If you read the Bible, and especially if you study it, then you'll probably find yourself spending a fair amount of time flipping around looking for the verse you wanted to read. They sell Bibles that have this built into them but you may not want to buy a new one just for this feature (and a lot of times you'll get used to reading a particular Bible and jot notes in it... and want to keep the same one). About 10 years ago I learned this trick to help you quickly find the verse you want--it's called indexing the edge of your Bible. I originally heard it called "Laddering your Bible" but it doesn't look like a ladder at all, more like stairs.
One thing to note is that this tool doesn't help you with the order of the books necessarily so if you don't have an idea of the general order then this tool may not help you much. If you have a general idea of the books of the Bible then this will help you open up the Bible within a page or so of where you want to go.
You will need:
- Any Bible, but a soft-back works best
- pencil and eraser
- fine-tip black permanent marker
If you like this tutorial, check out my website for 300+ more "how to's": ShareYourRepair.com. Better yet, join me in writing at ShareYourRepair.com!
Step 1: Group the Books of the Bible
The books of the Bible vary greatly in length so we have to find a way to break them up into groups groups that are about the same number of pages (and physical thickness). Therefore, we'll have enough room on the edge to write an abbreviation for the book/group name. You can't break them up evenly without grouping too many New Testament books together but they can be grouped in a way that makes sense and allows room to label them. You don't have to reinvent the wheel because someone has already done it for you (and for me, for that matter). Pictured is a list of the books of the Bible (in chronological order), grouped so that the group is thick enough to work for this project. The first column is the abbreviation we are going to use for the group. If you are Catholic then this list is missing the Apocrypha but you can read this tutorial and then figure out how to add them in yourself.
Step 2: Plot Out Your Index in Advance
We are going to make a stair-step index based on the number of groups we broke them up into. Unfortunately it turns out to be 34 books/groups (as listed in the tables pictured), which doesn't divide evenly by anything but 2 and 17 and that doesn't help us make things perfectly uniform. Pictured is what I decided on for my Bibles (but you can play around with it and do it however you want). Click here
for a Microsoft Word file that will allow you to plan your own pattern based on mine.
Step 3: Choose Your Dimensions
We are going to have 8 vertical lines of the same length and we want all of them to be around where your thumb will naturally be when you grasp your Bible like shown in the picture.
Now you aren't going to want to make each of the 8 stacked vertical lines an inch long because you'll take up the entire edge of your Bible. For me, I chose to make them 5 mm a piece. I chose millimeters because the ruler I had on hand that had the smallest fractions was my metric ruler. That means from top to bottom my index will run 4 cm which will work good.
Step 4: Side Note: the Trick That Makes It Work--curling
When you bend a book this way--curling it up like a "c"--you maximize the amount of book "edge" surface area you see and we'll use this to our advantage. This especially helps when indexing thinner Bibles like the second picture I show that compares it when it is straight to when you curl it up.
Step 5: Mark the Start of Each Book/group in Pencil
Start with Genesis and make a thin (vertical) rectangle on the far (outside) edge of the first page. You'll have to decide whether you want to mark the left page or the right page when you open up the book. The book may start on the right page. In my case I always marked the right page (even if it was the last page of the previous book--this is personal preference based on which thumb I use to find the page and therefore how the Bible opens up when you open it to the marked page). We are making it a rectangle because we want it to stand out when you curl the Bible.
You'll have to pick where you want to vertically start marking the first book/group, Genesis (as the very bottom of the 4-cm range of "steps" in my case). Here is what it looked like to mark Genesis (ignore the white sheet of paper stuck in-between the pages--I'll explain that in a bit). We are going to fill in this rectangle with permanent marker later but for now this is how we'll leave it.
Step 6: Marking the Transitions From Group to Group. Next Stop Exodus.
Find the first page of Exodus (or the last page of Genesis if the first page of Genesis happens to be the left page when you open up to the book). Make sure the bible's stack of pages is straight (up and down) and slightly scoot the edge of the group of Genesis pages "in" like shown in the picture. Draw a line along the top of the Genesis rectangle straight back to Exodus and draw a little dash on the first Exodus page--this will be the marker for the bottom of the Exodus first-page rectangle.
Step 7: Repeat This Stair-step Process Working UP From Genesis Through 1 Samuel
Work your way up the Bible, repeating the last step for the following books/groups:
- Judges, Ruth
- 1 Samuel
When you are done with these, this is what you should have... Don't worry if the lines aren't exactly straight. When we go over them with the marker (which makes a thicker line) you can straighten them up.
Step 8: Repeat the Stair-step Process Working DOWN From 2 Samuel to Job
The rectangle you make for the beginning of 2 Samuel (shown in the picture as the last page of 1 Samuel), will be drawn below
the dash you made when you went from 1 Samuel to 2 Samuel. When you draw the line along the edge of the pages from 2 Samuel to 1 Chronicles, draw the line along the bottom
edge of 2 Samuel's first-page rectangle as shown blow and then mark the first page of 1 Chronicles.
- 2 Samuel
- 1 Kings
- 2 Kings
- 1 Chronicles
- 2 Chronicles
- Ezra, Nehemiah, Ester
Keep working your way back down for each of these books. The second picture is what you should have when you are done with this section of books.
Step 9: Repeat the Stair-step Process Working UP From Psalms to Malachi
The Psalms rectangle (shown in the picture on the last page of Job) is drawn above the dash that you made when drawing the line along the page edges from Job. When you draw the line along the edge of the pages from Psalms to Proverbs, draw it along the top edge of Psalm's rectangle as shown in the picture (note: Psalms starts on the last page of Job in this Bible).
This section of books, going UP
is as follows:
- Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
- Jeremiah, Lamentations
- Daniel, Hosea
- Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
This concludes the Old Testament indexing. The second picture is what you should have when you are done with this section.
Step 10: Repeat the Stair-step Process Working DOWN From Matthew Through 2 Corinthians
The rectangle you make for the beginning of Matthew will be drawn below the dash you made when you went from Joel to Matthew. When you draw the line along the edge of the pages from Matthew to Mark, draw the line along the bottom edge of Matthew's first-page rectangle as shown in the picture and then mark the first page of Mark.
Repeat this process, working your way down for the following books:
- 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians
The second picture shows what you should have when you are done with this section.
Step 11: Repeat the Stair-step Process Working UP From Galatians Through Revelation (the End)
The Galatians rectangle is drawn above
the dash that you made when drawing the line along the page edges from 1 Corinthians. When you draw the line along the edge of the pages from Galatians to 1 Thessalonians, draw it along the top
edge of Galatians' rectangle as shown in the picture.
Finish up the bible repeating these steps for the remainder of the groups:
- Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians
- 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
- Hebrews, James
- 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude
When you are done you'll have what you see in the second picture.
Step 12: Color in the 1st-page Rectangles You Made With Black Marker
Now we are going to color in the rectangles you penciled in. The reason you are coloring them in is because you want that first page to stick out when you curl the book showing the very edge of the pages. You'll want to use a fine point permanent marker of some kind. Because Bible pages are thin you'll want to use something thick underneath to keep the ink from bleeding into the next page. I used an envelop in this example.
I also colored in the back side of all the pages as well so that I can curl the Bible either way and still see this marker clearly.
Repeat this for all the start page rectangles.
Step 13: Draw the Horizontal Lines on the Edges of the Page Between Books With Marker
You'll want to slip a think sheet of paper under the first page of the next book/group of books so your line doesn't go any further than you want (by bleeding through or just going over). Make sure to hold the top and bottom of the Bible square, otherwise you will get a crooked line. You should just be following the pencil lines from before. Sometimes my pencil lines were slightly crooked and I corrected them when I wrote over them with the marker. Repeat this for all the horizontal edge-of-page lines.
Don't forget to slip the scratch paper behind the section you are doing so you don't bleed through.
Step 14: Write in the One-letter Abbreviations for Each Book/group of Books in Pencil
Write in pencil the one-letter abbreviation for each section over the top of the horizontal line that runs along that section. You'll want to curl up the bible quite a bit and hold the edges of the pages tight together tightly to do this (as shown in the picture). Refer to the original table or the list below to get the letter assigned to the group and double check you are doing it correctly because it's hard to erase the pencil (but possible though). You'll discover that you need to write "with the grain" on any horizontal part of the letter to avoid catching the pencil tip on the edge of the pages.
Some of the groups will not be thick enough to write the whole letter on top of the horizontal line but that is ok, simply move the letter out farther so it sticks out like I did in the picture shown for the M for Mark. This will become more important when you get to the last half of the New Testament.
(J) Judges, Ruth
(S) 1 Samuel
(II) 2 Samuel
(K) 1 Kings
(II) 2 Kings
(C) 1 Chronicles
(II) 2 Chronicles
(E) Ezra, Nehemiah, Ester
(P) Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
(J) Jeremiah, Lamentations
(D) Daniel, Hosea
(J) Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
(C) 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians
(G) Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians
(T) 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
(H) Hebrews, James
(P) 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude
Step 15: Use Marker to Write in the Letters You Penciled In
Once you've pencilled them all in and are satisfied with what you've got, you can fill them in with marker. Curl the Bible up as much as possible, hold the edges together tightly, and keep the top and bottom straight. The more you curl up the Bible the more room you'll have to write. Curl the Bible the other direction and fill in the letters again--this way you can do it either way. This is what you'll have when you are done...
Step 16: Test It Out: Turn to Proverbs
Curl the Bible up, run your thumb along the abbreviations till you come to the second P and easily open up to Proverbs...