Should Christians use a digital Bible instead of print Bible?

By Dillon Burroughs

Increasingly our churches and Christian events are discovering a new phenomenon—people are reading Scripture from their smart phones and tablets instead of a traditional print Bible. Is this a positive move to encourage, or a trend that should be of concern? Here are four ideas to consider.

First, technology has seen Scripture move first from parchment to paper and now to pixels. The message remains the same; it is the format in which it is read that has changed. To read a verse in one format rather than another does not indicate a person is more faithful or less faithful to Scripture, more committed or less committed to the truths of the Bible. It is only a change in reading format.

Second, the style of communication does impact how a person learns (and therefore applies) content. For example, a lecture might be best for teaching some information, but a small group is better for other topics. Some people learn better watching a how-to video, while others learn better with a hands-on project. The application for Bible reading? A person should read from the format that best helps them learn and live the teachings of Scripture.

Third, the greatest benefit of a digital Bible is ease of use. On a smart phone, I can pull up any Bible version, compare versions, search commentaries, or even look up a Greek or Hebrew word. Of course, there must also be a signal or wifi connection and there is always that temptation to send a text, check email, or play Angry Birds...

Fourth, the greatest benefit of a print Bible is reliability. I don't have to worry about my battery running out, my signal being low, "shutting down" my Bible when I'm on a plane, or getting off track by clicking on a commentary or reading a message from a friend. A print Bible can be written in, used for years at a time (unlike phones or tablets that are often upgraded every year or two), and keeps eyes more focused on the biblical text. Yes, a print Bible can be heavy and hard to keep track of, but someone dedicated to study of the Bible could consider these problems worth the effort. Of course, the digital Bible reader could argue that he or she is more dedicated because they can use their Bible software, look up maps, or compare versions.

In the end, it's ideal to have both print and digital Bibles, giving a reliable print Bible for regular, extended reading, as well as a digital version for reading on the go or for using research tools to study. There is no "right" answer as to which is better. One person will prefer print, while another prefers digital. The most important thing is to both read Scripture as a believer and to live it out among others. We must continue to remember—our lives are often the only Bible many people will ever read.

Image: Kersley Fizgerald

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Published 10-25-13