Best Bibles for Artists Fall 2016 Edition (UPDATED)

Last spring I published a post about best Bibles for artists.  Some new ones are on the market and a few interesting Bibles have come to my attention.

There is still a trend to put out Bibles targeted at creative people.  Some of this is good, and some, well, isn’t.  Because many Bible publishers are coming from a strongly Reformed point of view, there are still many blind spots and assumptions that are going into “creativity” Bibles.

In this post I want to point out some discoveries from a recent trip to Barnes and Noble.  I have included a new non-print Bible.  I will go over some of the major translations, including the two I use most in my writing and speaking.  At the end I will give some suggestions if do not have the money to go out and buy a new Bible.

Creativity Bibles

If you haven’t figured it out, Bible publishing is big business and a very lucrative one.  All Bible editions sell well.  Suddenly Bible publishers have figured out that there are artists in the church, and they are targeting you.

I am jazzed about the Holman Journaling Bibles.  They are somewhere between a Moleskin notebook and a Bible.  They come in multiple translations, have plenty of space to write, draw, doodle, or paste scraps.  Honestly, I wanted one as soon as I picked it up.  (Is it a sin to covet a Bible?) BTW, all the thumbnails will lead you to the Amazon page to purchase.

Not technically a “creativity Bible” this book is definitely one that could go in a paint box or next to a drawing table.

Nice typesetting too.

I have noticed that the Bibles targeting creatives are VERY FEMININE.  I guess publishers think there are no creative males who read the Bible.


Inspire NLT.  I think this Bible was inspired by Pinterest (really).  Great idea to make a Bible to color in, but I have been doing that for years.  Still, it’s great to put the Bible and sketchbook together.

As you can see, it has flowers and butterflies on the page edge.  Throughout the Bible there are “doodles” like the ones I have seen on Pinterest of Bible verses that you can color.  There is space in some places to create your own doodle, but it is limited.  My biggest complaint beyond being girly–the artist is not credited.  Clearly most of the work is hand done, and much of it looks like the same person’s style.  This bummed me out.


Speaking of verses to color, the NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible was interesting.  It took the same idea as the Inspire Bible and kicked it up a degree.

CORRECTION:  I erroneously stated the artists in this Bible were not credited.  I was wrong, and received a very gracious email soon after posting:

“I came across your blog post about Bibles for artists dated 10/26/2016 and wanted to let you know that the NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible does credit each of the artists.  There is a page in the back of the Bible with their name and page references for each of their illustrations.  If you’d like to receive a copy of the Bible, I’d be happy to send you one to use yourself and one to give away to your readers.  Please just send me your shipping address.  Blessings, Helen”

How cool is that?

The Inspire Bible did inspire me.  I began drawing on the edge of one of my Bibles.




I’m very jazzed about a Bible that is not in print, but designed for iPhone. Check out the Parallel Bible.  It is designed by some Kingdom minded artists–Bible, Artists, and Story.  These folks get it.  Check out their other work here.

Now on to my rant about Bible translations.

First, unless it is an adulterated version like the JW Bible, all Bibles are somewhat accurate.  But, all Bible translations emphasize what ever the translators emphasize.  There is a lot of fluidity in translation especially in Hebrew where a word can have up to 6 different meanings.  Because of this, not all Bibles are created equal, and I recommend having several translations. The following reviews are for everyday Bibles.  I have used most of them for my everyday reading at some point.

For full disclosure, God spoke to me most profoundly as a teenager through an NIV Bible.  I still have that Bible, it is full of notes and underlined pages.


Highly Recommend
The Revised Standard Version.  I have gone away from and returned to this version for over 30 years.  It was my confirmation Bible, the Bible that my church used for reading, and the Bible I quote when I write.  Why?  Because it still is unmatched for accuracy to the original languages, and uses beautiful English.  It is the direct heir to the King James tradition, and is the only version accepted by the widest Christian communities–Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox.

The Ignatius Study Bible.  This study Bible, using the RSV text is designed for Roman Catholics, but it has become my favorite study Bible.  It is the only study Bible that gives in depth notes and also references the early church fathers.  The Bible is edited by Gordon Conwell Grauate Dr. Scott Hahn, a convert to Catholicism from evangleical roots.  Because of this history, he brings the strengths of both traditions to this Bible.

The New Living Translation.  If you want to get an accurate sense of the original language, and have a Bible that really speaks to you, I recommend the New Living Translation.  I know many members of the translation team for this Bible personally, and have used it has my secondary Bible for study, and my primary devotional Bible at different seasons of my life.  It really is a good Bible if you need one to inspire creativity.

The Mirror Bible is the most exciting new paraphrase I have come across.  Others promise to make the text come alive, but this one really does.  I hope this book gets more traction.  For artists, storytellers and creatives, this is a great paraphrase to check out.  The Bible has a lot of white space for doodling in.



The New Revised Standard Version.  Many people ask where I got my big green Bible that I use for preaching.  This is it.  Not my favorite translation, and it often chooses inclusive language over accuracy, but it is the scholarly translation of the moment.  The biggest strength–in the US HarperCollins owns the rights and they make beautiful books.  Typesetting is elegant, and the editions are all well made and nice objects to have.  For something you might live with daily, this is a great feature. As for the inclusive language, you can usually spot the change.  Sadly, Exodus 31:1 is mistranslated, so when I preach I pencil in the correction.

The New Jerusalem Bible.  This is an English translation of a French Bible Translation (wacky, huh?).  Even so, it is a beautiful translation, and I have used it off and on for 2 decades.  Not my primary Bible, but it can be helpful when doing in-depth study simply to give a different point of view.



Recommend with Reservation

English Standard Version (ESV).   I have moved this from the do not recommend category–simply because some of the translations regarding the arts are accurate.  I assumed because of it’s theological bias they would follow the NIV.  I was wrong, and in regards to the arts it is mostly accurate.

It does come in many types of covers, versions, and the like.   It is dominating because of excellent marking.  Sadly this Bible is part of the strategy in evangelicalism to distance itself from the Catholic and Charismatic world and this Bible reflects that trend.  Bummer–it is a missed opportunity.

The Passion Translation.  Brian Simmons was a Bible translator and then a pastor in Connecticut.  His dream project was this translation and it is being released as he completes each book.  It is exactly what it says, passionate.  He does bring a lot of insight to the text, but I find I read the footnotes over the translation.  All translations by a single individual are prone to bias.  Simmons also uses a minority body of original manuscripts that give an alternate read to most of the Bible.  This can be a strength or a weakness.  Regardless, like the Living Bible,  and the Message in prior generations, the Passion Translation is touching a nerve and meeting a need for a current take on the scripture.  Sometimes it definitely moves me, and I think it is a good translation to stir up the creative juice.


Do Not Recommend

The New International Version (NIV).  When the NIV came out it definitely met a niche need for an Evangelical Bible.  In the U.K. it is the Bible if you are an Evangelical.  Sadly, the translation team was dominated by the reformed point of view, and because of this the words “art,” “artist,”  “imagination,” “dance,” and “artisan” are all removed or mistranslated.  When I was a student my tutor griped about the NIV regularly, and like many things “evangelical” it has dominated because of excellent marketing.  I don’t currently use it.

Creativity Bible on a Budget

So you want a Bible to inspire creativity but can’t spend another $50 on a new Bible?  I have many times in my life purchased an inexpensice paperback Bible and a cheap notebook from TJ Maxx or Marshalls (They often have great journals for under $5) and kept them together.  More than one paperback Bible has been covered with heavy art paper, and then I illustrated it during lengthy sermons.  The best part about creative people is the ability to do something with nothing.  If you can’t find the perfect Bible, go ahead and improvise one for yourself.  You can do it!




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