Why You Should Consider a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

It’s been years since I have looked inside a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible. When I attended Pensacola Christian College in the mid-1980s, I remember it being a coveted Bible of Bible majors.  

As a blast from the past, I am reviewing a complimentary, hardback copy of the new and revised version of the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, courtesy of Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. I am excited to explain why this Bible came to be, what it looks like now, and how the “chain links” work, exclusive to this Bible.

How it Began

Dr. Frank Charles Thompson, DD, Ph.D., is the originator of this exceptional reference Bible. According to Zondervan, publisher of the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Thompson was a young preacher in the late 1800s who believed that Bible study tools should be presented in a simple yet scholarly way. He saw a need for a well-organized reference Bible that would be more beneficial for preachers and practical for lay readers.

In 1890, Thompson began creating “chain links” that connect topics from the Old through the New Testaments, a referencing system making this Bible unique. The first Thompson Chain-Reference Bible was published in 1908 after encouragement from his congregation. It became known as the most helpful, comprehensive, and unbiased study Bible available. Thompson continued his work for 40 years and passed away in 1940.

A Unique Reference Bible

Various study Bibles I’ve used each have their own way of presenting information and commentary. However, the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (let’s refer to it here as the TCRB) doesn’t use commentary to explain passages. It uses an entirely different learning system.  

copy of mustard-colored hardback Bible
Example of the hard cover TCRB

What is included in this Bible?

Taking a closer look, the TCRB offers excellent study resources. Here is just some of what you’ll find:

  • Condensed Outline of the Bible
  • Periods of Biblical History
  • Bible Character Studies
  • Messianic Prophecies and Fulfilment
  • Extensive Concordance
  • 13 Color Maps with Indexes
13 detailed color maps included.

The concordance in the TCRB is extensive, with every keyword imaginable. This revised and updated version has an introduction at the beginning of each book, including information such as author, date, themes, and synopsis.

Example of the book introduction for Matthew.

What makes this Bible different?

One difference some may notice is that it does not have the center references column like some other Bibles. While a helpful tool, it can sometimes be hard to decipher. Given references can often be too general or off the mark for deep study. However, the TCRB has a distinct approach. In the margins of the TCRB, you will see subject references with red numbers. This is the Chain-Reference system.

The TCRB doesn’t provide any commentary like a standard study Bible. Additional resources in the back (as mentioned earlier) are given more in a linear outline than a narrative.

The Chain-Reference System

All those red numbers in the reference columns have no meaning until you learn how they work. To get an idea, here is one example.  

Let’s say you want to know more about Christ as our Shepherd. The Alphabetical Index of Topics, in the back of the Bible, is your first stop.

In this index, look for “Christ.” Underneath are several topics, and Shepherd” has the number 3264 after it. Remember that number.

Next, go to the Numerical Index. Look for 3264. You will find “Christ Shepherd.” Underneath is a list of references in Biblical order. The first reference is Psalm 23:1. That is the beginning of the “chain.”

At Psalm 23:1, in the margin, you will see “Christ Shepherd,” 3264, and the next reference. That reference takes you to the next one in the chain, and so on.

With this “forward reference” system, one specific topic can be followed throughout the Bible, giving a panoramic view. It is easy to pick up a chain anywhere in the Bible; its red reference number keeps you on a path of exploration. More instructions are available at the beginning of the TCRB.

My Review

With an opportunity to spend some time with the TCRB and to learn the chain reference system, I can see several advantages:

  • The Bible can be studied topically or by chapter and verse using context rather than commentary, giving an unbiased look at the Scripture.
  • Additional resources in the back offer more study methods.
  • Provided timelines and detailed maps give better historical and geographical overviews.
  • The Topical Treasury is valuable for Bible teachers, giving ideas for different audiences.

My complimentary review copy is the revised and updated King James Version (KJV), but the TCRB can be purchased with leather covers in varied sizes. It is also available in a modern translation, the New International Version (NIV). If you prefer New King James (NKJV), New American Standard (NASB), or English Standard (ESV) translation, those are still available in the original version of the TCRB.  

Is it worth the purchase?  

Yes! After looking closely at how the forward reference system works, the TCRB is an excellent choice for studying the Bible uniquely and contextually. The additional historical, geographical, and other resources bring everything you need into one Bible.  

Read more about the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

Purchase your own Thompson Chain-Reference Bible at the FaithGateway Store

Purchase a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible through Amazon

Disclosure: I am a Bible Gateway Blogger Grid member, part of Bible Gateway. As a Bible Gateway Partner, I sometimes receive free products or materials to read and give an honest review, with all opinions as my own. Bible references in my posts are linked to BibleGateway.com for the reader’s convenience.

As the Internet’s most-visited Christian website, Bible Gateway seeks to equip people to read and understand the Bible wherever they are. Millions of visitors from more than 200 countries regularly come to set up personal accounts and freely read, hear, search, study, compare, and share the Bible in 200+ versions and 70+ languages. Bible Gateway also offers the Plus membership service that upgrades your Bible study experience with additional features.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: