Is it sinful to make marks and notes in your Bible?


Hello brother,

We've never met, but I've always appreciated the Q&A section on the LaVista church website and thought I'd bounce this off you since it's a somewhat unique question.

What do you say to someone who takes a very literal view of Revelation 22:18-19, and thinks it's sinful to mark in their Bible? Case in point: during a study of Acts 12, it was recommended to draw a line through the word "Easter" (Acts 12:4), and write in the word "Passover." Someone responded that doing so would make one guilty of "adding to/taking away" from the word of God, even though they agreed that "Passover" should be the correct rendering of the verse.

How do you respond to an overly literal view about writing or marking in one's Bible?

Thanks in advance.


We need to first acknowledge that no translation of the Bible is fully accurate. Translations are the work of men and men make mistakes at times.

At the time of Jesus and the Apostles, the Septuagint was commonly used. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Hebrew text. Many of the quotes found in the New Testament are believed to be based on the Septuagint translation, but they don't fully follow the Septuagint. Often a word or two is changed putting the translation more in line with the original Hebrew text. See Table of Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, in English translation for a comparison of the New Testament quotes to the Septuagint and Hebrew texts.

The Septuagint was done by men. The original Hebrew text and the New Testament were dictated by the Holy Spirit, so it should not be surprising to find the Holy Spirit pulling the quotes back in line with what was originally written.

Therefore, our New Testaments demonstrate that it is not wrong to correct a translation when it deviates from the original text. Thus, marking that "Easter" in the King James Version is actually the word for "Passover" in the Greek text is perfectly acceptable. It is not adding nor taking away from what God had written. It is noting that the translation made a mistake.

Another thing to note is that the quotes in the New Testament, while improving the Septuagint translation, were not translations directly from the Hebrew text. There are places where the Septuagint was interpretive instead of word-for-word literal and these were often kept. Thus, we conclude that what is now called "dynamic equivalence" in interpretation is not wrong, so long as it accurately represents the original text's intent and meaning.

While the words of God are holy, the physical books are not sacred. There is nothing wrong with jotting notes in the margins or making notations about things you've noticed in the text. These help jog your memory when you return to the passage. We do this all the time in books that we own and study from, such as textbooks you might have had in college. Many versions of the Bible come pre-marked with cross-references, footnotes, and the words of Christ highlighted in red. Why is this acceptable to purchase but not to do for your own notes?

None of this is altering the text. No one is taking scissors or a white-out marker to remove sections of the passages. We are not talking about defacing a Bible. No one is claiming that the notes they add in the margins are inspired or equivalent to the actual words of God. Thus, it is not what Revelation 22:18-19 is warning against.


Great points. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email