Hardcopy Bible or Digital Bible: Which One Is Better?
By Katherine Harrington, Contributing Writer and Tess Farrand, Staff Writer
It was only a few years ago people only had the choice to bring their physical Bible to church or to do their devotions in a book, not an app. The switch to reading the Bible on an app has struck up controversy for the possible lack of intimacy that an app might provide when engaging with God’s Word. With believers on both camps of the discussion, it’s wise to investigate the pros and cons of each medium and posits the following question: is there a better medium to read?
350 million people downloaded the Bible App onto their smartphones and tablets in 2018, according to data released by the popular app YouVersion. In comparison, one site claims that an approximated 168 thousand physical hard copy Bibles are sold every day in the U.S.! So, what’s happening to the other Bible readers who may not have a physical bible?
First, we have to understand the gravity of what is in our hands in the first place. The Bible tells us that the Word of God is a personalized instruction manual for life (Heb. 4:12). It’s a love letter to humanity detailing the greatest sacrifice that could be made. Even more so, Jesus Himself states that He is the word (John 1) which means that how believers approach the Word should bear some thought.
Second, let’s consider reading the word through the lens of distractions and intimacy. When reading His Word on a tablet, phone, or computer, for example, one could say a certain level of vis-á-vis is lost. However, reading the Bible on a device is objectively more simple and convenient, is it not? A majority of our time is spent on our phones, so is there enough of a separation between using your device and spending quality time with the Lord? Let’s be honest, phones are distracting. On average, you receive 32 push notifications on your phone daily, and you check your phone on average 80 times a day or once every 12 minutes. That’s a considerable amount! Since technology can be distracting, a physical Bible can arguably remove the distraction that mobile devices bring.
At the same time, Bible apps provide us with devotional programs, Bible reading streaks (where the app tracks how many days you have read for), and dramatized readings of Bible passages, which are sure to bless you on your morning commute. There are fun colors, tabs and emojis which can be used to take notes within the app that make it engaging to use as well. These details undoubtedly contribute to the copious amounts of downloads that just continue to climb every year. Seasoned Pastor John Piper goes so far as to say this about his take on reading the Bible electronically, “my iPad and my iPhone are incredible gifts from God. I could almost come to tears over how precious they are to me.” Piper cites that reading the bible on a tablet allows him to save digital notes for preaching and also minister to others by copying the text directly to use for writing or sending out an encouraging tweet to social media followers.
Americans in the 21st century can easily take God’s word for granted because it’s so readily available and accessible. Many, many people throughout history have given their lives preserving, translating, transporting and spreading the Bible so that others can be transformed by it. Many around the world don’t have access or would give everything they have simply for a page of the Holy Scriptures. The Christian church in America and the culture at large would benefit greatly if it returned to a posture of reverence and love for God’s Word.
In final thoughts, ultimately, God is not impressed with what device you use to read your Bible. He won’t love you anymore because you have a physical Bible that has your full given name embroidered on the front, or if you read your Bible on the YouVersion app in a contemporary translation.
Jesus cares that you actually spend time in His word, so if reading the Bible on the app is the way you spend time with the Lord, then go for it! If reading a hardcopy Bible is how you engage with God better, then do that. Just as mobile phones are fairly recent inventions, at one point in history books were as well. Both are tools that can be used to tear down, distract and destroy, or build up, encourage and speak truth. The question is, how are we using the tools that God gives us.
Going forward, it would do us well to heed the words of the apostle Paul, “so, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV).