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What is a Bible concordance, and how do I use it?

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Question: "What is a Bible concordance, and how do I use it?"

A Bible concordance can be a helpful tool for studying the Bible. A concordance contains an alphabetical index of words used in the Bible and the main Bible references where the word occurs. A Bible concordance is useful in locating passages in the Bible. If you can remember just one word in a verse, you can often find what you’re looking for.

Most Bible publishers place a short concordance among the back pages of the Bible. Longer, more thorough concordances, such as Young’s Analytical Concordance, are available separately. If a concordance contains all the words in the Bible (including a, an, and the!), it is called an “exhaustive” concordance. The classic exhaustive Bible concordance is Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

Several Bible concordances are found online and are available to use free of charge. You can also buy paper copies of most concordances. Underneath each word entry, you will see a listing of references where the word occurs. For example, in the concordance of the NIV Study Bible, below the word warrior are the references Exodus 15:3; 1 Chronicles 28:3; and Proverbs 16:32. Next to each reference is a short phrase from the verse containing the word. Next to the Exodus 15:3 entry, for example, is the phrase “The Lord is a w.” (the w being an abbreviation for the word warrior).

Concordances are translation-specific; that is, different concordances are based on different translations of the Bible. A concordance for the NASB will not help you find much in the ESV, simply because those two translations use different English words. A parallel Bible, such as the KJV-NIV, will usually have two concordances in the back—one for the KJV and one for the NIV.

A good concordance will also help with original language study. In Strong’s, for example, each English word is assigned a number that corresponds to the original Greek or Hebrew word. The Old Testament (Hebrew) words are numbered 0001—8674; the New Testament (Greek) words are numbered 0001—5624. Strong’s includes Hebrew and Greek dictionaries at the back of the concordance, allowing you to easily look up the meaning of the original word behind every word in the Bible.

Why use a concordance?

• A concordance is a helpful tool when doing a word study. Using an exhaustive concordance, you can locate every occurrence of the word in the Bible and gain helpful insight into what it means.

• A concordance is helpful in learning the definitions of Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic words.

• A concordance is helpful when trying to locate a Bible verse, but you can’t remember the chapter and verse.

How does a Bible concordance work? Perhaps you remember a verse about Noah finding grace in the eyes of the Lord, but you can’t remember where it is found. You can look up grace in a concordance in order to discover the reference. Here is an excerpt from the entry for grace:

Genesis 6:8, But Noah found g. in the eyes of the... H2580
Genesis 19:19, Behold now, thy servant hath found g.... H2580
Genesis 32:5, my lord, that I may find g. in thy sight... H2580

You notice the verse you’re looking for is Genesis 6:8, the one that mentions Noah. While you’re at it, you can look up other instances of the same Hebrew word translated “grace.” Notice that Genesis 19:19 and Genesis 32:5 have the same reference number in the right column. Those two verses use the same Hebrew word (numbered H2580).

Then you can look up the definition of the Hebrew word translated “grace” by using the reference number. At the back of the concordance, you will find this entry for H2580:

“H2580 chēn from H2603 chanan; graciousness, i.e. Subjective (kindness, favor) or Objective (beauty): — favour, grace(-ious), pleasant, precious, (well-)favoured.”

A Bible concordance, whether online or in print, is a valuable resource for any student of the Bible. It is a basic tool and is often one of the most used in Bible study.

Recommended Resource: Bible Concordances at Christianbook.com

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Related Topics:

What is Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance?

What is a study Bible?

Why are there so many Bible translations, and which is the best?

What is a Bible commentary?

Should I use a paraphrase of the Bible?

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