Using the Thompson Chain-Reference Study Bible

In this week’s video, I talked about (and incorrectly named) the Thompson Chain-Reference Study Bible. I bought ours as a gift to my husband because his Bible went missing a few years back. I asked some pastor friends about a good study Bible and they all recommended this one. Needless to say, he never used it, but when I started writing up my study, I figured out how to use this bad boy and it has been a game changer!

Given that it’s not all that intuitive to use, I wanted to write up a How-To for us lay people to learn how to use it. I’m sure that pretty much any seminarian who had to buy this book learned how to use it in school, but not all of us are seminarians.

The interesting thing about the TCRSB (I’m now using an acronym) is that it uses the Bible to study the Bible. It doesn’t have a commentary associated with it like my other study Bible has on each margin of each page. What this does is reference different verses in the Bible that talk about the same subject.

The simplest way to explain this Bible is to take it straight from the first page:


Once you figure out how to use the numerical system, it is quite easy to use. I’ll take you on a step-by-step pictorial guide of how to use this Bible. Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?


In the margins, you see the numbers and terms. Each of these terms corresponds directly with the number next to it. In some cases, you can see a number within parentheses. This indicates that the term has multiple meanings within the chain-reference system, even though each one still has its own number.

For example, look at Creator. It has 884 and 886. 884 is associated with Creator (1) and 886 is associated with Creator (3). Let’s hop to the chain-reference section and look at Creator in it.


In the chain index, Creator is given 3 numbers. Under each of these, use of the same term is shown and the Bible references are given. After each initial reference, others are sometimes given. These show cross-reference to the same idea or event.

So let’s take Genesis 1:1 up top and look at Exodus 20:11. You may also have noticed that Exodus 20:11 was referenced in the first picture, so for that chain reference, you wouldn’t necessarily need to go to the chain index.


The next verse in the chain reference is Nehemiah 9:6 and if we go there, we see that Job 12:9 is referenced.


And so on. The Job passage references the next Job passage, and down the line it goes, showing all the Biblical support for the idea that God is the Creator of the Natural Universe.

Note that it doesn’t give any addition information, no commentary discussion, nothing extra. It simply shows verses that demonstrate the same theme.

If you were to follow all the 885 references, it would be the same and the 886 references. This allows you, the student, the determine what Scripture actually says instead of relying on the interpretation of someone else. Don’t hear me saying that relying on commentaries is bad. I think they can be excellent resources to gain additional knowledge and insight. I do believe, however, we need to learn how to study the Bible itself without relying on the knowledge of others.

This guide allows us to do just that. This book is a game-changer.

How about you? What do you use to study the Bible? What would you recommend?


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