Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a conversation when a scripture comes to mind…
“That reminds me of a verse! The one about the things you should think about? How does that go… whatever is lovely, whatever is true, um….”
…but you can’t quite remember it? You need a concordance!
What is a concordance?
A concordance is essentially a bible index. You may even have a small concordance in the back of your bible.
Concordances are comprised of lists of scriptures organized by word. In a full concordance, you will find lists of English words, Hebrew words, and Greek words.
Many concordances eliminate small, frequently used words such as “an” and “the”. An exhaustive concordance includes even these common-use words.
Why should you use a concordance?
- To find a scripture and its context. As long as you know a single word in a scripture, you can find the full scripture using a concordance.
- To better understand the meaning of a verse when the word choice is confusing. When I find myself baffled by a word choice, I like to go to my concordance, look up the word, then find all the instances of the exact original word being used. Then I look up the Hebrew or Greek word in each of its other contexts to gain a fuller understanding of the original meaning.
- To explore a particular word that has special importance to you. Word studies can illuminate a topic near to your heart. Words I have studied in the past include patience, tongue, and joy. For the last five years or so I have chosen a word or scripture in January to define the coming year. This year it was courage, and as you might guess, I’m in the midst of a word study on courage. I have made some surprising discoveries about what gives a believer courage thanks to my concordance!
How do you use a concordance?
If you are using a print version, first you will look up the English word that you are seeking. For example, if you wanted to learn more about joy in the bible, you would start here in a Strong’s Concordance:
Each word in the original language is assigned a number. In this part of the list of verses in which joy appears, there are three different original words: 8057, 2305 and 2304.
If you are just trying to find a scripture, you’ve arrived, but if you want to delve further into a word’s meaning, you’ll note the number then go look up the word numerically in the original language dictionary.
There are separate sections for Hebrew words (from the Old Testament) and Greek words (from the New Testament.) This may be confusing at first since each numerically ordered word list starts at the number 1. Be sure to turn to the correct list when you look up your word.
Here is Strong’s number 8057 simchah in the Hebrew/Chaldee dictionary:
For a deeper understanding of the meaning of the word, you can also use a bible dictionary. Some concordances include bible dictionaries with much more detailed definitions.
You may also find lists of people and places in your concordance, and even topical lists…
I have a great deal of affection for my massive Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, because it has warmed my lap through many a precious quiet time. But with the advent of digital technology, bible word searches have become easier than ever, both online and through bible software.
Which concordance should you use?
Concordances are associated with a specific English translation. So if you primarily use the ESV bible you will find it most fruitful to use an ESV concordance; a KJV concordance with a KJV bible; and so on.
- Print concordances – Strong’s is based on the KJV; it has now been made available for the NASB as well; for the ESV try the Crossway Comprehensive, but note that it lacks the Greek and Hebrew words, so is primarily useful for locating scripture.
- Online concordances – concordances.org, biblestudytools.com
- Concordance software – concordances are often included as part of bible software packages like e-sword or Logos.
Have you ever used a concordance? Share your favorite resource in the comments!