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Cross Reference - A system of cross references, like those found in most modern reference Bibles or in dedicated works such as "The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge," (which contains over 600,000 cross references, several different indexes, and a comprehensive note system) can refer you to other passages that relate to the one being studied. Cross references are quite possibly the single most important and useful Bible study tool available as they operate on the foundational principle of allowing the Bible to be its own interpreter. When purchasing a study Bible it is a good idea to review the type of cross referencing system it employs as well as the quantity of references printed. Many of today’s study Bibles have an average of 50,000 cross references. A concordance, such as those mentioned above, is useful in cross referencing specific words and phrases so that methods of usage of a specific word sequence may be discovered but a good cross reference system allows you to follow concepts and ideas throughout the Bible as well as specific words and phrases.
Below is a portion of the entry for Genesis 1:1 taken from "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Enhanced" (prepared by Timothy S. Morton) as it appears in the excellent eSword program (created by Rick Myers):
Num_1:21, Num_1:42, Num_2:28, Num_4:36, Num_7:17, Num_7:73, Num_10:14, Num_26:51, Num_31:32, Num_35:4; 2Ch_9:1; Ezr_1:11; Ecc_11:1; Eze_43:14; Deu_11:29
beginning: Pro_8:22-24, Pro_16:4; Mar_13:19; Joh_1:1-3; Heb_1:10; 1Jo_1:1
God: Exo_20:11, Exo_31:18; 1Ch_16:26; Neh_9:6; Job_26:13, Job_38:4; Psa_8:3, Psa_33:6, Psa_33:9; Psa_89:11-12, Psa_96:5, Psa_102:25, Psa_104:24, Psa_104:30, Psa_115:15, Psa_121:2, Psa_124:8, Psa_134:3; Psa_136:5, Psa_146:6, Psa_148:4-5; Pro_3:19, Pro_8:22-30; Ecc_12:1; Isa_37:16, Isa_40:26; Isa_40:28, Isa_42:5, Isa_44:24, Isa_45:18, Isa_51:13, Isa_51:16, Isa_65:17; Jer_10:12, Jer_32:17; Jer_51:15; Zec_12:1; Mat_11:25; Act_4:24, Act_14:15, Act_17:24; Rom_1:19-20; Rom_11:36; 1Co_8:6; Eph_3:9; Col_1:16-17; Heb_1:2, Heb_3:4, Heb_11:3; 2Pe_3:5; Rev_3:14, Rev_4:11, Rev_10:6, Rev_14:7, Rev_21:6, Rev_22:13
Reciprocal: Gen_2:1 - Thus 2Ki_19:15 - thou hast made 1Ch_29:11 - all that 2Ch_2:12 - that made heaven Job_26:7 - General Psa_90:2 - or ever Pro_8:26 - as yet Isa_66:2 - For all those Mar_10:6 - the beginning Joh_1:3 - General Joh_5:19 - for 2Th_2:13 - from Rev_10:5 - lifted
As you can see, there are entries keyed to each major word (in bold text), allowing you to follow specific themes, ideas, and usage through the entire Bible. In certain instances the Hebrew or Greek original meaning is given and numerous topical entries are also catalogued and extensive notes are included as well.
1 - Cross references, either in a study Bible or in a stand alone resource, will indicate to which words the cross references apply by a letter, symbol or some other method.
2 - Give yourself a lot of time to properly explore the cross references, especially if using a resource such as The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (which contains several hundred thousand cross references).
3 - Avoid distraction. As you explore the cross references you will come across verses which seem to require follow up (this is especially true if you are using a computer based study Bible). Stay close to your primary area of inquiry and follow the side trails as time permits.
4 - If possible use two Bibles, one to keep open to the passage you are studying and the second with which to look up the various cross references.