presently I am memorizing the book of Ephesians and it is also the text for our study. This book has been blowing me away, and the Lord has opened my eyes to Scripture in such an amazing way through this detailed study, but when I find difficult concepts in the text, I feel so limited in understanding. When I reference my KJV concordance it is often a great help but I can only imagine making direct references from the ESV to the Greek. What a blessing that would be to me. I came across Tony’s blog a few days ago when a friend referenced me there to see the blank bible. I’ve heard of Jonathan Edward’s blank bible and had considered contacting a publisher to check on the possibilities of printing one, but I would really like to thank you for building your own and detailing the process in such a way. Spread the Word brother! Lord willing I hope to spend a few days over winter break building a few blank bibles for friends and families. Thank you so much, grace and peace to you.

Jeremy W.
Millington, TN

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To begin, I must say a word of praise. What a wonderful and merciful gift is God’s Word to His people! Even more, what a mercy that we can read God’s Word in our own language. God has shown me in wonderful ways the preciousness of words. I am in my third full year of college. In my classes, I have been blessed with teachers who are dedicated to taking great texts apart word-by-word. Therefore, it is such a blessing to take the words (the Bible) by which the Word (Christ) is made known and study, examine, and rejoice in them through intense study. With this great gift of the Bible in our own English language, why would I wish to possess and read it in an entirely different tongue?

First, the New Testament was not originally written in English. But for deep and fruitful study, a comprehension of the original language is so crucial. Knowing this, I have been taking classes in Ancient Greek. Because this class is Ancient and not Biblical Greek (my college does not offer Biblical Greek), I have not yet had the honor of studying God’s Word in its original language. Still, my learning of Greek has established my ability and fueled my desire to read the New Testament as it was composed. An interlinear New Testament would give me this wonderful opportunity as I continue to hone my Greek and utilize it for the glory of God.

Second, I have a practical goal in learning Greek. As I have attended college, there is one place that my experience has shown in dire need of salt and light. This is in the world of the university. I have seen the pervasive sin, the rejecting and ignoring of God. I have also seen great hunger for meaning. But sadly, even those who seek often do not have shepherds to disciple them. In this there is such a great need for Biblically-dedicated teachers in our universities. I believe the Holy Spirit has called me to stand in this gap, to faithfully study Scripture and to teach Christ glorified to the next generation. As I continue to prepare for this calling, an interlinear New Testament would be a wonderful guide as I work toward understanding God’s Word and communicating it in the classroom. May God be glorified in this work as I know He is glorified in yours.

Adam C.
Wheelersburg, OH

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The Blank Reverse Interlinear (BRI) would help me and my church in at least the following three ways:

First, the BRI would be a tremendous help to my preaching and sermon preparation. Currently, I simply look over the Greek of the passage I am preaching and maybe look up a few of the words in GRAMCORD. However, with the BRI, I would discipline myself to actually translate each passage and write appropriate notes about the passage on the blank pages. Since I preach from the ESV, studying from the BRI would give me a better idea of the thought behind the translation. Luther said, “Though the faith and the Gospel may be proclaimed by simple preachers without the languages, such preaching is flat and tame, men grow at last wearied and disgusted and it falls to the ground. But when the preacher is versed in the languages, his discourse has freshness and force, the whole of Scripture is treated, and faith finds itself constantly renewed.”

Second, the BRI would help me learn the Greek better. Learning the Greek better would make me a better student of God’s Word and a more faithful expositor. Taking notes on each page of the BRI would increase my knowledge of Greek vocabulary and syntax. Hopefully, the BRI would be a bridge to reading straight from the Greek New Testament. Again, Luther stings me when he says, “It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book. O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor yes, almost without any labor at all can acquire the whole loaf! O how their effort puts our indolence to shame.”

Finally, the BRI would improve my overall mental and spiritual life. Forcing myself to think deeply about each page of the interlinear and taking notes on each word and sentence would train my mind for deep thinking and my heart for deeper love for Christ and His Word.

In Christ Alone,

Justin C.
Wilson, NC

[Luther quotes taken from Piper’s biographical message at the 1996 Pastor’s Conference.]

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This blank interlinear would be a tremendous blessing to me for a number of reasons. The biggest reason it would be of help to me is due to my role as Pastor.

I am a young Pastor, just 28 years old. The Lord called me to Gospel ministry after several years of being willing to do anything but Pastoring a Church. Then, one day, as the result of someone jokingly telling me to plant a Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Lord put it on my heart to do so in a most compelling manner at 25 years old.

Being a young Pastor of a Church Plant this blank interlinear would be an awesome help to further my studies of the greek language. There are no good options for Seminary education here in Nevada. I have some learned men around me who help mentor me in the learning process, but I need a lot more help. To be able to analyize the greek language, how it is translated, and also be able to make notes (parsing verbs, and making lexical notes) on the blank pages will not only help me learn the language but will also greatly aid my preperation to preach.

I love the greek language and have committed myself to mastering it to the Glory of God and for the good of the flock God has given me charge over. There are no greater reasons than these.

I firmly believe that understanding the greek language is central to proper exegesis and application. I remember reading Cornelius Van Til early in my personal theological studies. He was adamate about the importance of mastering the languages in order to not only preach, but especially to engage in systematic theological study of the scriptures. I wholly agree! Though the essential message of the Gospel is clear in our english language, a thorough understanding of the Greek is most necesssary to engage in serious study. This blank interlinear would, as stated, be a most effective tool in furthering my knowledge of the Greek language.

As a young Pastor who desires to be as effective as possible in feeding the Sheep the Lord has given me I would find this tool to be a great blessing.

Blessings in Christ,

Luke S.
Las Vegas, NV

Five finalists for the “Blank Valley of Vision”

Five finalists for the “Blank Valley of Vision”

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Scott on The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter

It was my first year in ministry. Three years of formal study and two year-long internships seemed scant preparation as I undertook the pastorate of a church in the plains of South Dakota.

Sure of my calling, yet unsure of myself, I was looking for guidance and I found it in the words of Richard Baxter. At the time my knowledge of the puritans was limited – stereotypical. A friend suggested that I pick up a copy of The Reformed Pastor. It became my constant companion through my first year in ministry.

Literally from the opening page, my eyes were opened to a depth of truth and purpose that were sadly neglected in my seminary education. The chapter on the character of a pastor was one of the most humbling, yet exhilarating moments of illumination. Here was what I was called not merely to do, but to be.

At times challenging, at other times comforting, I found Baxter’s instructions to be what I needed to hear at just the time I needed it. His admonition to watch over myself has served as a corrective to the times when was tempted to take shortcuts or compromise the care of the flock entrusted to me. It’s marked up pages standing as testimony to the struggles and triumphs of my first pastorate.

Now almost 15 years into the ministry it still convicts and corrects me. It lessons on self-examination still drive me to my knees in repentance. His insights into the character and condition of God’s people are as fresh today as they were nearly three hundred years ago. His reminder of the motive for ministry have many times kept me from despair in the face of the pressures of contemporary pastoring. His example drives me to become more the man of God than I presently am. I can honestly say that were it not for this book, I am not sure whether I would have survived my first years in the ministry. And I am sure that it will continue to guide me, Lord willing, for many fruitful years to come.

Pastor Scott N.
Midland Park, NJ

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Bill on The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards

It was 1976 that my wife Colleen called and told me to come back home. She said on the phone that she was a changed person and wanted to make our marriage work. A friend had given her a Bible and told her about His grace. She was now a Christian.

I can still remember coming home that week and seeing a different person. So for three years I watched a beautiful Christian young lady trying desperately to show me the love of Jesus despite my wickedness. In January 1979 (I was 32) God softened my heart and after the 5th rendition of “Just As I am”, I walked forward and accepted Christ.

During the following ten years I received a bachelors and masters degree in theology. Here’s the problem, it was all head knowledge from an Arminian perspective. In other words, “I am glad I found you Lord, now what can you do for Me?” A completely self-centered Christian.

During the 1990’s I started drifting away from God. Sure, I still went to church on Sundays but that was it. People served me, I was not interested in serving anyone. Life became increasingly unhappy and unfulfilled; seemingly there was no purpose to it. It was time to reassess why my relationship with Christ was so stale. My pastor had given me a book edited by Jonathan Edwards, “The Life and Diary of David Brainerd.” a few years before and I had just shelved it. In my despair I pulled the book off the shelf in 2002 and started reading.

As I started reading it my eyes were opened to a brand new dimension of Christianity. David Brainerd was serving a sovereign God. God used the book to convict me in such a way that I would almost cry myself to sleep thinking of the kind of courage and sacrifice that this young man endured because of Christ while I was living in the Kingdom like a fat cat proud that I had chosen Him, but not making any sacrifice.

Here is a taste from the book: “May I always remember that all I have comes from God…When I return home and give myself to mediation, prayer and fasting, a new scene opens to my mind and my soul longs for mortification, self-denial, humility and divorcement from all the things of the world” (p. 147). “I delighted to lean on God and put my whole trust in Him. My soul was exceedingly grieved for sin, and prized, and longed after holiness….Yet this was my greatest happiness, never more to dishonor, but always to glorify, the blessed God” (p. 180).

I learned of a Sovereign God. One who loves and sustains my every thought and action. “Faith without works is dead” suddenly meant something to me. God had reached down from heaven and adopted me into His family simply because of His grace and mercy. I had not accepted Him, He chose me. It is not about me, it is all about Him. This understanding hit me like a lightening bolt. It has changed my life. Can one possibly be born again, again? That is what it seems like. I have not been the same since. The last four years has been such a joy in serving others. I am currently on a small team starting a new Sovereign Grace church. God willing, and God providing, I will do whatever is necessary in order for God to receive all the glory. God is good, 38 years of marriage, 6 children, 7 grandchildren, I have never been more satisfied in all my life.

Bill W.
Laguna Niguel, CA

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Philip on a sermon by Jonathan Edwards

The Puritan work that most profoundly changed me is the sermon “Ministers Need the Power of God” from 2 Corinthians 4:7 delivered by Jonathan Edwards at his installation as pastor of the Northampton Church in 1729. It was published in Salvation of Souls in 2002. The book is a collection of previously unpublished sermons by Edwards about the call to ministry and most are ordination sermons. The sermon set the tone for following Stoddard’s 57-year ministry and Edwards’ years as a pastor. In classic style, Edwards began with the grandness of God, moves to the insufficiency of men, encourages men to submit, and communicates the great joy that comes from being a weak vessel in the hands of our Lord.

At the time I read the sermon, I was serving as an associate pastor on a mega-church with 7,000 members and it was very easy to rely on the staff and programs we had in place to keep everything going and growing. I had begun using the book as part of my daily devotions before the Lord. On the day I read it, I was sitting in my safe office surrounded by all the trappings of successful ministry. It was a devastating experience. At one point, Edwards said, “Ministers are not only creatures, but very feeble and infirm, partakers of the same infirmities as their hearers.” I pushed back from my desk, sat back in my chair and wept. I’m not sure for how long I cried but it was a sorrow of soul from which change would spring forth. I renewed my commitment to Christ at the time he called me to the ministry. Then, I was a shy, frightened 17 year old. I had become a hardened, hard-pressing 36 year old. I renewed the beggar’s spirit that leads to understanding our position as an heir to the ministry of the new covenant. It was a day that reset the tone for my ministry – I hope until my last breath.

Since then, the Lord called me to leave mega-world to plant a new church. From the message of Edwards, I learned that relying only upon the power of God is the only manner in which I can properly plant, lead, and glorify my Lord.

Pastor Philip N.
Cumming, GA

[note: this sermon upon 2 Cor. 4:7 was originally titled: “God is pleased to make his own power appear by carrying on the work of his grace by such instruments as men, that in themselves are utterly insufficient for it.” Apparently it's only published one time: Ministers Need the Power of God, in Bailey and Wills, eds., The Salvation of Souls, pp. 41-56. - Tony]

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Allen on a sermon by Thomas Wilson

As a blossoming church historian, I have taken it upon myself to start reading more of those who have gone before us. I happened across an article that got me interested in reading about the subject more. The article was about Thomas Wilson (1601-1653). He was a pastor at Otham, Kent and was one of the Westminster divines. In the article it focused on the idea of zeal. As one who has also served in the ministry, more zeal is always a good thing! So this summer I took it upon myself to read a sermon that Wilson had preached before the House of Commons called ‘David’s Zeal for Zion.’ In it he wrote a number of things that really hit me about my attitude toward God. He defined zeal as “the earnestness and increase of all the affections, liking or disliking, as love and hatred, grief and joy, desires, delights, fears, and anger, boiled to the highest degree, and to the hottest temper and intention.” I had realized my ministry was often mediocre and lacked the intensity for the glory of God as it should. I was resolved to, in the words of Wilson, “Let zeal eat up all corrupt affections in us, consume our sins, and inflame our hearts toward him.” Since then, even though I am not currently serving in a formal ministry, I have striven to absolutely flood my soul with the grandeur and greatness of God and allow my zeal to grow and display itself in my love and service to God. I hope the copy of the Valley of Vision will allow me to glean from other Puritan writers and allow their godly zeal to continue to influence my personal and public life in such a way that people know my zeal as a fire that “should never go out, but from a spark increase to a most vehement flame.”

God bless,

Allen M.
Amherstburg, Ontario (Canada)

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Jeff on Heaven On Earth by Thomas Brooks

Heaven On Earth by Thomas Brooks has made a difference in my thinking and in my life.

I temporarily relocated to a spiritually dry country, Japan, to teach English. I had much time to read and think about eternity. I brought with me The Pligrim’s Progress, which I consumed quickly. One early morning, I woke up, in fright, from a dream where I was killed in war. I was afraid because I wasn’t sure whether I would be going to Hell or Heaven. I was relieved it was only a dream, but it confirmed to me that such an important issue ought not to be put off any longer.

Some time after this dream, I finished listening to a taped sermon titled “What a Comfort” (based on Question 1 in the Heidelberg Catechism). “How can I be sure that when I die, I will go to Heaven?” was asked. How can anyone rest, believer or unbeliever, until he knows the answer to that question? It isn’t enough to know that God sent Jesus to save His people from their sins. We need to know, Did God send Jesus for me? Do I really believe in Him? The sermon expounded 2 Tim 4: 6-8, wherein the apostle Paul wrote of how he looked forward, with certainty, to Heaven, and some grounds of assurance that we can share with Paul.

“Make your calling and election sure” was ringing in my ears and heart.

These two things above led me to “Heaven on Earth”. Before reading Brooks, I had a very crude understanding of religious experience: “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?” There is some truth in that, but Brooks opens up the Bible in more depth. This Puritan has a pastoral heart. Brooks writes, “You [Christian] have the next place to Christ in my heart” (9).

Chapter 1 gives proofs that believers can attain a well-grounded assurance of their salvation. For example, as my pastor mentioned, if Paul can attain assurance, we can too. Paul was inspired, but he attained his assurance in an ordinary way. In Chapter 2, Brooks communicates “weighty propositions concerning assurance”. One proposition explains that though salvation is a sure thing (once saved, always saved), assurance is not (one can be assured one day, and lose that assurance the next). Chapter 3 teaches the reader of things that keep someone from enjoying assurance. If ever someone doesn’t enjoy assurance, or (temporarily) loses this joy of assurance, he can know why. Chapter 4 presents reasons why one should make his election sure. Christ’s elect does not need to have nightmares of uncertainty, because assurance will prepare him for death. He will have something to look forward to with great certainty, an eternity with God. Chapter 5 gives instructions on how to build assurance. Chapter 6 is gives the differences between a true and counterfeit assurance.

Reading Brooks motivated me to live carefully, in holiness, in order that I may not quench the Spirit, and so that I may know blessed assurance.

We deprive God of His glory, and ourselves of His comfort, if we neglect to make our calling and election sure. The joy of knowing Him, and the joy of knowing that you are known by Him, is a sweet thing.

This treatise was published because “little well-grounded assurance is to be found among most Christians” (11). This was true in the 1600s, and it is true in this millennium. Dear reader, are you struggling to know whether you are really right with God? Then I gently urge you to read this book.

Jeff C.
Sumas, WA

Free Blank Books contest

Free Blank Books contest

Here are the long-awaited contests. You have from now (noon Friday) until Midnight on Tuesday (December 5th) to get your responses back. We are asking you to write a 300-400 word essay answering the following questions. Best essay gets the prize.

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To win the ESV Blank Reverse Interlinear:

Answer this very general question: “How would this blank interlinear help you in your study of the New Testament?”

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To win the Blank Valley of Vision:

Answer this very detailed question: “Explain a time in your life when you read a Puritan work that gave you better understanding of the Christian life and caused permanent life change as a result. Explain the situation, the book and author, the moment of illumination and the permanent fruit of that change.”

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Rules:

1. We are limiting this contest to adult residents of the continental United States. Okay, okay, we will broaden it to both the continental U.S. and Canada.

2. You can only enter one of the two contests.

3. You must email your response to me by Tuesday night at 11:59 PM CST (tony AT tonyreinke DOT com). Please put “VoV” or “Interlinear” in the subject line depending upon which contest you enter.

4. You must include your full name and mailing address in the email so we can mail the books to the winning entry (though only your first name, city and state will be published).

5. Winners will be announced on Wednesday afternoon.

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Thank you for taking part in this exciting contest!

To read more about how we made them (and how you can make them yourselves) check out The Shepherd’s Scrapbook index of “Blank” projects.

TSS Blank Bible Index

“Such industry! Economy! Edwards would surely approve.”

- Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University

This blog is noted for a geeky series on making your own Jonathan Edwards Blank Bible. The goal is to disassemble a Bible, add blank pages for notes and then rebind it all together. It’s relatively cheap, fun and taking the world by storm. So grab a Bible, gather the family and dust off the table saw.

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Blank Bible Project #1 (August, 2006)

Our first successful blank Bible was built from an ESV Classic Center-Reference. The final product was an excellent 3-volume set that is now my primary Bible for personal study and reflection. The comments on these posts contain some very helpful input from others.

- Building a Blank Bible (part 1): Intro
- Building a Blank Bible (part 2): The Failure
- Building a Blank Bible (part 3): The Blank Bible

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Blank Bible Project #2 (November, 2006)

Using the ESV Reverse Interlinear New Testament, we created a 2,700 page, 4-volume New Testament for serious students.

“It is awesome to know that God, through His Spirit, can fill every blank page through humble meditation as the “living and active” Word of God comes alive. Each blank page represents our anticipation that God will open up His Word to reveal more of the width and height and depth and length of God’s love in the Cross!”

- DIY: Blank Bible (part 1): Intro
- DIY: Blank Bible (part 2): Cut, Rip, Clamp, Saw
- DIY: Blank Bible (part 3): Slice and Stuff
- DIY: Blank Bible (part 4): Punch and Bind

We ran a contest to win this Bible and you can read the finalist essays here and meet the winners here.

“Your website article on constructing an interlinear note-taking bible is an incredible adaptation designed specifically with the busy pastor in mind. Not only would this allow me to retain some semblance of Greek proficiency, but would also allow the great advantage being able to record my thoughts on Scripture while occupied with various pastoral tasks (sitting in the hospital waiting rooms, waiting in the prison/jail visitor lobby, or stealing an extra 15 minutes in the local diner after a pastoral care lunch appointment). It has the potential of being a portable, conveniently-sized, and organized record of years of reflection on the Holy Word.” – Pastor Joshua G. (Indian River, MI)

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Blank Valley of Vision (November, 2006)

The same principles can be used to turn any book into a journal. We did this very thing recently with The Valley of Vision from Banner of Truth. You can see photographs of the project here. We ran a contest to win this book and you can read the finalist essays here and meet the winner here.

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Spiral binding books

Even if you don’t add blank pages, spiral binding makes any book easier to read. I spiral bind important books that I want to lay flat on cardio machines at the gym.

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What are you working on?

Enough about us. What creative projects are you working on? Readers have been hacking apart Bibles and books and creating some unique blank projects of their own. Care to share photos of your project? Please email us and let us know what you are working on.

- Stephen followed our instructions perfectly and created a pair of nice Blank ESVs. See his blog for the entire series, The Blank Bible Chronicles for more info (and nice pics to boot).

- Justin built a 4-volume “Blank ESV.” Looks like he used 3:1 spirals as opposed to the common 4:1 spirals. Very nice work! See pics here.

- Marcia built an 11-volume Blank ESV Reformation Study Bible. See pics here.

DIY: Blank Bible (part 4) Punching and Binding

DIY: Blank Bible (part 4) Punching and Binding

So you have survived the first 6 steps! Pat yourself on the back. From the woman who accidentally dropped her cut bible pages into a pile of chaos on the floor: “Good job.” And from the man whose bible got caught in the table saw and thrown into the air like a snow globe: “Congratulations.” You stand among the world’s elite to make it this far.

Only two steps separate you from a pile of loose pages and a priceless bible.

Punching

Right now your bible is a pile of pages with the right number of blank pages inserted exactly where you want them. For the Interlinear, I put one blank page between each bible page.

It’s time to get the pages punched using a spiral binding puncher. This punch is usually electric and can punch about 20-30 pages at a time. It punches several little holes (4 per inch).

I prefer to punch the pages myself. I go to a smaller office supply store where they let me back behind the counter to do this step myself. I like doing this step on my own because it gives me a little time to make certain all the pages are aligned at the binding edge. I do this by taking 20-30 pages at a time and tapping the binding edge on a table. Sometimes the blank pages and bible pages are slightly different widths. We want to make certain that all pages are aligned on the binding edge. A few simple taps on the table does the trick.

Failure to be careful here could give you a page where the binding holes are aligned on the edge of the paper and that page will easily tear or fall out. The minor addition of time makes a big difference in quality.

For our Interlinear blank bible of 2,700 pages (1,350 sheets), it only took about 40 minutes to punch all the holes. It goes quickly.

Before you leave the office supply store you will need a few things. First, it’s important to separate your bible into volumes. The largest standard spiral binding coil is 1-1/4” and so I usually separate my bibles into 1” to 1-1/8” piles. The first ESV blank bible was separated into three volumes, this Interlinear (being a total of 4-1/4” tall) will be separated into four volumes (Matthew-Mark; Luke-John; Acts-Galatians; Ephesians-Revelation).

If you want vinyl covers you will need these cut and punched before you leave the office supply store. Two vinyl covers per volume. They are cut and punched exactly to the size of the bible pages.

Then you need to purchase binding coils. I like the 1-1/4.” The larger the coil; the more flexible the bible. For this 4-volume project I will need 4 coils. Now you can return home. The final step can be done from your kitchen table.

Binding

I usually do the spiral binding myself at home. Align the pages for the first volume, place the covers on, and begin screwing the binding coil into the first hole. The first hole takes a minute to align all the pages correctly, but once you move on to the second the holes begin automatically lining up on their own. Just keep spinning the coils in. Once you are done, cut the coil off. Leave one full circle of visible spiral on the top and bottom.

I bound all four volumes of the Interlinear in about 25 minutes.

And you are done. That’s it!

Pen

I recommend using a Pigma Micron 005 pen available at most scrapbook or art stores for under $3.00. It’s a super fine point that allows me to write very tiny and maximize each page (don’t mistake this with the 05 which is much thicker).

Conclusion

I recently read this about our project at a blog called OldTruth.com:

“It says something about you, if you are willing to cut, rip, clamp, saw, slice, stuff, punch, and bind your own bible, just so you can squeeze a blank notes sheet in between every page of scripture. Perhaps it says that you are a really serious student of the bible.”

Yes, indeed. If you are tackling this project it already shows your heart. You will take sacrifices to improve your opportunities to grow in God’s Word. Praise God!

So if you happen to be the man standing over the table saw, whose bible explodes into the air into a blizzard of paper, use this moment to raise your hands and celebrate. God is at work giving you the desire to read, study and know Him more. Let the confetti rain down in praise of His grace!

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