On Personal Concordances

Developing your own biblical concordance can be quite useful:

Some might understand what my title is about – others might not have a clue. I refer here to something most Christians are aware of: Bible concordances. For those still not in the know, a concordance is simply an in depth and detailed index. As one online definition reads, it is “an alphabetical list of the principal words used in a book or body of work, listing every instance of each word with its immediate context.”

So a Bible concordance obviously does just that for the Bible. Many older Christians would have had some of these large volumes in their home. Perhaps the three most famous ones are:

-Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance released by James Strong in 1890.
-Young’s Analytical Concordance released by Robert Young in 1879.
-Cruden’s Complete Concordance released by Alexander Cruden in 1737.

While these earlier ones were of course based on the KJV, as other newer Bible translations came on the scene, concordances for them also appeared – eg, the NKJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, etc. They are all still available of course – even the first three that I mentioned.

But with the advent of the internet and online Bible programs, they have largely been superseded by these web-based resources. Many electronic Bible programs exist. They are all usually quite helpful. The one I most often use is BibleGateway: https://www.biblegateway.com/

There are many others like it, and they are excellent resources for reading and studying the Bible. And with their search and/or find functions, they act as an electronic concordance: just type in the word or phrase you are looking for (and select your Bible translation preference) and you will instantly get all the times that word is found in Scripture, listed in order by biblical book.

You can simply copy that whole list if you like and paste it into a Word document or whatever as part of your own personal Bible study. And this is what my article is all about: creating your own personal concordance. Let me explain. Back before the computer and internet revolution, I would make lists of various biblical words or ideas or themes or concepts that I was interested in.

When I first became a Christian and was living in a radical Christian community, I would have certain topics and list verses on the blank pages of my Bible. Since we did a lot of witnessing and evangelism, I would make lists such as where Jesus claimed his deity, or verses on the need for salvation, etc.

Later on, when I lived back home, I would use notebooks or loose-leaf folders, and make various lists, and keep adding verses to them by hand on a number of topics. As I read through my Bible (usually the whole Bible in a year) and came across another verse on a certain topic, I would hand-write it into my pages of lists.

I still have some of those loose-leaf binders with my many lists of topics or words. There would have been many dozens of topics and many hundreds of passages all written out by hand. But with the advent of the computer, and the internet, all that is now done by typing the text in, or by simply copying and pasting the text.

So now on my computer I have hundreds of folders with hundreds of things, be they articles I have written, or quotes, or bibliographies, and so on. Included in that is a folder entitled “Concordance.” I just clicked on it, and it contains 75 separate Word documents, listing Bible verses on various subjects. To give you an idea, here are the first 15 of them:

A king for Israel
Adam, historicity
Apostasy, backsliding
Argumentative, quarrelsome folks
Bless, curse, etc
Blood of Christ
Bride of Christ
Canaan: occupy, land given, etc
Church discipline
Conditional promises
Deceit, deception

Here you get an idea of the sorts of things I am interested in. And since I am both a teacher, as well as a blogger, having these personal lists at hand is very helpful. If I want to pen a new piece on, say, church discipline, or give a teaching session or talk on it, there I have at my fingertips my list of verses. I just clicked on that document, and I have around a hundred verses listed there.

Of course one can simply go online and get this. Any topic you want to look up, you will find plenty of sites that deal with it. So all these things already exist online, but there is a case to be made for your own personalised lists as well. For example, I just googled “verses on church discipline” and plenty of hits came up. One article mentioned 8 verses on the topic, another featured 10, and so on.

And contained within those 75 documents in my concordance folder is this one: “General concordance”. That one alone is a 36-page document in smallish print. It lists all the other odds and ends I have been collecting over the years. It starts with neat or interesting Bible verses (160 of them so far).

Then it features plenty of different topics that do not warrant a separate document. So far it features 260 different subjects and topics. Here are the first 15 of those:

Acts – uproar over money
Alliances, foreign – don’t make
Apathy, complacency
Arm of flesh
Art, design
Baby Christians
Be involved, even if last days
Blessing to others
Book of life

Again, this gives you an idea of the sorts of things I have been collecting over the years, to use in my own personal study, to help me when I am writing articles, or to be used when I give public talks and teaching. This might inspire you to do the same, especially if you have any sort of ministry in teaching or sharing the Word.

Having such lists at the ready are good for all sorts of reasons. With online discussions and debates happening all the time, for example, these lists can really come in handy. Let’s say that you are discussing prayer with someone. He might say to you that we always should pray for others, no matter what.

While that is generally quite true, it is not fully true. Scripture at times actually tells us specifically not to pray for certain people in certain situations. I happen to have a separate four-page document on prayer, broken up into 6 sections. One of them is this:

Prayer – don’t pray

Jer. 7:16 So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 
Jer. 11:14 Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.
Jer. 14:11 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Do not pray for the well-being of this people’.”
1 John 5:16 If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that.

So if I needed a very quick reply to someone on this matter, I have it ready at my fingertips, and it would take me just moments to find it and share it when needed. One more example: Someone might be discussing with you the issue of the Christian life.

Some – perhaps those into the hyper-grace error – will try to tell you that as Christians we need not even think about sin or dwell on it. They might even claim that Paul never focused on his sin as a believer. Well, I would then go to my personal concordance and pull this out and share it:

Paul’s awareness of sin

1 Cor. 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (written in mid-50s)
Eph. 3:8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, (written in early 60s)
1 Tim. 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. (written in mid-60s)

The point here is quite clear: the longer Paul was a Christian, the more he saw himself to be a sinner. Sure, he was a redeemed sinner, but the truth is this: as you grow in grace and holiness, you also grow in awareness of just how far you have to go in sanctification, and how much indwelling sin still remains within you.

But I think you get my point. If you like to share biblical truth in any form or format, having your own personal concordance can be quite a useful tool – especially if you need a quick reply to tough questions or objections. Any Christian teacher should certainly have one.

Many of you likely already have such a system, and you might want to comment here, telling us how you have set it up and how it works for you. So let us know thanks. In the meantime, keep enjoying your Bible as you read it and study it – all for the glory of God.

[1589 words]

2 Replies to “On Personal Concordances”

  1. Bill, timely subject in this time of ‘cancel culture’. Thank you so much for sharing this…to remind us to be diligent about the things of the Lord. Let’s utilize the electronic resources while available, but keep some manual backups as you have done. The time may come when we cannot access resources electronically related to Christian ideals, values and the Word.

  2. I like your approach. Computers and the internet have certainly made it easier to gather and store information. I am not so well organised, and I have less than a dozen topics on file. One thing I do find useful is saving links to key online articles, for example ‘creation.com/why-did-jesus-die’ in relation to the creation/evolution issue.

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