Lesson 9.0 Topical Bible Study
Here is where I am going to veer off my original plan and switch lessons 9 and 10 around. We will learn about topical Bible study today and next week about basic word studies. Word study is one of the more complicated subjects, but topical studies can be a stepping stone into word studies.
Most Bibles have a concordance of their own. We will use the larger Strong’s Concordance next week, but this week we will be using the concordance that we carry with us in our own Bibles. If you look at the back of your Bible, you might find a concordance. It often is limited in its content. There are several advantages to this type of concordance. First of all, it is attached to your Bible, so you don’t need a table full of books to use it. I like to use mine in bed as I read at night. Second, it has the same wording that your Bible has so you don’t have to find make sure your Bible and Concordance match translations. Third, if it is the Bible you are use to using, you can become familiar with it quickly. Finally, it is concise so you don’t have to wade through a bunch of entries to find what you’re looking for.
On the flip side while the back of your Bible’s concordance is concise, you may not find the verse you’re looking for. The Hebrew or Greek word or definition is not often available in these concordances.
A concordance is not a dictionary, but more like the key is to a map. Not every word in a Bible will be in a concordance. For instance“articles” are not in there, so you won’t find every – and, the, a. Looking at the verse, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” You would likely find the words, “God, loved, world, gave, begotten, son, whosoever, believeth, him, perish, everlasting, life.” These would be key words to look for in the concordance.
Why is do we need these? One reason could be to find the verse. If you remember the verse but not the reference, you can use one of those words to find where it is located in the Bible. I would liken it to an internet search engine. If I wanted to find out how to make chocolate milk, I could find it with the word “chocolate”or “milk.” In the concordance, rather than giving me website options, I get scripture options. If I look up “world,” in the back of one Bible, I get 14 different options including John 3:16, John 7:7 and Titus 2:12, but before each scripture reference, is a phrase from the verse it represents. “God so loved the w…” is the phrase before John 3:16. I can then turn to that scripture and see if it is what I was looking for. Another entry says, “Don’t copy… this w…”Rom 12:2. The “w” represents the word I looked up “world.” That particular Bible gave a definition to the word as well. Not every Bible Concordance will do that.
|Here is an sample of the concordance entry from the NIV Study Bible for the word, "world."|
The lesson today is about topical Bible study and it took me a bit to get there, but that you have a bigger understanding of the concordance use, we can discuss how it can be a valuable tool in topical study. My kids and I did a month of lessons on “Trust.” That is a big topic, so the curriculum writer has narrowed the areas down so at one point we learned about sheep. Sheep trust their shepherd. The Bible refers to sheep a lot and Jesus refers to us a sheep and God being the shepherd. I want to know more about this. While the people of Jesus' time and area of the world could relate to sheep, I cannot fully grasp the inferences. I've worn wool and seen sheep in real life,but know nothing about their habits, so I did a topical study on them. I went to my concordance for a good starting place. I looked up, "sheep," and I looked up, "Shepherd." Once I found a few verses about them, there was another word that was commonly used, "Flock." It became another word I looked up. Other words that were used in my search were: Sheepfold, wool, lamb and staff. You can make a topical study quick or as lengthy as you want. It's your study and either way you will learn.
I can also look up things like anger or sadness or joy or fishing. If the Lord lays a word on your heart, check it out in The Word. My language may not make sense to you, but if there is a word you hear in conversation or one just pops in your mind, especially in prayer, it may be something to look up. I had the word “ubiquitous” randomly pop into my head. I didn't even know what it meant. The first place I went was not the concordance, it was a dictionary and since I like electronic devices, I actually used dictionary.com on my phone. Instant gratification… it means the same as omnipresent. Everywhere. At that point, I found another search I could do in the Bible. It didn't take long… neither word is in the Bible according to the few translations I used. Though I heard the word omnipresent as I was growing up in Sunday School, it was strange for me to find that it was not actually in the Bible. The Bible does describe in several places, however, that God is everywhere.
There are a few other books that are useful for topical studies. Some are devotional books and some are encouraging mini books. There are topical Bibles as well. There are many emails going around with multiple scriptures on a subject too. A way to make these things into a study can be to look up the verse about a topic and then go back and look at the verses surrounding it as we've done before to get the context. Then you can go to footnotes and cross-references and ... you get the idea.
One book that I have that is topical was given to me as I graduated from High School. It is called, "God's Promises for the Graduate," published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. There are headings in the table of contents that lead to pages of scriptures related to that topic. One such topic in that book, for example, is "For in Times of Anger." There are 21 scriptures that are quoted in that section. One of them is Ephesians 4:31-32 NKJV "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you." If I need to know more of what the Bible says about anger (likely I do) I can look up all of those scriptures in context and make a great study out of them.
LESSON 9.0 Worksheet
When would you use the concordance in your Bible?
Do concordances in the back of most Bibles give every scripture reference for each entry?
Does every back of Bible concordance also include definitions for the words?
Are dictionaries useful for topical studies?
Is there a topic that is dear to you that you've been curious about? Don’t wait for Joel Osteen or some great preacher/teacher to write a book about it. Look up the key word(s) and search out the Word of God concerning that topic over the next few weeks.