The word "concordance" has two meanings. The first refers to an alphabetized index of words in a book provided with their immediate context; the second meaning is simply "agreement." Together, these meanings describe the nature and use of a Bible concordance, the most common and easily used word book for in-depth Bible study.
A lot of people simply use their concordance to find a verse they can only remember in part. While this is a legitimate use, it only barely brushes the surface; a good concordance is primarily a word study book, enabling even those unfamiliar with the original languages of Scripture to gain a fuller understanding of the words found in the text.
In the most famous of all Bible concordances, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, English words are grouped alphabetically in the main body of the concordance. All the instances of that word are then listed in order according to book (from Genesis to Revelation), appearing in immediate context and with a number beside the reference.
This number is called a "Strong's number," and each word appearing in both the Old and New Testaments has a Strong's number for easy reference. Once you know the Strong's number, you find the appropriate Greek or Hebrew word in the back of the concordance, and it will give you alternative translations, etymology, and more.
A less well-known option, but a better one for in-depth word study, Young's Analytical Concordance takes a different approach than Strong's. Instead of making you flip from front to back, Young's analyzes English words by listing beneath them all the Greek or Hebrew words that translate that one English word. It also organizes by Greek and Hebrew words as well as English.
Not all concordances are created equal. A man named Alexander Cruden singlehandedly composed a concordance of the whole Bible in 1737, but there were multiple errors, and some words were left out altogether. Copies currently in print are generally corrected and therefore complete, but this isn't the best option available by any means.
One unique and particularly useful option for students of the Old Testament is The Englishman's Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament by George Wigram. The edition we carry has been coded with Strong's numbers, is fully updated and corrected, and includes all the words found in the Hebrew Old Testament. The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament: Coded with Strong's Concordance Numbers does the same thing for the Greek New Testament.
There aren't as many concordances available as you might think (there's still no ESV concordance with Strong's numbers), but the classics are still excellent and highly user-friendly once you get acquainted. Even the best concordance won't teach you Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic, but they're a great place to start if you want deeper intimacy with the Bible at a foundational level.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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