Thank you to Kevin for this article on compact Bibles.
When I first became interested in religion, my brother gave me a compact thinline NIV (much like this one) which I carried with me everywhere. It fit right in my hand, and the soft faux-leather cover just felt right to the touch. I used that Bible so much that it is no longer with me; I wore it out. The cover frayed and wore down until you could see almost through it. After I stopped using that Bible, I started collecting little pocket New Testaments and compact Bibles, which I thoroughly enjoyed using.
For me, compact Bibles are a wonderful tool. I love to always have a copy of God’s Word with me. Larger Bibles often make it nearly impossible to do that, but compact Bibles are something I can easily hold, throw in a bag, or even shove into a pocket. With compact Bibles, my most cherished possession and favorite book is always within reach. I love compact Bibles in pretty much all forms, and I wanted to give a review for some of my favorite compacts.
This Bible is my favorite compact Bible. The NRSV is a wonderful modern translation and the sole official heir to the King James Version (the “authorized” family tree is: KJV > RV/ASV > RSV > NRSV). This little Bible is only 16-20 dollars, but you would think you bought a higher-end Bible. It’s cheap, but the paper is thick, has line matching, and it is printed in a very clear, almost bold, font. Most compact Bibles can be exhausting to read because of how small or thin the font is, but not this one. Most importantly, this little Bible has a sewn binding, which makes it very durable, and if you dislike the bonded leather cover, you could easily have it replaced. In addition, since this edition includes the Apocrypha, it could be utilized by Catholic and Orthodox Christians (even though both groups have reservations about the NRSV’s liturgical application).
2. Cambridge Pitt Minion series (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, and NLT)
Even though they only come in the Protestant canon, Cambridge’s Pitt Minion line is an amazing example of what compact Bibles can and should be. They are compact, thinline reference Bibles. They have all the same bells and whistles of a normal size reference Bible, but they are crammed into a very handy size Bible. The print is small, but very clear. The size is perfect for slipping into a pocket, bag, or resting open in the palm of your hand. I specifically have the second edition KJV Pitt Minion, which has the added benefit of Cambridge’s “A Reader’s Companion to the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible”. If you want only one Pitt Minion, I recommend the second edition KJV specifically because of that reader’s companion. It is a wonderful resource that is essentially a Bible dictionary and concordance in one combined volume. Another benefit of the Pitt Minion line is the quality of the manufacturing. Cambridge usually produces durable Bibles, and Pitt Minions are certainly included in that. Here you can see a review of an ESV Pitt Minion that has received constant wear and tear.
Like the Harper compact Bible, this is a really good value, and it is an edition supported by the Catholic Church. This Bible has a sewn binding, nice clear print, and a durable hardcover. What I really like about this Bible is the additional material. At the ends of both testaments, it includes the Catholic footnotes of the RSV-CE, and there is an additional appendix after the New Testament that includes Catholic prayers and devotions. If I were Catholic, I feel like the RSV-CE, and especially this edition, would be my go-to Bible. The RSV-CE is such a beautiful translation; it takes the best of what made the King James Version so great. It then takes that literary power and couples it with Catholic tradition and modern textual-critical scholarship.
I only recently acquired a Cambridge Cameo for myself. I was at a Mennonite relief sale in Goshen, IN, and I saw an old Cameo on sale for $1.50. It is a wonderful Bible. It has the same width and length of the Pitt Minion, but it is thicker, which gives you a much bolder, thicker font. Just like the Pitt Minion, it is a well-built, full-size reference Bible in a very convenient size. Unlike the Pitt Minion, you have a font that is very easy on the eyes, and you can get the Cameo with the Apocrypha. In addition, the references of the Cameo are keyed to the Apocrypha, even in the normal Protestant editions. If you want a reference Bible with Apocrypha, the Cameo is a great place to start. Unfortunately, Cambridge has been slowly discontinuing the Cameo with Apocrypha. Now, you can only get an expensive calf-split edition, and the other editions are long gone. There simply is not a lot of demand for the Apocrypha among KJV fans.
If you are not familiar with Local Church Bible Publishers (LCBP), they are one of many KJV-Onlyist publishers who—inspired by their love of the KJV—produce well-made Bibles at a very good price. This little Bible was a companion of mine for several months this past year, and it is a truly compact Bible. It is a plain text Protestant KJV. It has about a five point font, and it is the size of my wallet. It is a great Bible if you really want to carry a Bible everywhere, but only have a pants or coat pocket to put it in.
In addition, Local Church Bible Publishers also reprints the Cambridge Cameo (without Apocrypha) as a much cheaper alternative to Cambridge’s printings. They call their edition of the Cameo the “Compact Center Column Reference” Bible.
These are just some of my favorite compact Bibles, but there are a few other honorable mentions: Ignatius Press RSV-CE Compact with zipper, Compact Westminster Reference Bible from TBS, Royal Ruby, ESV Pocket New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs, and Oxford’s NABRE compact.
I love my compact Bibles. I find them to be one of the most useful editions of the Scriptures, but I also find myself using them less and less due to two things: 1. I started using a smart phone which has many Bible applications, and 2. I developed a habit of note taking in my Bible, which compacts are not the best for. Now, I am not so loyal to my compact Bibles.
About the Author
Kevin Daugherty is a Mennonite Voluntary Service participant, food pantry worker, and pastoral ministry student in Elkhart, IN.