Where Do Bible Cross References Come From?

The search term log for this website, www.realbiblestudy.com, showed that someone somewhere in the world searched for an answer to this question, was directed to this site, but did not stay long enough to find an answer.

Someone else searched to find the answer to the question, “Who wrote the Treasury Cross References?”

By the way, it was NOT Dr. R. A. Torrey, as so many booksellers and publishers think. He only wrote a very good introduction reprinted in copies from the late nineteenth century to the present time.

The references in The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge came straight out of Scott’s Commentary, merged with those furnished in the English edition of the Polyglott Bible published by Bagster in London in the early nineteenth century.

So here is my documented answer, Part One!

I plan to discuss, in turn, both the history and the validity of cross references. In this post I’ll document a bit of the history and growth in the number of cross references found in our Bibles.

Some History Behind Cross References and Where They Came From

William Carpenter in the preface to his work Scientia Biblica from 1825 states:

The first collection of parallel passages the editor believes to have been that published with the third edition of Tyndale’s Testament, in 1534. Coverdale’s Bible, also, the first edition of which appeared in 1535, has a few marginal references. These were augmented and improved in the various editions of the Bible and New Testament, which were published subsequently to that time: the first edition of the present “Authorized Version” containing nine thousand references (Preface, p. vi).

But the most copious and judicious collection of parallel passages was that published by John Canne, with an edition of the Bible, at Amsterdam, 1644. The title is as follows:
“The Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament and the New, Newly translated out of the Original Tongues, and with the former Translations diligently compared and revised. With marginal Notes, shewing Scripture to be the best interpreter of Scripture.”

In a “Preface to the Reader,” the Editor quaintly observes, “I do not know any way whereby the Word of God, as to the majesty, authority, truth, and perfection of it, can be more honoured and held forth, and the adversaries of it of all sorts so thoroughly convinced and silenced, as to have the Scripture to be its own interpreter. This I am sure, did men in their expositions on the Scriptures speak less themselves, and the Scripture more, the Scripture would have more honour and themselves less.”

In 1683, the “Authorized Version” was corrected, and many additional parallel texts were added by Dr. Scattergood; and in 1690, Samuel Clark published “The Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament and the New, with Annotations and Parallel Scriptures,” &c. In the Preface to this edition of the Scriptures, the Editor states that he took a great deal of pains in collecting parallel texts, and that not only for words and phrases, but for sense and matter. For this purpose, besides places which he added from his own observations, he examined all those which are in Curcellæus’s Greek Testament, which are also printed in the Oxford edition, with the various readings, but with many errata. He also examined those in Canne’s Bible.

Notwithstanding the intrinsic value of these collections of parallel references, something further was absolutely necessary to facilitate the labour of an extensive collation of the Sacred Writings. The immense time which was of necessity consumed in consulting all the passages to which a reference is made, to say nothing of the Impossibility of remembering them so distinctly as to see their aptness and propriety, rendered them of but little service to the generality of Scripture readers. This consideration induced the publication of “The New Testament, with References under the Text in words at length; so that the Parallel Texts may be seen at one View,” &c., by Francis Fox, M.A. London, 1748, 2 Vols. 8vo. (page vii).

From a table taken from Bishop Wilson’s Bible, cited in Volume 1 of Scientia Biblica (Preface, page vii) and also in Horne’s Introduction, vol. 2, page 81 of the last section) the number of cross references or parallel passages furnished for the Authorized or King James Version has grown as follows:

In the first edition of 1611 there were 6,588 cross references in the O.T.; 885 in the Apocrypha; 1,527 in the N.T., for a total of 9,000 cross references.
J. Hayes’s, 1677 furnished 14,629 O.T. cross references; 1,409 in the Apocrypha; 9,857 in the N.T., for a total of 25,895 cross references for the whole Bible.
Dr. Scattergood’s, 1678 furnished 20,357 for the O.T.; 1,417 for the Apocrypha; 11,371 for the N.T., for a total of 33,145 for the whole Bible.
Bishops Tennison and Lloyd’s, 1699 furnished 24,352 cross references for the O.T.; 1,419 for the Apocrypha; 13,717 for the N.T.; 39,488 for the whole Bible.
Dr. Blayney’s, 1769 furnished 43,318 for the O.T.; 1,772 for the Apocrypha; 19,893 for the N.T.; 64,983 cross references for the whole Bible.
Bishop Wilson’s, 1785 furnished 45,190 for the O.T.; 1,772 for the Apocrypha; 19,993 for the N.T.; 66,955 for the whole Bible.

William Carpenter states (Preface, p. viii),

In 1769, a revised edition of the “Authorized Translation” was published from the Oxford press. In this edition, which was revised by Dr. Blayney, under the direction of the Lord Chancellor and delegates of the Clarendon press, the marginal references were re-examined and corrected, and thirty thousand four hundred and ninety-five new references were inserted in the margin.

In 1790, the Rev. C. Cruttwell published, in a 4to volume, “A Concordance of Parallels collected from Bibles and Commentaries, which have been published in Hebrew, Latin, French, Spanish, and other languages, with the authorities of each.” This is unquestionably the most elaborate collection of texts that has ever appeared, but it is doubtful whether it will repay the labour of even occasional consultation…. (Preface, p. viii).

I have that work, and have consulted it at length. I agree with Carpenter’s assessment that it is most difficult to make use of the information in it. The references are not sorted at each verse to the key words in the Bible text. Many of the references seem to have no apparent connection whatsoever. I devised a step-by-step procedure to sort the references and discover any that are of value to the general Bible reader, but the process is so tedious that I have, over a decade, used it for only a limited number of passages in my work of compiling more cross references to expand what I have collected previously.

William Carpenter makes the following most curious observation about a subsequent publication of extensive cross references in his Preface at page ix,

Nor should the “Scripture Harmony,” a laborious compilation of half a million of Scripture references, published by Mr. Bagster as a Supplement to his beautiful and valuable “Polyglott Bible,” be omitted in this place. In this compilation the Editor has brought together the marginal references of Canne, Blayney, Browne, Scott, and other valuable writers on parallel Scriptures, and has arranged their various contributions into regular order. In this last particular it differs from Cruttwell, but in every other, the remarks upon his “Concordance” may be applied to the “Scripture Harmony.”

For an extensive collection of references to parallel passages, the Editor has no hesitation in saying, that in the margin of Scott’s Commentary is by far the best hitherto published; although the subtraction of a few thousands would not render this the less valuable to the Biblical student. To this Collection the Editor has been greatly indebted for much valuable assistance in the progress of these volumes. For a collection of parallel references on a smaller scale than Scott’s, that in the margin of Mr. Bagster’s English version of the Bible, forming part of the Polyglott above referred to, will be found the most judicious extant (William Carpenter, Preface, p. ix).

The work William Carpenter refers to as the “Scripture Harmony” is the work well-known today as The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Contrary to Mr. Carpenter’s mistaken observation, the cross references in the “Scripture Harmony” or The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge are absolutely identical with the cross references furnished in the margins of Scott’s Commentary! The only difference is that the “Scripture Harmony” has blended the cross references from the Polyglott Bible with those taken from Scott’s Commentary. I personally have verified this for the entire Bible, for I used the Polyglott Bible and Scott’s Commentary to verify the cross references as I expanded them for my work, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.

It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of cross references in The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. If the published figure of 500,000 cross references stated on the title page is accurate, then my work in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge has added over 100,000 new references to that figure. By extrapolation, I’ve calculated the number of references in the New Treasury to be anywhere between 600,000 and 1 million. I’ll leave the accurate counting to a computer, though.

A recent “count” of the number of cross references in The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge arrived at 381,775 cross references. This falls considerably short of the 500,000 figure generally associated with The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, but it might be more accurate. Of course, it depends how they “count” a reference, among other problems in reaching such a figure.

Contrary to Mr. Carpenter’s opinion, I and many other students of God’s Word today would welcome an even more complete collection of cross references. When one is attempting to track down an important Bible truth, it is most helpful to be able to consider all of the relevant evidence. In my own studies I have uncovered gaping holes in the coverage of Bible subjects, doctrines, and themes in cross references currently available. I am currently working to remedy this.

With the advent of modern computers and Bible software, looking up cross references is no longer the tedious chore it once was, when one had to turn up each reference by hand in a Bible in hard copy. Now, just hovering the computer “mouse” over the cross reference displayed in Bible software such as is available for a price from Logos or for free download from www.e-Sword.net brings up the cross-referenced Bible text instantly, and “clicking” on the reference will take you right to the text itself. The “back button” will bring you back to where you were without losing your place. These are wonderful developments, and every Bible believing Christian ought to be taking full advantage of them in doing what I call Real Bible Study.

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5 Responses to Where Do Bible Cross References Come From?

  1. Pingback: The Exodus | Egermeier’s Bible Story Book Reviews - - The Exodus

  2. admin says:

    Thank you for being the very first to respond to this post about where do Bible cross references come from.

    Though this was an “automated response,” it is amazing to me how fast (within about three hours of my posting) my site was found.

    I do recommend Egermeier’s Bible Story Book to start young people off in the right direction.

    Everyone needs to develop a knowledge of the Bible, and it is well to start at a very young age.

  3. ken sagely says:

    cross references study changed my whole perspective on the word of god, i love the old testament because like passages on the tabernacle,sacrifices,priesthood are shone in clear light in new testament passages, like daniel and revelation, levitacus,book of hebrews,like in lev 16 when the priest when to holy of holies once a year on the day of atonement now because of the lord did at the cross rom 10/3-4 christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. we can now draw near to the throne of grace to receive grace and mercy to help in time of need heb 4/16. i cor 2/13 comparing scripture with scripture is the key to understanding the word of god with the dependence on the holy spirit i co 2/12!

  4. Your headline “where do bible cross references come from?real bible study” is well spelled out and to the point.

  5. admin says:

    Thank you for your kind comment.

    I trust you will find much information here to read and learn from.

    I plan to tell much more about cross references soon.

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