The internet sure does offer us a lot of rabbit holes, doesn’t it? We can go online to do a quick internet search on one topic and very easily find ourselves learning all sorts of things about all sorts of distantly related topics! In 1908, Dr. Frank Charles Thompson published his Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, which offered the “pre-internet” reader all sorts of wonderful rabbit holes to adventure down. Recently, Zondervan recently began publishing the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, and Bible Gateway has invited some of those on its Bible Gateway Blogger Grid to review it. I received a free copy of this Bible and am happy to offer my review here.
The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible that I received is a hardcover, red-letter, ESV Bible. It has thin pages and small print (8.3-point font), like many study bibles. It includes 16 pages of full color maps and a number of other bible study aids. But the main feature of this bible, and what sets it apart from other bibles, is the “easy to understand Chain-Reference System with over 100,000 references in the margins” and references covering “over 8,000 topics, each with its own pilot number for exhaustive topical study.”
The best way to describe what using this bible is like is to offer a specific example. I am currently reading the Book of Job right now in my daily bible reading, so I turned to Job in this Thompson Chain-Reference Bible and looked up a favorite verse: Job 19:25 – “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.”
“Redeemer” is Thompson #2977. I can look at the back of the bible for that number, or I can simply follow the “forward verse” offered, which is Psalm 130:8. I decide to follow the forward verse. I turn to Psalm 130:8 and learn that my redeemer, who lives, will “redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” I ponder what a blessing it is to have a Redeemer who will do this.
The forward verse this takes me to is Proverbs 23:11, where I learn that my redeemer, who lives and who will redeem me from my iniquities, “is strong” and will “plead my cause.” I don’t remember Proverbs referring to my redeemer, so this is interesting to me.
The forward verse in this Proverbs passage takes me next to Isaiah 41:14, where I learn that my redeemer is the “Holy One of Israel” who will help me, declares the Lord. On to Isaiah 43:14, where I read the Lord is my Redeemer, and to Isaiah 44:24, where I read that the Lord my Redeemer formed me in the womb and made all things. Our Redeemer is our Creator. God is one. Yes!
From there I am taken to Isaiah 47:4, where I learn that “The Lord of hosts” is the name of my Redeemer. Then to Isaiah 59:20, where I am promised that the Redeemer will come to Zion, “to those in Jacob who turn from transgression.”
This “rabbit hole” could not be easier to follow! I am directed now to Jeremiah 50:34, where I am reminded that my “Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth.” I see the connections between the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. This takes me to another prophet, Hosea, where I find a warning: “They have rebelled against me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me” (Hosea 7:13). Our redemption is not to be taken for granted!
Finally, I am led by these “forward verses” to Romans 11:26, the last of these forward verses, where I read that “in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; ‘and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’”
Notice that this Redeemer “rabbit hole” cannot be replicated by a simple search engine, since verses with words like “redeem” and “deliverer” would not show up, which is what makes this bible so helpful. So, this bible offers a very simple, easy to follow, way to explore any topic in scripture, or to better understand any verse in the bible by looking at other comparable verses.
But I want to add that I do not think this bible would be the best way to study a longer passage of scripture. Another study bible or commentary would be better for that. For example, if you were interested in studying the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), this particular bible would offer lots of specific rabbit holes, but would it help you to better understand this parable? Probably not. And in fact, it might just be confusing, because with this bible you can sometimes “miss the forest for the trees.” You can dig into these particular verses and topics at the expense of losing sight of the big picture. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is arguably better understood by reading all of Luke 15, where we learn that this parable and the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin are in response to the Pharisees and scribes grumbling because “this man receives sinners and eats with them.” You would miss that completely if you jumped into the Parable of the Prodigal Son and started going down the Thompson rabbit holes. Instead, you would be taken to verses about selfishness, sins of youth, inheritance, reconciliation, repentance, and the riches of grace, to name a few. Nothing wrong with this, but it can make it harder to see the forest.
Or, back to Job 19:25, what are you trying to learn about this verse? Are you trying to learn what Job means by “Redeemer,” or are you simply trying to better understand this verse? To better understand this verse, it might be more helpful simply to read the Book of Job. Job, as you probably recall, has been treated unjustly by God. He is suffering, and doesn’t understand why. He has lived a good life, so why is God doing this to him? He is frustrated and angry with God, his face is red with weeping, his spirit is broken, he loathes his very life. His friends are there with him, but not helping him or supporting him. He feels attacked, isolated, and abandoned by God. And yet, in the midst of all that, he utters this astonishing statement of faith! Job 19:25 is the cry of a man who refuses to give up on God, even when he believes that God has done wrong to him. He still believes that God is his redeemer, and that one day he will see God face to face, and have all of his questions and complaints addressed. For me, the power of this verse is greatly enhanced by reading everything that comes before it, rather than going down the “redeemer” rabbit hole.
On the other hand, there may very well be a day when you really do want to explore the “redeemer” rabbit hole, or one of the many other rabbit holes we find in scripture. If so, I would recommend this Thompson Chain-Reference Bible. It is a bible that offers us a very specific tool for a very specific purpose. And if this is the purpose you are interested in, this would be a great bible to have in your library.
We are blessed in this day and age to have a vast array of resources to better understand God’s Word. Study Bibles and commentaries abound, not to mention the endless resources available on the internet. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible is one more resource to add to your toolbox, to have available when the task at hand requires this particular tool. Blessings to you as you study God’s holy word.
You can learn more about the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible and/or purchase it here: