If you’ve been keeping up with this Bible Study Basics series, you probably noticed that I listed the Strong’s Concordance as one of the essential Bible study tools. (And if you haven’t been keeping up with it, you can catch up right here.)
The Strong’s Concordance really is my go-to tool for so many different things related to Bible study because it has so many resources included...it’s not just a concordance!
First of all, let’s define what a concordance is.
A concordance is a complete list of words used in a book. (In this case, all the words used in the King James Version of the Bible.) This 500 page masterpiece was compiled by James Strong, LL.D. (Hence “strong’s” but don’t ask me what the LL.D. is for. 😉
Not only did Mr Strong list all the important words, he listed every. single. word. in the Bible (Even all the little words like “as,” “and,” and “us.”) This is why Strong’s Concordance can claim the title “Exhaustive Concordance.”
How Strong’s concordance is set up:
The first section is the main concordance. The list of words is filed alphabetically (just like a dictionary) but there are no definitions. The “context list” includes a portion of the verse around the word, the scripture reference, and a reference number to the Hebrew or Greek dictionaries so you can look up the meaning in the original language, in order from Genesis to Revelation.
The second section is an appendix to the main concordance. This is where they filed all the teeny words that are in the Bible a bazillion times (words like “a,” “an,” “and,” or “you”).
As the concordance itself says, “if the concordance were to quote in full the passages where these words appear, it would be necessary to reprint the entire Bible under each entry!” They saved a considerable amount of space and ink by consolidating it this way (and they still are “exhaustive” because they ARE in there. ;))
The third section is a dictionary of the Hebrew words found in the Bible. The words are in order Hebrew alphabetically, but they are all numbered so you can find them from the English section. It also includes a pronunciation guide (which is really handy for all us non-Hebrew scholars), the original meaning, and several synonyms to help you get a sense of it.
The fourth section is the Greek dictionary, which includes all the amenities of the Hebrew dictionary.
The fifth section includes several extremely valuable supplements:
- A collection of the subjects Jesus taught about and their references
- A table of weights and measures so you can figure out what in the world a homer is
- A “Universal Subject Guide” to the Bible which gives the most pertinent references for each subject and its applications.
- A harmony of the Gospels, which compares each gospel to the others so you can find which one tells about a certain event in Jesus’ life.
- A table of the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ
- Lists of Jesus’ parables + miracles (and their references)
- Prayers found in the Bible, by who prayed them (and their references)
- An Old Testament Chronology, which gives the general dates for events and compares them to what was happening elsewhere at the same time.
How to use the Strong’s Concordance
1. To look up a verse you can sort of quote, but can’t for the life of you remember the reference.
This is mostly why I use it, to be honest. 😛 I can usually remember the basic word structure and the general meaning of a verse, but if I didn’t specifically memorize it, I don’t know the exact reference.
Step 1. Decide which of the main words you’re going to look up first. This is where sort of having it memorized comes in handy. Generally speaking, you should pick one of the longer words (don’t pick “an”!)
Step 2. Look up that word in the main concordance alphabetically.
Step 3. If you can kind of remember where in the Bible the verse is (like Old or New Testament) skip straight to that section of references.
Step 4. Read through the verse excerpts until you find the verse you’re looking for and check the reference.
2. To do a word study.
Step 1. Look up the word you’re going to study.
Step 2. Go to each of the references listed under that word and study them. 😉
Step 3. Look up the word or a related topic in the Universal Subject Guide in the back to add depth to your study.
3. To research the background of the original word in Greek or Hebrew.
Sometimes it’s very interesting to understand which words were translated from which Greek or Hebrew words. Often you’ll find that under a specific word, the reference numbers to the dictionaries are all different, meaning that the English word we read in our Bible isn’t necessarily always the same Greek or Hebrew word. By looking up the original Greek and Hebrew, you can usually get a better idea of the sense of the word.
Step 1. Look up the word you want in the main concordance.
Step 2. If you’re researching the word in a specific verse, find that verse + reference.
Step 3. Make a note of the dictionary reference number to the right of the reference. If the number is in regular type, it’s in the Hebrew dictionary: if it’s italicized, it’s in the Greek.
Step 4. Go to the correct dictionary and find the reference number. (Obviously the entries are in numerical order, but there’s a lot on one page so keep an eye on the numbers at the top of the page. The first number is the first entry on the page, and the second is the last. If the number you’re looking for is between those two numbers, it's on that page.)
There are more ways to use the Strong’s Concordance, but these are the best (and most simple). Click the button below to download a free cheat sheet you can print and keep with your Bible for handy reference!