A few days ago I posted a tutorial on using the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Today I’d like to expand a bit on the topic of cross-referencing in Bible study.
It’s easy to lean on commentaries when studying a passage of Scripture. But this has a big, obvious pitfall: when you’re reading a commentary, you’re reading what another man has to say about God’s word. There is nothing inherently wrong with reading commentaries. In a way it is not a lot different from listening to preaching in church, and we should always be open and teachable, willing to learn when God might want to teach us through someone else.
However, a personal relationship with God has only one mediator (1Ti 2:5), so we must always be on guard and ensure that we are not setting up someone between us and God as we study the Bible.
The best way to avoid doing that is to let the Bible interpret and define itself for us. In study, this is done with cross-referencing. Looking at other verses and comparing Scripture with Scripture is how we let God explain what he means. We can use this method of study to help us learn the spiritual definition of terms and also learn more about themes, subjects, and parallels.
How do you cross-reference verses?
That depends on what you want to do. For studying parallel passages and subjects, you will at first need the aid of a study help such as the TSK or the Thompson Chain references (both are included with SwordSearcher). Many printed Bibles come with verse references listed in the margin. These, and the aforementioned books, can be thought of as “soft commentaries” because even linking two verses together implies interpretation.
After a while, you can develop your own cross-reference collection simply through remembering what you have read elsewhere and by making topical verse lists. In a printed Bible, you’d mark these in your margin; in SwordSearcher, you can create a book to store your topical verse lists in, or a personal commentary to record your verse links.
When you want to learn what a word or group of words in a verse mean, you can cross-reference simply by doing a Bible search. My printed Bible contains a short concordance in the back which is very helpful for this. In SwordSearcher, a Bible search is done with just a few keystrokes, and there is a handy short-cut called the Find Related Verses tool, where you can tick check marks next to the words you want to find in other verses. (This is a really powerful tool for developing your own cross-references and keeps it strictly between you and God!)
Be sure to read my tutorial on using the TSK for a practical example of using Bible cross-referencing in study.