Should we use Bibles on electronic devices?


by Shawn Brasseaux

In the last 20 years or so—especially within the last five—personal electronic devices have become increasingly popular. Enormous personal desktop computers have largely given way to small, handheld (pocket) devices. Tablets, smartphones, and laptops are now usually in every individual’s life to some extent. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find someone reading an electronic Bible (a Bible app, a Bible website, or the like). Some “old-school” people object to this. They say that a “real” Bible is the printed page, a physical Bible made of paper and ink. They do not believe that an electronic Bible carries the same weight as a printed one. Are these arguments meritorious?

Friends, if we are going to start talking about form determining the potency or authenticity of the Bible, we will run into numerous unforeseeable challenges. For example, if we say that the only “real” Bible is one of ink printed on paper, and that an electronic one is not, then who is to say that a braille Bible (one for visually-impaired people) is not a “real” Bible either? Braille Bibles are made by metal impressions stamped into paper, and do not involve ink. Who is to say that an audio Bible (also for visually-impaired people) is not a “real” Bible either? There is neither ink nor paper with it! What are such people going to do who rely on these special works?

It should be pointed out that (for it is easy to forget) the printed Bibles we have to did not always exist. The Bible was not always bound in the book form that we have currently have. Centuries ago, it was a collection of scrolls, not on the “paper” we are familiar with, either. It was originally written on parchment (bull and goat skins), vellum (more expensive, calf skins), or papyrus (a cheap, crude layering of dried, crisscrossed, glued plant material). Books, or “codices,” bound volumes as we know them, appeared in the third or fourth century A.D. The “writing pen” during New Testament times was either a hollowed stick cut to a point, or a quill (feather).

Now, friends, think about this. Would it be fair for the apostles and prophets of long ago to look at our computer-printed Bibles today and say, “Hey, those are not ‘real’ Bibles! ‘Real’ Bibles are handwritten with soot and gum, using papyrus reeds, and put on animal skins and papyrus! We did not carry around the Bible in one bound volume either!”? They would be wrong, of course, for diminishing the Bible in its current form. Yet, we will look at a computer-printed Bible (not the original Bible form either, remember!!) and say that that is the only “true” Bible? Nonsense! The Bible is God’s Word no matter its form. We will take it a step further. There was even a time when the Bible was not written down at all. Once, it only existed in the mind of God in the form of thoughts! So, the original, original Bible was a group of thoughts found only in the mind of Almighty God. Would God say that the only “true” Bible exists in some immaterial, invisible form? See, we start to get silly now.

Someone once said that we humans are creatures of habit, and rightly so. It is difficult to break from a routine. Since electronic Bibles are still rather new, many of the older generations are still using printed Bibles. This is fine. They have used such printed Bibles all of their lives. That is the only “Bible” they know. However, newer generations have discovered a more compact, convenient Bible form. Rather than carrying around a giant book, they can bring a very thin device that has the Bible text as well as a lot of other information. Provided that they are not distracted by notifications (text messages, phone calls, and so on), the Bible on-screen can be very useful to them. There are no pages to tear, and no ink to smear or fade. It can even be read in the dark! Personally, I use electronic Bibles, but I also still use a printed Bible when teaching at conferences or at home Bible studies. Even when preparing studies for online publication, I have a printed Bible beside me as a guide. (After nearly 15 years though, it is falling apart!)

Whether it is in printed form on paper, or on an electronic screen, or thoughts in the mind of God, or written by a reed on papyrus or animal skin, or scrolls, or audio form, or Braille form, it still has the power of God. What was true of the original Bible is true even today. Notice:

  • 2 Timothy 3:15-17: “[15] And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. [16] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
  • Matthew 4:4: “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:13: “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”
  • Psalm 119:89: “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.”
  • Ephesians 3:4: “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)….”
  • Isaiah 40:6-8: “[6] The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: [7] The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. [8] The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
  • Psalm 119:105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
  • Jeremiah 15:16: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.”
  • John 6:63: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

By the way, before we end, since this article is posted on a Bible website, read by people using various electronic devices to access it, it should be pointed out that this author certainly does not diminish electronic Bibles. If he thought electronic Bibles were not “true” Bibles, he certainly would not be sharing Bible verses and Bible studies on the internet!

Also see:
» Did not Jesus speak words not recorded in Scripture?
» “Epistle” and “letter”—same or different?
» Should I preach the same Bible messages I have preached before?