Basic Bible Study Tools: Concordance

November 30, 2018

A great deal of Bible study can be done with a few basic tools. One of the basic tools for Bible study is a concordance. A Bible concordance is a list of words occurring in the text of the Bible with the Bible reference given for where this word occurs. A concordance is the name we apply to a printed work with a Bible word list. In a world where many people are accessing the Bible on a phone, tablet, or computer, the search feature in Bible software corresponds to the print concordance.

A concordance or search is based on a particular translation of the Bible or original text. So, you want to choose a printed concordance by the translation you are using for study. Printed concordances are either abridged or exhaustive. Concordances printed with Bibles are always abridged. An editor has selected important words and their occurrences to be helpful. Abridgment allows for a handy size. The printed exhaustive concordance will have most every word except for things like articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns. A search could give you the answer for any word, although it may not be significant to know how many times the word “and” occurs in the Bible.

In the nineteenth century, James Strong developed Strong’s Numbers for his printed concordance. He gave a number for each Hebrew and Greek word. A Strong’s number occurs beside a verse reference letting the English reader know what Hebrew or Greek word stands behind the English translation. This is accomplished by going to a Hebrew and Chaldee (Aramaic) dictionary and Greek dictionary printed at the back of the concordance and looking at the corresponding number. From this dictionary you learn the usage of the word and how else this particular Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word is translated into English. Goodrich and Kohlenberger developed an update to the numbering system, but you use G-K numbers the same way as Strong’s numbers. Some Bible software will allow you to access and search on Strong’s numbers or G-K numbers giving the English student a little more access to the original languages.

Besides getting back to the original languages, we use a concordance in a number of helpful ways. Sometimes we are thinking of a passage, but we can’t recall where it is. By remembering some key words in the passage, we can search for them or look them up in a concordance to find the passage’s location. We also use the concordance to do topical and word studies. By looking up every occurrence of a word or topic, we gain a better understanding of this word or topic. We may also see patterns in the text from looking at a concordance or search. The word love occurs the most in the New Testament in 1 John, the Gospel of John, and 1 Corinthians. This pattern suggests those books as fruitful places to study the concept of love. A concordance or software search remains a basic Bible study tool.