On Bible Journaling—verse mapping

Sacred Scripture comforts in our sorrows, soothes the aches and pains of this valley of tears that we walk through, and finally, fills and sustains our souls as bread does for the body.  Through reading and meditating, we receive new mercies, applicable to our need, and we are nourished.

Last year, I accomplished my resolution to read through the entire Bible (including the Deuterocanonical books of the Catholic Bible).  Also last year, I began collecting different ways to study and memorize Scripture.  I found several new (to me) Bible study methods that I’ll share with you, learning as I go…the first is called verse mapping.

Verse mapping is defined by Kristy Cambron as “a method of studying the historical context, transliteration,translation,connotation, and theological framework of a verse in the Bible. Plain and simple? Verse mapping is getting real about studying the Bible. All of it. It’s not just reading. It’s researching everything you can in a verse to learn more about Who God is, and how He wants to speak to you through His Word. In short? It’s serious study.”  This is the best definition I have found to explain the scribbles, bubbles, and lines that make up the pages of my Bible journal.

She has a wonderful post that explains very well the basics of verse mapping, and even offers a worksheet for beginners to use.  I have taken her approach along with some other methods and styles I have seen in online communities, and am in the process of tweaking it all together to make it mine…that is the cool thing about verse mapping, there doesn’t appear to be one correct way to do it, but can be custom fitted to your own personality, preferences and time availability.

This year, I haven’t made a resolution yet.  But I am drawn to journaling and Bible study, and am happy to share my process, with the knowledge that it is a process, and apt to change at any time.  This is what mine looks like right now:

1.  Choose a verse.  I like using a verse from one of the passages in the daily readings of the Catholic Church.  I love how those verses-even though they were selected hundreds of years ago-are so often relevant to my life, speaking specifically to an area that needs affirmation, consolation, or correction. I write this verse out in black ink in either the middle of the page or at the top…depending on how I’m feeling at the time.  I read it over a couple or three times, changing the focus and inflection of the words, really mull it over…there are always words that stand out.   I Highlight those, more on that later.

2.  Read it in different translations.  This is a personal preference, and I typically choose only approved Catholic translations.  My go-to versions are: the New American Bible Revised Edition, New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, and Douay-Rheims.  I occasionally use the New International Version, or the Message…mostly out of  curiosity, but occasionally, I will like the way it is worded and add it to my notes.  I still find myself quoting from the King James Version that I memorized as a child, so there is that.  For a fun exercise after you are finished, read the passage in the Amplified version of the Bible, and see how many of your thoughts overlap with the translation there.

3.  Look at related verses, Catechism, and commentaries.  I draw a light green squiggly line under words or phrases that I want to cross reference, then I record those verses or citations in green with an arrow connecting them.  Sometimes I box them in, other times, I fill in areas between boxes with this kind of info…none of my pages ever look the same, that is why I feel constrained by a worksheet, as much as I want to use and love it, I haven’t found one that fits my style yet, so mine are mostly freestyle for now.

Years ago, my husband invested in the Logos Bible software and has an extensive digital library that can be hyper-linked to Scripture, commentaries, and dictionaries.  A few years ago, he was ecstatic to find that they offer a Catholic version of this called Verbum.  Of course we upgraded to that, and have been blessed to add to our library with Catholic sources.  The hyper links make quick work of cross referencing, looking up definitions, and toggling between translations.  I love the hyperlink from Scripture to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I want to make sure I am understanding Scripture in the original way it was intended to be understood, and in agreement with the Magisterium’s translation and interpretation of Sacred Scripture.

If you can afford to invest in this awesome resource, I highly recommend it.  If not, there are free versions of Bible software available online.  I have had good success with Bible Gateway (I use the desktop version online because the last time I checked, the app did not have the Catholic versions of Scripture available) and Bible Hub.  I record the differences in translations on my map…note the translation in initials, and draw a red box around it.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church can be found online here, as well as in the Laudate app.  I use all of these in the course of my studies, are we not so blessed to have the myriad of resources available today for studying and applying God’s Word to our hearts and lives?

4.  Define and/or clarify key words.  Those words in #1 that I highlighted…sometimes looking up the definition and or Hebrew/Greek word it was translated from can be so enlightening to the message of the verse.  I use a tan/brown pen for this step, sometimes I box it in. Verbum has links to the Greek and Hebrew, and will also shed more light on the original meaning of the verse.

I also like to add the dictionary definition and list synonyms for the word.  I typically use dictionary.com and thesaurus.com for this and write it in blue. I will upload a picture of my latest entry so you can see how it all comes together.

5.  Sometimes I will have thoughts that I want to record…I do this in my favorite purple color…you can see this on today’s map that I am sharing here.

This is one of three techniques I use for my journaling Bible verses. The other two will be in separate posts…later.  What do you think?  Do you map out verses or journal them in some way?  I find it a good exercise for hiding God’s Word in my heart, and processing it out loud, so to speak, for later use.  I’d love to see your maps, thoughts, or entries.

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