Concordances are fun!

Everyone who’s ever been serious about Bible study is familiar with concordances. In the days before computer programs that would do searching and concordancing for you, there were massive printed volumes which would show you the occurrence of every word, most with short excerpts of context. Two of the most famous of these, Cruden’s Complete Concordance and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, were done completely without the aid of computers, in mind-boggling (and in the case of Mr Cruden, perhaps mind-scrambling!) displays of laborious manual indexing. These days, a few clicks of some buttons will produce all the same results, and even more. As in the case of BibleWorks, Accordance, and other software, one can get complete grammatical breakdowns of the original texts, position parallel texts side by side, and do any number of weird and wonderful searches.

But there is a certain austere beauty to these massive old volumes, and there is still use for them. Indeed, there are still concordances printed which exceed the possibilities of most of these generic Bible programs, like the magnificent (and now graspingly rare and gaspingly expensive) five-volumed Novae Concordantiae Bibliorum Sacrorum iuxta Vulgatam Versionem critice editam (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1977) produced by Bonfatius Fischer from the second edition of the handbook text of the Biblia Sacra Vulgata of which he was editor. This one includes variant information from the apparatus, which no other computer program does that I know of. I am the lucky owner of a photocopy of these five volumes.

Some more prosaic concordances that I have I am still fond of. One is my old Abingdon Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which is actually thumb-indexed. This is an edition with James Strong’s full Concordance, copyright 1890, plus a Key-Word Comparison after the Appendix giving common words, in which various selected phrases are presented in parallel from the KJV, RSV, NEB, JB, NAS, and NIV versions, copyright 1980 by Abingdon. I don’t think I ever used that Key-Word Comparison thing, but of course, the Concordance itself gained much use, and its Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, and Greek Dictionary of the New Testament. As I had just turned 18 when I got this book, it was a fine tool in helping me get more familiar with the Bible, for all its limitations. The scorn that some heap upon it is unfortunate. It was a fine tool for its time, and is a fine tool for introductory study. Certainly, one can move on from there. But one oughtn’t castigate the kindergartener for not having his calculus down pat when he hasn’t learned addition yet. Education proceeds from simple to complex. Regardless, the work that Mr Strong put into this Concordance is absolutely astonishing, considering that it was entirely manual labor, with no computers of any sort available to him. It is not surprising that even with the help of over one hundred colleagues for the work it took him thirty-five years to compile it!

Another very nice concordance in my collection is The Eerdmans Analytical Concordance to the Revisde Standard Version of the Bible, compiled by Richard E. Whitaker, with James E. Goehring and “Research Personnel of the Institute for Antiquitty and Christianity, Claremont Graduate School” (Eerdmans, 1988). This concordance is one of the first to take full advantage of computer technology. This one is fascinating. The “Analytical” in the title is altogether apparent in the entries in this concordance, which are quite often phrases rather than single words, indicating a whole lotta human input in this work, computer-assisted though it may be. So, we have entries for “above all”, “fixed allowance”, “very expensive” and so on. One of the great things about this concordance is that it also includes, in the heading of each entry, the word in the original language from which it is taken. When a single English entry is based on more than one such original language word, all are listed. Since this concordance also includes the RSV expanded Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals, which includes 4 Ezra, preserved only in Latin, there are even Latin entries. What a kick! So, there are four indices in the back, listing the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin words with the English words into which they were translated. This makes them extended glossaries of a sort, if one trusts the RSV translators to have done their jobs at all well, as I think most would agree they generally have. WIthin the entries themselves, the particular Heb/Aram/Gk/Lat word which is translated is numbered only within that entry, and indicated to the right. (I was trying to type an example but the right-to-left stuff on the same line as left-to-right stuff was not behaving properly, and it gave me a headache!) Proper names and Numbers appear in their own sections, for whatever reason.

I also have two very interesting NRSV concordances, both of which index the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books. An interesting feature of both is the indexing of the notes, too. The first is the NRSV Exhaustive Concordance: Complete and Unabridged, “Editorial Consulting and Introduction by Dr. Bruce M. Metzger” (Thomas Nelson, 1991). This one doesn’t mess around with any of that original language stuff. I suppose, one of the reasons is that the mangling of the OT text to impose gender-neutrality made it nearly impossible to render any equations with the Hebrew and Aramaic. (Thus there is The Analytical Concordance to the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament by Kohlenberger and Whitaker [Eerdmans, 2000], but no OT edition.) Anyhow, in addition to the concordance itself, this NRSV Exhaustive Concordance edition includes Metzger’s Introduction (the reason I bought it), and the following Supplements: Topical Index; The Laws of the Bible; Prayers of the Bible; Harmony of the Gospels; Teachings and Illustrations of Christ; The Parables of Jesus Christ; The Miracles of Jesus Christ; The Jewish Calendar; Jewish Feasts; Monies and Weights; Measures. Frankly, I’d only just realized those were in there, as I’ve never even glanced at them. Metzger’s introduction is a fascinating short history of concordances to the Bible. I’ll summarize it another time. He may also have written something more on the history of concordances elsewhere, actually. I recall a fuller history, illustrated, somewhere. I’ll have to look around for that.

The second of these NRSV concordances is The NRSV Concordance Unabridged by John R. Kohlenberger III (Zondervan, 1991). I think I bought this one first, actually. As in the above, there’s no original language stuff. In addition to an informative introduction, which actually gives some idea of the work that goes into producing a concordance, and the concordance itself, there is a very interesting “Topical Index to the NRSV” compiled by Verlyn D. Verbrugge. I think the binding on this one is better, and the cover, a library binding, is certainly nicer (and a great shade of purple!).

But out of all these, my favorite concordance so far is the smallest. I wonder if anyone is familar with the small, slender, black pocket books that Oxford used to do? This one is one of those, from the early 1920s as I recall (there’s nothing noted in the book itself; the date was from the order). Whatever its date, it’s certainly from a bygone era of bookmanship. It’s small, about 4 x 6 inches, and the hardcover is a fine-grained Morocco leather, black, of course. Around the inner edges of the binding is some beautiful gilt tooling. The endpapers are flat black, and the pages are also gilt. There’s even a thin blue silk register (bound-in bookmark). The 238 pages of this concordance are in small, but clearly legible type. And while “Cruden’s Concordance” is stamped and gilt on the front cover, and the title page says “Cruden’s Concordance to the Holy Bible,” and the top of the first page reads “Cruden’s Complete Concordance to the Holy Scriptures,” this is no full edition of Cruden’s Concordance (of which the complete tenth edition of 1830, including a life of Cruden, is available in full from Google Books here), but an abridgement of it. Yet, now I must partake of a Herodotean digression on the purported author of my beautiful little pocket concordance!

Alexander Cruden had a difficult life, partly due to his strong convictions and forceful personality, and for sometimes being, quite apparently, nuts. Unlike James Strong (that layabout), Alexander Cruden compiled his concordance completely by himself, the first edition being completed in the course of only six or seven years. Having begun in 1730 or 1731, Cruden published the first edition in 1737 at his own expense. As he was the Printer to the Queen, he properly dedicated the first edition to Her Majesty, and presented a copy to her, Queen Caroline, consort of King George II, with all reasonable expectation of a beneficence. Unfortunately, Queen Caroline died suddenly days later, and Cruden was bankrupted. After a period in which Cruden at times he possessed “a mind in which reason tottered, if she were not entirely dethroned,” steady, fulltime work as a printer’s corrector and his continual work for new editions of his concordance was beneficial to his mental balance:

Mr. Cruden seldom allotted more than four or five hours to res; and before six in the morning might be found turning over the leaves of his Bible, and adding to, amending, and improving his Concordance which most scrupulous attention. At this he laboured till the evening, when he repaired to the printing-office. These habits were well calculated to counteract the mental disease under which he had so long laboured; and the reader will learn with benevolent satisfaction, that his mind was restored to a degree of calm regularity to which he had been long a stranger. From 1758, to the close of his life, he was mercifully preserved, in a very considerable degree, from those distressing visitations which had painfully characterised the earlier periods of his history.
(from the anonymous “Memoir of Mr. Alexander Cruden,” found in various older editions of the Concordance)

Cruden also wrote several other books, including the “Account of the History and Excellency of the Holy Scriptures prefixed to a Compendium of the Holy Bible“, the History of Richard Potter, a poor man wrongly accused whom Cruden saved from hanging, A Scripture Dictionary, and the extensive index included in Bishop Thomas Newton’s The Poetical Works of John Milton.

But his great work was his Concordance, to the revision and improvement of which he devoted all his leisure in the later periods of his life; a second edition was published in 1761, dedicated to his late Majesty George the Third, who had newly succeeded to the throne; and who during his reign, the longest in the annals of the British Empire [to that time; Chalmers lived 1759-1834], fully maintained the truly honourable character ascribed to him in that dedication, of “having manifested a high regard for religion, and an earnest concern for promoting it among his subjects.” This edition was well received, and a Third was required, which appeared in 1769, with the Author’s last corrections. These two editions reimbursed Mr. Cruden for the losses he sustained by the first. For his second edition he received five hundred pounds; and when the third was published, the Booksellers made him a further present of three hundred pounds, besides twenty copies of the work on fine paper. These sums, with the product of some other literary labours, placed im in easy and comfortable circumstances during the last years of his life; and enabled him to indulge the benevolence of his heart, in relieving the necessities of others.

So much for my Herodotean digression on the real Cruden’s Concordance, which included contexts (quotation of parts of verses) for each of the various entries. My little one does not include contexts. It includes the heading, sometimes a definition (often charming in their oddity, as that for Aaron: “signifies lofty or mountain of strength or a teacher”), and then a list of verses. It’s very efficient, and perfectly compact. The entire thing is only 238 pages, with each page separated into three columns, and, as I said, in a perfect font for its small point size that is perfectly legible throughout. Such a little concordance and a compact Bible are a perfect pair.

And now we come to the real reason for this post. As some readers know, one of the projects I’m working on for publication is a concordance to the two-volume Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James Charlesworth, part of the Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library. So, I’ve been experimenting with software, and running tests and such. Another thing I’ve been doing solely for my own edification is getting the text of the NETS, the New English Translation of the Septuagint (Oxford, 2007) imported into BibleWorks, which is not an easy thing, for various reasons, mostly involving weird and annoying versification issues. Anyhow, since I had some of the NETS text lying around perfectly formatted, and I wanted to try out some concordancer software that I’m getting used to, I produced a first-run concordance of the NETS Genesis, in a format similar to my little black Oxford Pseudo-Crudens. Eventually, I’ll do the whole NETS, but then, I might actually get it published and have to be charging something, as well as take this one down. For now, though, there just the concordance of NETS Genesis.

Here it is. Enjoy.

Because I’m now working on the full NETS Concordance for publication, I’ve removed all but the first two pages from the Genesis concordance file above. I was uncomfortable leaving the full file there.


  1. Here’s a very interesting Hebrew OT concordance, of sorts. I don’t have it in front of me, but I think it lists the 2000 most used words in the OT, and gives a list of where the words are used. How can it do that in just 721 pages? The book is over-sized–16×24 inches I’d guesstimate. Only $31 at Amazon with free shipping (get the one from TRINITARIANISM):

    Vocabulary of the Old Testament (Paperback)
    by Francis I. Andersen (Author), Dean A. Forbes (Author)
    Paperback: 721 pages
    Publisher: Loyola Pr (June 1993)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 8876535756

  2. A great reflection post on concordances. I’ve always found concordances fascinating and incredibly useful!

    I’ll be eagerly awaiting a concordance to the Pseudepigrapha, as that has become much of my recent research (mainly medieval reception of OT/NT pseudepigrapha & apocrypha).

    Thanks for the Genesis concordance–great look, well formatted, will surely use this in the future.

  3. What a fun post! I have all of the English concordances you mention, except for Cruden (alas, I have never been able to find a “genuine” copy of it!). Then of the ones I do own, all are currently in Puerto Rico except for the Analytical Concordance to NRSV NT, which I had left behind here because, well, I was taking down the rest. I sorely miss having them available, as I make nearly constant use of them — especially the Analytical Concordance to the RSV and the NIV Exhaustive Concordance (which you didn’t mention). I had thought that I would use more the NRSV Exhaustive Concordance, but I was wrong.

  4. Thanks, gents. The works continues apace! At least I know (or am getting to to know) the concordance software software better (it’s Concordance, by the way; I’ve some others, but this one is easiest to use, with the most options), and the options for cereating different kinds of concordances. The big trick now is figuring out the “skip list”, which contains all those words that aren’t indexed (a, an, of, the, etc).

    Mark, thanks for that. I should have listed my Even-Shoshan Hebrew Concordance, which is absolutely amazing. It’s so much more than just a concordance that I don’t even think of it in the same category as the other concordances I mentioned. It should be a required learning tool for every Biblical Hebrew student (and will be, when I teach BH).

    B. Hawk, now that I know I have a customer, I’ll get the lead out!

    Esteban, you are always book-deprived. It’s a tragedy. What’s the NIV Exhaustive Concordance like? Like you, I thought I would use the NRSV concordances (one or the other that I have, anyway), but haven’t much at all. I can’t recall using the NASB one at all, actually. I must’ve thought it useful at one point. There was one project that I used the Kohlenberger NRSV concordance for: figuring out the citations in the Pre-Vatican II Missale Ambrosianum. That was a tricky one. Nearly none of the citations are given, even for the Gospels, and the text is in Latin and Italian only. But the Latin is often not the Vulgate, but the Vetus Latina (for both of which the Vulgate concordance I mentioned was very helpful), but sometimes the Ambrosian text is something else. So, to figure out the citation, which was sometimes really obscure, I remember using a combination of my Lewis & Short, the Latin concordance, the NRSV and NRSV concordance, the Clementine Vulgate, the Douai-Rheims, and the Weber handbook Vulgate. All this was because was offline work, which I used to restrict myself to in Bible work: real books only! I may go back to that. I still write anything substantive in a real journal rather than just type it online. Ach! There we go again! All about me! Anyhow, let me know what the NIV Exhaustive Concordance is like. Maybe I’ll pick one up. If it’s anything like the Analytical RSV or NRSV NT ones, I’ll definitely get one.

  5. I quite agree: my constant book deprivation is too great a burden to bear. Of course, it’s deprivation and not want because I own the books, but am far removed from them. Alack, alack, alack!

    I started to use the Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance (eds. Goodrick and Kohlenberger) because, as you know, the NIV was the “pew Bible” in the faith communities in which I had preaching responsibilities in the days before my repentance. You will find it very similar to the older Strong’s in shape and arrangement, but the dictionaries in the back and the numbering system are entirely new (and generally more reliable). The second edition, which I own, includes very useful statistics of how many times the headword(s) are used in the NIV, and the dictionary indices indicate (sorry, I couldn’t resist) all words used in the NIV to translate a given Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word. Frankly, I would have preferred to have this information under each individual headword as in the Exhaustive Concordance to the RSV, but this alternative system is not without its advantages.

    So, in short, get it! Especially since it’s your dirty little secret that you’re an NIV-lover. 😉

    As for the NASB Exhaustive Concordance, I always meant to purchase a copy, but never got around to it. The NASB was, after all, my reading Bible for some years before I switched to the RSV/NRSV. (Meanwhile, since 2005 or so I’ve also been using the REB quite frequently. Where are the concordances for that?) Anyway, I guess that the NASB Concordance just didn’t have enough appeal for me, in the end.

    I finally got around to checking out your 56-page concordance of the NETS Genesis, and it’s quite impressive. Put me down as a second potential customer! Also, I’d love to check out your link to the Missale Ambrosianum, but sadly it is blank.

  6. Oh, I suppose now I’ll have to make some shelf space for an NIV Concordance now! All in due time. My interest in your concordance is strctly professional, sir! I’m going to collect a list of the especially useful features of all of these and apply them to the OTP concordance that I’m working on. So, things like references to alternate versions of names, synonyms, and so on. I definitely won’t be including any original language stuff. That way lies madness.

    For my kicky little NETS concordance, I’ll include among the headings the standard Hebrew-based traditional English names with references to the LXX-based NETS Englished ones, so: Eden. see Edem. And so on. That’ll be quite useful. Oh, and of course I’ll be indexing everything in the NETS, in their various versions. I don’t think I’ll bother with including the Greek, but that may change.

    There’s nothing dirty, little, or secret in my love for the NIV. From start to finish, most particularly in the savvy yet vanishingly rare instance of having hired a style consultant, the NIV project was exemplary. I’m often in awe of their skill at paraphrase. The quality of the English is a perfect middle, not too elevated, not too, er, plebian. It’s a great translation, and probably the most successful yet.

    I remember seeing an REB Concordance once. I think a unicorn or phoenix or Arabian flying snake was consulting it….

    I fixed the link to the Missale Ambrosianum page. That was a fun project. Doing that work, that is, not fixing the link.

  7. Dana, “allophyle” is the stereotyped translation of “Philistine” in the LXX. It means “person from a foreign tribe”, or “foreigner.” Apparently this was the understanding of “Philistine” at the time the LXX Pentateuch was first translated.

  8. Your NETS concordance looks very nice. Have you thought about how you will handle the NETS parallel texts or the weird chapter numbering in Greek Esther?

    Don’t those NRSV Concordances include Strong’s Numbers? I own the Kohlenberger (although not at my fingertips just at the moment) and I could have sworn it did. However, in truth, I never actually used it (which explains why the book is not readily accessible just at the moment.) I do think the Hebrew search tools in Bible programs are quite useful.

    Your post ignored my favorite type of concordance: Shakespeare concordances. If you want to buy one, I recommend Spevack which I find superior to Bartlett. This is actually quite useful, since it refers to a single author (although Shakespeare may have co-written some of his plays) and searches can reveal a great deal about how Shakespeare used particular words.

    )However, I must admit that there is little point in buying one of these for $300 when there now are, in fact, far superior online tools.)

  9. Oh, yes! I’ve used the online Shakespeare tools, but it hadn’t occurred to me that there must’ve been printed concordances. If I had one, I would certainly have mentioned it. I could get lost in a Shakespeare concordance, just as I can get lost in a Bible concordance, a dictionary, the encyclopedia, and the online archive of Matson photos, among other things.

    Neither of the NRSV concordances I have uses the Strong’s numbers, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any that do, of course. I don’t think that would be very easy to compile, because of the gender-neutralization steps away from a literal translation, as I said above. But some busybody may’ve done so in the eighteen years since those two I’ve got came out.

    Thanks on the concordance compliment. Whatever useful features I find in other concordances, I plan to use in this one and the OTP one. That’s especially the case for the alternate versions of names. I’ll definitely have to add referring entries like “Jacob. see Iakob.” In the OTP ones, it’s even worse, since there are so many different renderings of names originating in various languages, and then presented in English in varying degress of accuracy. But I love straingtening out that nitpicky kind of stuff into neat presentations.

    For the parallel presentations, I’m giving them separate book names, so “Jos A, Jos B, Est OG, Est A, Tob S, Tob A” and so on. I’ll have to explain them, but that’s the best way to do it. The OTP one will have something of the same issue with a few books, but not many. The biggest problem with either is the lengthy passages which are either not broken up into individual verses (Letter of Aristeas, Prologue to Sirach, are like this), or are verses broken up into sub-verses specified by letter (1.1a, 1.1b, etc), which latter are unfortunately few. But I think I have a good technical handle one those issues now. It should be smooth sailing now. Just a matter of formatting some files for the NETS, but scanning, proofing, and formatting for the OTP (the original OTP files are long lost).

    Maybe I’ll write to Oxford and see if they’re interested in printing a NETS concordance. I think I’ll do that right now.

  10. Very interesting article. In the Hebrew and Aramaic world, there are even concordances for the Hebrew accents (as well as the words!) which are huge volumes. Aramaic also has many concordances, as well as lexicons and dictionaries. But I find that all of these basically become redundant once you have a software program such as BibleWorks which has Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek available electronically.

  11. Well, not that you asked, but my favorite features in some concordances are brief contextual references that give the index word in context. It’s a bit like the advantage that Google had when it was first introduced — unlike Altavista and other search engines, Google gave a snip of the search terms in context. This makes the concordance useful since one can often find the answer to a question simply from the concordance itself without having to look up the original entry.

    This is super useful to me in Shakespeare concordances.

    If you look at a sample page from this concordance (which I neither recommend nor disrecommend — I am simply using it as an example) you can see what I am talking about.

  12. Aramaic Student, yes, the databases are certainly very useful. The printed volumes, however, are useful to those who do not find computers friendly for such things, of whom there are many.

    Theophrastus, yes, thank you! Any and all suggestions are certainly welcome. The NETS Genesis example is an experiment, based on that handy, tiny Cruden’s that I mention above. I’ll put another one together with the contexts, once I’ve got a full list of words to skip put together. I’ll run it by you once that’s done.

  13. Thanks.
    I’m a medical transcriptionist and have to type words like homeopathic and allopathic, so I got the “different” part, just didn’t know in what sense.


    1. Wow! That must be interesting!

      Yes, that “allophyles” is still kind of odd. I’m pretty sure it’s consistent throughout the LXX. Nothing like “philisteim” pops up, though I think that shows up in Josephus and/or Church Fathers.

  14. Hmm… there’s awkwardness in every language, I suppose.

    Yes, it’s interesting; enough of the same sorts of things that I can plan my day, and enough different things so that I’m always learning. I tell people I take what the doctor says and make it into English. Thank God for computers; I could not have done this job back in the day when carbon paper was used… Are you old enough to remember carbon paper? 🙂


  15. Ha! Yes, I am. I’m even old enough to have used it!

    I still have my old electric typewriter out in the garage. I remember my friends being jealous that it had an auto-erase that could erase up to a whole line. Wow!

    It’s funny with computers, though. I’m a much faster typist now, but part of that is not needing to be very careful. You can just backspace and fix whatever’s wrong. Very nice!

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