About Concordances
A concordances is like a combination of an index and a dictionary. A concordance consists of a list of words, usually arranged alphabetically, which shows the frequency, citations and locations of each item in a written text. Concordances are commonly used in projects of literary and linguistic computing. Some concordances simply indicate the passages, and others quote enough of a passage to recall it to the memory (a string).

Concordances can be linguistic or thematic in nature. Concordances in the original tongues are used by experts in literature, exegetical and critical studies e.g. for Shakespeare or Plato. Concordances are sometimes used to help ascribe authorship of disputed documents, by comparing a concordance of the text in question with those of known works by two writers. The most common application of a concordances is to reference the Bible.

Concordances of the Bible are word indexes to the Bible. They consist of lists of biblical words, phrases or themes, arranged alphabetically with book, chapter and verse references to the location of the lexical item. A vernacular concordance is a useful tool for Bible students. Many lay people use concordances to help them find a passage which they can remember by content but not by location.


The idea of the concordance first came from the Masoretes about the tenth century, in Tiberias in the holy land and Sura in Babylonia. They made word lists and tables at the end of the Hebrew Scriptures called the "Masora".

The first concordances to give full references were developed by Dominican friars based upon the Latin Vulgate Bible. The first concordance, completed in 1230, was undertaken under the guidance of Hugo, or Hugues, de Saint-Cher (Hugo de Sancto Charo), assisted by 500 fellow-Dominicans. It contained no quotations, and was purely an index to passages where a word was found.

The first Hebrew concordance was the work of a Jew, Mordecai or Isaac Nathan, begun in 1438 and finished in 1448. It was inspired by the Latin concordances to aid in defence of Judaism, and was printed in Venice in 1523.

The earliest concordances in English were published in the middle of the sixteenth century. The first was a concordance to the New Testament Thomas Gybson published in London in 1535. The first concordance to the whole Bible in English was produced in 1550 by John Marbeck, organist of Windsor College and is better known as a composer.
Norman church

Alexander Cruden began his work on the "Complete Concordance to the Old & New Testaments" in 1736 and the first edition was ready for printing in 1738. He included all the words of the Old and New Testaments, with the exception of some common pronouns and prepositions. Between bouts of madness Cruden continued to improve his concordance with further editions in 1761 and 1769, the last edition also including words in the Apocrypha.

Cruden's Concordance was very popular and many concordances followed that were really abbreviations of his work, notably a "Condensed Cruden" edited by Rev. John Eadie.

Robert Young's "Analytical Concordance to the Bible" published in Edinburgh in 1879, added the original Hebrew or Greek of any word in the English Bible.

In 1894 James Strong published the "Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible" in New York with the English words numerically coded to the Hebrew and Greek words. It combines the text of the King James Bible with the power of a Greek and Hebrew Lexicon.

Many recent versions of Bible are produced with small back-of-the-Bible concordances. In English the Good News Bible is a good example, and MAT are working with concordance production projects around the world.


concordances of the Bible come in different types:
linguistic or thematic concordances
exhaustive or partial concordances
stand-alone or back-of-the-Bible concordances
concordances which include names and proper nouns
or concordances with separate names indexes
lovers in the wood

A classic linguistic concordance lists all occurrences of each form of a word and where they occur. This type of concordance is used in literature studies on Shakespeare, Plato or Chaucer. For example it might list every occurrence of the word "loves" or something trivial such as the word "the". This is useful for trained linguists who want to see how a word is used in different contexts.
bot by a tree

A thematic concordance lists verses under themes e.g. "creation","forgiveness", "love". This may be more useful for people who want to use the Bible to find out what the Bible has to say on a particular subject, or people who do not remember verses well enough to home in on a particular form of a word. A thematic concordance also puts Scripture into context by putting all associated verses together under a single heading making sermon preparation and private study easier.
candles shedding light

Exhaustive concordances are complete and index every occurrence of every word of the text. These are useful for linguistic surveys or textual analysis. However these are large publications and reference many words like conjunctions (and, but...) and articles (the, a, an) which realistically are unnecessary for the lay user. An exhaustive concordance can be created by doing a word list of a completed Bible. These may be of interest for linguists but are of little use to Bible readers who do not read to reference every word.

MAT were involved in producing an exhaustive concordance for the New Welsh Bible (Y Beibl Cymraeg Newydd). MAT are currently engaged in making exhaustive concordances to the Hebrew (in conjunction with the Bible Society in Israel), and Greek Scriptures.

Almost all concordances are partial concordances. If you want a small concordance to fit in the back of a Bible it will be less complete than a concordance which is to be published as a separate book. The Good News Bible concordance is a good example of this.

Most Christians do not buy or own concordances. Many people however would use a concordance if it came in the same book as their Bible. These concordances need to be small but are well used. A small concordance can be produced using the MAT program SILAS.

If a Bible has already been printed and distributed then it may be better to print the concordance separately. This keeps down the size and cost of Bible production and a Bible can be printed without waiting for the concordance to be finished.

A back-of-the-Bible production makes concordance available to people who would not buy a separate publication, and it ensures that the concordance is used with the right Bible! It adds value to a new Bible. MAT has been involved in producing a number of small concordances e.g. Good News Bible (English). MAT are currently producing a small concordance for the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Often a concordance which indexes words in the Bible would include all the words which are names and proper nouns. Unlike words which may be themes running through the Bible, names often appear in a single section of the Bible e.g. in one block, with book or sections of a Bible where a person's story is found. Where an exhaustive concordance is required names and proper nouns would normally be included.

Names and proper nouns may be separated out to form a names index. A names index can be derived from a concordance or be generated separately. A names index can provide a useful tabular display of information that needs less space than a concordance. It does not include verse extracts and the index can refer to an entire book, or a range of verses or a single verse. However care needs to taken in less literate societies where this presentation might cause confusion. Where a small back-of the-Bible concordance is required a separate names index saves space and serves as a useful tool to the reader.

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