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Bible Books Summary

Session 7: Section 1

Cross – references

In section 2 of the first session, you spent some time discussing how the Bible interprets itself, and you may remember looking at Isaiah 53.

You learned from that example that the Bible interprets itself.

In examining that passage we also introduced the tip on “listening” for Bible echoes. That was a very good example of how using cross–references can be valuable. Basically, cross–references can be used to help the listening process by indicating for you some passages which are “echoes”.

What is a cross – reference?

A cross–reference is a list of verses supplied by the publishers which direct the reader to other locations in the Bible where a given event, place, person, phrase or word may be found.

We hope that you have cross–references in your Bible, because it can be one of your greatest aids when you are trying to understand a difficult passage.

There are two types of cross–reference. We have reproduced typical examples of cross– references below. The first are those which fall into the category of “centre” references.

Centre references by location
The first, below, is an example of one such Bible. In this case, each letter appearing as a superscript in the main text is linked to a cross–reference or references. Sometimes there are also alternative meanings of words. In this example they are organised by the order they appear, generally in the vicinity of the verse.

Centre references by verse
The second example also has the references in the centre margin, but this time references are organised by verse.

Footnote references
The third example has the cross–references at the bottom of the page in the form of footnotes. Such cross–references are usually not as complete as those listed in the centre.

If you do not have good cross–references in your Bible, and you really do not want to buy a new one, there are books available which only contain cross–references. The most popular one is The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. It simply lists cross–references for each verse in the Bible. A word or phrase from the verse is listed with the list of references.

Using cross–references

We are going to look at some examples of how cross–references can be of help in making your reading more effective. There are four main ways in which cross–references can be of help.

1. Linking teaching and prophecies between the Old and New Testaments.
  1. For this first example, we have shown Luke 1 v.31–33 from the New King James Bible to show exactly how to use cross references. Click on the small picture to look at it more closely.
  2. In verse 32, if you wonder “what is the throne of his father David?”, the marginal references can help. You will notice a small letter “c” just before the word “throne”. The Bible is a “by verse” type, so look down the margin for the references to verse 32, then look for reference “c”, which is 2Samuel 7 v.14–17, Acts 2 v.33 and Acts 7 v.55. The Samuel reference helps you to understand that Jesus is to fulfil the promise to David in 2 Samuel 7.
  3. If you look at Luke 4 v 16–21, you see that Jesus is reading from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. If you refer to the cross–references, you will see that the actual passage he was quoting from is Isaiah 61 v 1
  1. Filling in details on persons, places, subjects.

    1. In Hebrews 7 v 1, you could ask, “Who is Melchizedek?”. The marginal references lead us to Genesis 14 v 17–19.

    2. The book of the Acts starts “The former account I made O Theophilus....”. If you ask “What is this ‘former account’”, the margin leads to Luke 1 v 3, where you see that the Gospel of Luke was also written for “Theophilus”, so you can conclude that Luke's Gospel is the “former account”.

  2. Filling in detail from parallel accounts.

    1. 1 Kings 15 v 34 says that King Baasha walked “in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin”. The margin helps you to find more about “the way of Jeroboam”. One reference is 1 Kings 13 v 33, which elaborates Jeroboam’s way of life.

    2. Luke 9 v 7–9 tells that Herod had killed John the Baptist. You might ask “Why?” The references in the “interlinear” Bible to Matthew 14 v 1 to 12 and Mark 6 v 14 to 29 help tell you why. If you read both of these passages, you see that John had reproved Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. Herod’s wife then used devious means to make Herod kill John.

  3. Clarification of the meaning of a passage.

    1. Matthew 9 v 10–13. In verse 13, Jesus asked the Pharisees the meaning of “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. The margin says that this is a quote from Hosea 6 v 6, where Hosea was telling the people that lots of sacrifices cannot make wicked men acceptable to God. The implication is that Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they are in fact as wicked as people in Hosea’s day.

    2. In Acts 8 v 27–40 you read of Philip and the Ethiopian who was reading his Bible. The margin tells what he was reading. In Acts 8 v 32, the margin says that he was reading Isaiah 53 v 7 and 8. So you know that Philip explained Isaiah 53 to the Ethiopian.

Optional Assignment 9

Using cross–references

If you have a Bible with cross–references, choose one of the readings for the day from the Bible Companion and look up some of the cross–references and see where they lead you. If you find an interesting “echo”, look up the cross–references from that verse as well. If you pick any of the major themes in the Bible, you can be led all round the Bible in this way.

If you don’t have a Bible with cross–references, look at some of the references we have mentioned.

Write down what you have found out.

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