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Before I joined the National Bible Bee, I didn’t even know what a cross-reference was. Though I had heard the term before, questions like “Why are they so important?” and “How do I study them?” were ones I could not answer.

It wasn’t until later on in my walk with the Lord that I learned the importance of inductive Bible study. It was through the NBB that I discovered the world of cross-references – a study method by which we can dive deeper into scripture.

When I learned about cross-references, I felt as if I unlocked a treasure chest that I only could appreciate from the outside, before. The words, “There is so much I don’t know, but yet so much I have to learn,” probably best summarized my experience of finding this whole new “layer” to God’s Word.

So what are cross-references, and why are they important? 

A cross-reference is a verse in scripture that links to the same theme, word, or subject mentioned in the verse (or passage) that you are reading. For example, a cross-reference for John 17:17 – “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” Would be Psalm 119:160 – “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” You’ll notice that in both verses, the word “true/truth” is used, and the subject is God’s Word. Cross-references can also be connected to a chapter of scripture as well, not just a singular verse. 

Here’s another example: Mark 15:36 tells us that right before Jesus’ death on the cross, a sponge of vinegar was put on a reed and given to him to drink. If you go back to the Old Testament, Psalm 69:21 prophesies this very thing happening to Christ – generations in advance. 

Cross-references tie together singular verses to help us better understand the bigger picture of scripture. Each individual verse will always confirm, and never contradict the truth of the Word of God. Without them, we’d be tempted to come to our own conclusions on what scripture says and thereby we’d be more susceptible to error. Cross-references also help us to better understand the passage we’re reading by showing its meaning through a different light. If there’s ever a verse that seems unclear in meaning, turn to cross-references, and see if you can gain a better understanding of what you’re reading. You may be surprised at how much scripture repeats itself! 

It’s truly amazing how God’s Word stands infallible on its own without the need of any outside interpretation, resource, or opinion of man down to every last verse. 

The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, (also known as the TSK), first published in the 1800s is by far one of the best resources for finding cross-references in the Bible. Another way you can locate these is by going to other websites such as www.openbible.info, www.blueletterbible.org, or even in the margins of your Bible’s pages. Once you find a cross-reference, note what you observe and how it relates to the original verse you’re reading. Then you can ask yourselves questions about the correlating verses such as who, what, when, where, and why. Asking these questions can help us to view the verses within their proper context, while guarding us from the dangers of misinterpretation. When finding cross-references, you may notice that some verses relate to each other better than others, but remember that cross-references point us to search for relevance in the original Hebrew and Greek language, not always in the English language.

We must let scripture interpret scripture. If we don’t agree with this foundational truth, we can find ourselves coming up with our own extra-biblical interpretations. We need to be careful to not come to our own conclusions and declare them as true when it hasn’t been tested against the truth of scripture. If we disregard cross-references, we also disregard the beautiful connections placed by God to show us the reliability, power, and intricate storyline of His Word.

God’s Word stands firm under any opposition, and as Hebrews 4:12 says, it’s alive, active, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. These promises, truths, and eternal treasures have been revealed and made accessible to us by the working of the Holy Spirit – let’s discover them! Like a child opening a newfound treasure chest, let’s approach the Bible with a ready mind and an eager heart. God has provided us with the tools, now it’s time to use them!

Written by NBB Alumna: Hannah Kohner