Review: The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

The Hardcover, Black Bonded Leather, and Brown Leathersoft Copies of the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible was first published in 1908. Zondervan is now issuing new editions in multiple translations. Check it out here. I received a copy of this Bible (Hardcover Edition) for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. I have a few thoughts.

About This Bible

The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible has been around a while. I’ve had a copy for years. My mom sent a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible with me when I went off to college, and briefly showed me how to use the reference system to trace themes and topics through the sacred text.

Not until now have I learned how the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible came to be. It was put together by Dr. Frank Charles Thompson, who began his ministry among Methodist people in the 1800s. He received his PhD from Boston University, was a scholar of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and took notes in the margins of his King James Version of the Bible. Congregants saw these notes, inquired as to their purpose, and encouraged Dr. Thompson to make these notes widely available. Thompson eventually partnered with a gentleman named B. B. Kirkbridge, who acquired the rights to sell and distribute the Bible–which was first sold door to door. Zondervan released an NIV version in 1983.

Translations and Tools

The latest issue from Zondervan has been printed in a few translations: the King James Version (KJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB).

There are several ways to use the Thompson Chain-Reference, most famously using its topical system. More than 7,000 topical listings are found in the alphabetical index at the rear of the Bible and more than 4,000 of these topics are arranged into “chains,” threads which one can follow through the Scriptures. As a disciple of John Wesley, Thompson surely understood what it means to “search” the Scriptures, and highlighted pathways others could tread.

Find a sample here. You will be able to see the topic numbers, themes, and references in the margins.

The Thompson Chain-Reference also includes book introductions and outlines for each book. You can study chapters, passages, or verses, and follow the references listed in the margins to deepen your understanding and broaden the context of your study. This Bible also includes character studies that you can trace, a list of Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament and how they were fulfilled in the New Testament, maps that correspond to different portions of the biblical narrative, aids to memorization and recommendations for taking notes in your Bible, and a concordance.

This Bible also has a built in ribbon that can be used as a bookmark.

How I’ll Use This Bible

I take on writing projects occasionally that prefer use of the NASB translation, so this Bible will come in handy. I can use the Thompson Chain-Reference system to further my understanding of a given text. I’ll use for ease of reference and to further my study, to help me make connections across the whole of Scripture.

I’m always on the look out for editions of the Bible that could serve as one-stop tools for comprehensive Bible study. This is one of those tools. I generally recommend that a person own a good Bible translation, a good one-volume commentary, a good Bible dictionary, and an accurate Bible atlas. This Bible could serve all those purposes.

A nice new issue from Zondervan.

The Magnificent Journey is Magnificent

One of my favorite books of this past year was The Magnificent Journey: Living Deep in the Kingdom by James Bryan Smith. Journey is the second in Smith’s latest trilogy of books, preceded by The Magnificent Story (2017) and to be followed by The Magnificent Mission, releasing in fall of 2019.

The Magnificent Journey addresses a lack found often in Christian history, but particularly in our moment: among those professing faith in Jesus, too few embrace discipleship to Jesus, which is learning the way of life with Jesus. Smith uses the metaphor of journey to remind us that in the kingdom of God there is always a sense that we are on the move, keeping in step with Jesus as he calls to us, “Follow me!”

If Jesus is leading, then we are following. We are not “in charge.” Obedience is part of this way of life, and one of Jesus’ commands is to take up a cross. The Christian life, paradoxically, involves death to self in order to find life that lasts, a life fully alive to God. We must “surrender,” but not only once. Smith explains that surrender is not only an action taking place at conversion, but that surrender is also a way, a daily decision to yield oneself to God, to trust, and to follow.

Smith expands this idea to show that it is through surrender that we learn “to grow in the grace and knowledge of God.” In other words, by surrendering our faith grows. We learn, through experience, that God is good and can be trusted. This is not always easy.

Life involves suffering. Sometimes we experience tragedy. Smith is no stranger to this truth, and he tells of how God has used his own heartaches and heartbreaks in life for good. Smith does not minimize the magnitude of pain, nor deny the depth of our wounds, but instead points to Jesus and reminds us of the comfort found in worshiping a God who is well acquainted with grief, suffering, and death, yet who overcame those realities in the resurrection, and who promises us everlasting life.

The remainder of the book expands on this idea: that through surrender to Jesus we are led to experience life as God intended it for us. The way of surrender calls us to live our lives “from above,” or from the perspective and power of God and the everlasting kingdom. As we do so we learn to listen to God first (and, consequently, to others more carefully), to develop a deep, abiding trust by walking in faith, to live with hope, to demonstrate love, and to experience deep joy. Smith contends that this is the life God has for us. It is the life Jesus came to demonstrate for us, and to deliver to us. It is a life we receive through faith, by grace, so that God can use us for good.

Smith’s greatest authorial virtue is found in his gentle, pastoral style, with which he effectively conveys historical, biblical, and theological insight. Professor Smith has clearly spent time listening, observing, and tending to those around him, beginning with his family, church community, students, and those who share his cultural moment. He has identified many of the ideas that keep people from embracing God, from responding to the love of God extended to us through Jesus Christ. I have long admired this quality in Smith’s writing, speaking, and teaching ministry. Smith displays this virtue in this book.

Of all Smith’s books, this is my favorite thus far. I recommend it.