There was a joke that used to circulate among Bible college students that you had to be really “strong,” because carrying around this concordance was “exhaustive.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is a very large book. Depending on the printing, it normally has over 1,600 pages and weighs over 5 pounds.
Dr. James Strong (1822—1894), a professor of exegetical theology at Drew Theological Seminary, supervised the creation of this work, which was first published in 1890. The production of this concordance was a monumental task in the days before computers, and it took 35 years to complete. Before the days of computer searches, this index of every word in the Bible was an indispensable Bible study tool.
A concordance is simply an index of Bible words to help a person find specific verses in the Bible. Many Bibles will have an abridged concordance in the back. A concordance is useful for locating a verse in Scripture when a person might remember a key word or phrase, but is unable to remember the whole verse or where it is found. So, if you’re looking for “that one verse about a camel going through the eye of a needle,” you can look up the word camel in a concordance; it may list Leviticus 11:4; Matthew 23:24; and Mark 10:25. Based on the short phrases the concordance includes with each entry, you know that Mark 10:25 is the verse you want.
An exhaustive concordance is a stand-alone book that lists every single word in the Bible. (Exhaustive means “thorough” or “including all possibilities.”) Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance contains every occurrence of every word in the English Bible. Even words such as the and in are listed. A concordance is helpful in studying a certain topic. If you want to find every verse that might address the topic of slavery, for example, you would locate every passage that contains the word slave, slavery, servant, bondservant, or master. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance will provide that information.
Of course, a concordance will be based on a specific version of the Bible, as different versions use different words. The original Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is based on the King James Version.
James Strong also assigned each English word in the Bible a number that corresponds to the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word in the original text. Using a previous example, the word camel is assigned a number (called “Strong’s number”). In Hebrew, it is 1581; in Greek, it is 2574. The Bible student can then look up that number and find the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as “camel,” along with other passages using those same Hebrew and Greek words. (There might be a number of words in the original language that are translated by a single English word; likewise, one word in the original language may be translated by several English words in different contexts. The information in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance will help sort that out.) The numbers used in Strong’s have become so prominent that, even today, many biblical language reference books are still organized according to, or refer to, “Strong’s numbers.”
With computer searches, it is now easy to find where any word is used in Scripture with just a few clicks. It is also easy to search by phrases, which is not possible with Strong’s. Most versions of the Bible can be searched in easy-to-use, free, online concordances. However, Strong’s continues to sell in paper form and has been updated with clearer typeface and additional information. Newer editions have been released under the following titles: The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, and even The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.