True, describing the Bible simply as a collection of more than 60 separate books. True, each book was written by the inspiration of God with a message relevant to a particular stage in his great salvation plan. To read each book as a stand-alone work disconected from the other 60+ is not to get the best from the Bible - also true, of course.
But how to link together all those stories and themes into one coherent life-changing message... well, that sometimes needs a little help from a real Bible expert. A good first step in usderstanding the whole Bible is to have a resource that connects the whole Bible.
Reference Bibles are the key resource to putting it all together. Although they read like any Bible in your favourite translation they also provide links or ‘cross-references’ between related words, phrases, topics, themes or people across the whole Bible.
Finding Bible themes, stories, people and ideas
Bible 'references' are just like map references. They're a way of locating any paragraph anywhere in the Bible by its unique book name, chapter number and verse number. Knowing the book, chapter and verse reference means you can quickly find any theme, story, person or key word.
Listing each Bible reference for every theme, story, person or key word means you can connect all those parts of the Bible where that subject is mentioned, discussed or explored.
Having an easy way to find all the appearances of a key themes, stories and people is the first step to joining up the whole Bible. A modern Reference Bible puts all this literally in your hands giving you the means to find anything anywhere and know where else in the Bible you can find it.
The important thing with a Reference Bible is that you don't miss anything in development of the Bible's message throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Cross-over references and how they work.
Book, chapter and verse references let you locate any paragraph in the Bible. A Reference Bible gives you other chapter and verse references where the key words and ideas in a paragraph are found elsewhere in the Bible.
These other references - where themes and words 'cross-over' from one book to another, are usually printed beside or below the paragraph you're reading. For instance, Matthew chapter 14: verses14-21 tell the story of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand.
In a Reference Bible, you’ll find the 'cross-references': Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-13 printed next the story. These references are where the same account is also found the other gospels.
Go to them, and you’ll find similar - though not identical versions of the same event. A reference Bible means you can easily find places in the Bible where the same story is told and find meaning in the comparison.
Linking together God’s great unfolding plan
Reference Bibles allow you to follow how God reveals his message over many centuries and through many people and events. For example, you can easily ‘ross-reference’ words of prophecy - the promises and warnings given by God, with their fulfilment in later books of the Bible.
For instance, where Jesus’ words from the cross are reported in Matthew 27:46, a Reference Bible will print alongside a ‘cross-reference’ for other mentions of these words. A Reference Bible will also link the dividing and gambling for Jesus’ clothes to Psalm 22.
Linking the Bible reader to the Bible's wisdom
New Reference Bibles give you all the connections that show how one Bible verse grows from or has a direct link to another. You’ll be able to compare the variations in the writings of men and find the constancy of God’s message and purpose throughout the Bible.
In one book, rarely much bigger than a plain Bible of the same translation, Reference Bibles contain all the cross-references to link together related words, phrases, topics, themes or people throughout the whole Bible.
Linking the Bible for teacher and student
Reference Bibles will give you a more complete knowledge base as you interpret and prepare for group study, teaching and ministry. Teachers, students and ordinary readers might also consider the alternative of a 'Study Bible'.
Study Bibles are more an attempt at a on-size-fits-all collection of Bible tools. These generally include a commentary, dictionary, maps, time-lines, historical notes, biographies that contibute to larger and heavier book
Although Study Bibles include the kind of cross-references found in Reference Bibles, they might not be as thorough and complete. The overall size of a Study Bible may well be larger and heavier, or printed on thinner paper making less of book to carry with you.
Even so, many Bible readers will use at least of one Reference Bible, perhaps for taking to church, and a Study Bible for home use.
Quick Guide to Reference Bibles
What they are:
- Bibles with links or ‘cross-references’ to related words, themes, stories, people and ideas.
- Bibles that help you link prophecies of the Old Testament with their fulfilment in the New.
- Available for most translations as well as pocket, large-print and easy-to-read editions.
What they give you:
- Convenient, easy access to the themes, ideas and teachings throughout the whole Bible.
- The words and actions of Jesus, in the context of the Old Testament and The Letters.
- Attractive and practical gifts to help another understand the Bible as the whole Word of God.
February 18th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison