Commentaries, Quotations and Sermon Preparation

I've been around computers long enough to remember paying $450 for a hard drive that would hold a whopping 50 megabytes of data. That's right. 50 megabytes. That hard drive ran WordPerfect, a database program, a spreadsheet and a few utilities on an MS-Dos (non-graphical) operating system. Plus it held the various data files that I created with those programs. I was thinking about the small capacity and huge financial outlay for that initial hard disk drive this afternoon when I picked up a 1 gigabyte memory stick for $16. Times have changed.

Many pastors and Bible students use an electronic library and/or the internet for their study. I have, over the last decade, accumulated a pretty substantial collection of books to use with my Logos Bible software. In fact, I've been able to purchase a few sets that have enabled me to pack up the hardbound editions and get them ready to be sent to pastors who lost their libraries in the hurricane last fall. Some may debate the wisdom of parting with a paper copy, and to be honest, the more empty spaces on the bookcases in my office are kind of hard to see, but it was hard to hang on to both paper and electronic versions of the same book when there are guys who are doing without. Plus, if the Communists ever do invade, I probably would be better of grabbing my laptop than trying to stuff a few choice volumes in a backpack as I ran for the hills.

But the fact remains that Bible study is done with both electronic and print resources. And I'm wondering what system or process other pastors use to pull info out of print-and-paper books. I am preaching from Romans still, and have 10-12 commentaries on Romans in print, plus several others in electronic format. Pulling a quote from an electronic resource is a piece of cake, but I'm wondering how other guys treat their printed resources. It is easy to underline, but of course, you need to be able to remember what you underlined. Do you type out or write out info that you find in a commentary or other reference? How do you keep track of information you've found so that you can go back and use it (directly or indirectly) in your sermon prep? I have a method, but I'm finding it kind of tedious.

Any suggestions?


Milton Stanley said...

My method is pretty tedious, too, but since you asked, here 'tis.

When I read a book, I draw vertical lines in the margins and add a star when something is really big. When I'm done, I go back over what I've underlined and enter my notes, along with bibliographic info, into a file for whatever book of the Bible or topic I'm studying. Of course, adding notes from electronic resources is sometimes as easy as cutting and pasting--with quotation marks and citation, of course.

In this way I'm slowly building my own set of electronic commentaries. My notes on Matthew, for example, are now around 40 or 50 pages long. It's sort of the same thing Thomas Constable has done with every book of the Bible at .

Scott said...

Hi Pete,

Yes indeed, I remember the days when a PC AT was the cat's meow! Used to store those extra floppies in Glad Ziploc baggies to keep 'em from getting rained on! Of course I started word processing on a Commodore 64 and thought the 512k plug in cartridge in the back was awesome....20+ years ago!

I like Milton's idea on this. What I do for now (when I use print materials) is mark key spots in my commentary with "Book Darts" and then go back when I'm prepping that section of the sermon where I need those notes and type 'em in. Book Darts and permanent until you're done with 'em. You can either leave them where they are or you can remove them when you're done with your study. I've used book darts to mark bible passages for an upcoming sermon if I use another passage to supplement what I'm preaching from. They're quite handy for marking key spots in general books you read too.

I try to keep it simple but sometimes, it can be tedious. I primarily use e-sword as my bible software program and am in the process of writing commentary notes in it as I go (similar to Milton) and I can add notes there also as I find them.

Hope this gives you some idea of my method (if you want to call it that!) Good to see you blogging again!

Scott Cheatham

Bumble said...

My prof. gave an interesting tip: as he read these book, he would write ALL comments on the inside cover page of the book with the page number next to it. That way, whenever he feel "I remember I read that somewhere in this book", he can just turn to the back page and trace it from there to the particular page.

For me (sad to say), I don't read printed books much. (Or to be exact) I started on so many good books and never get pass a few beginning chapter.

So I cheated and read a lot of book review instead. That way I would have a preview and know where to go in depth later.

Keith Drury had some pointers on speed reading here:

And this Christian Book Summaries site offered some good book summaries:

But too bad, none of them would be applicable to the kind of reading your sermon preparation process required...

Don said...

I have two methods of getting print info into my own note files.

1. Dragon Naturally Speaking. I read the sentence or two that I want out of a commentary or other source into my Word file. I have version 8, version 9 is now out and is supposed to be better, but v. 8 is pretty good.

2. Wizcom's highlighter pen scanner - Quick Link Pen Elite. I scan portions into the pen, beam them to my PDA, upload them to my PC. This is great when I am on the go and not in front of my computer.

I also am compiling my own note files. Mine are in Word. I use internal hyperlinks for each verse of a chapter so that I can open the file and go directly to the notes on the verse I want.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3