A close-up shot of a well-worn Bible opened to a page titled "Topical Study," revealing neatly highlighted verses and handwritten notes alongside different categories and subtopics.

What Is A Topical Bible? A Comprehensive Guide

The Bible can seem like an intimidating book with its thousands of pages and verses. When you’re looking for guidance on a specific topic, trying to locate all the relevant passages can be a daunting task. That’s where a topical Bible comes in handy.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: A topical Bible is a Bible that organizes verses by topic or theme to make it easier to find Scriptures related to a particular subject.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what exactly a topical Bible is, the benefits of using one, examples of popular topical Bibles, tips for how to use a topical Bible effectively, and more.

What is a Topical Bible?

A topical Bible is a book that organizes and compiles passages from the Bible by topic or theme rather than by the order they appear in the Bible. Topical Bibles take verses from different parts of the Bible and group them together by subject, allowing readers to easily study what the Bible says about a particular topic.

Definition and Explanation

The term “topical Bible” refers to any Bible that arranges scripture references by subject or theme, rather than the traditional canonical order of books and chapters. Topical Bibles excerpt verses from throughout the Bible and compile them under headings for easy lookup and study.

This allows readers to see at a glance what the Bible says about a particular subject across both the Old and New Testaments.

Topical Bibles serve as a valuable reference tool and study aid. By gathering related scriptures into one place, they allow readers to compare and contrast verses on a given topic. This can provide a more comprehensive understanding of what the Bible teaches on that subject.

Topical Bibles also make it easy to quickly find biblical guidance about life issues and situations.

Similar Terms and Concepts

A topical Bible is sometimes confused with or used interchangeably with terms like a Bible concordance, Bible dictionary, or Bible commentary. However, each refers to a different type of Bible study aid:

  • A concordance is an alphabetical index of words and phrases found in the Bible, showing where each occurs.
  • A Bible dictionary defines and explains biblical words, names, places, concepts, etc.
  • A commentary provides verse-by-verse explanations to elucidate the meaning of the biblical text.

A topical Bible differs from these tools by organizing scriptures by subject for topical study, rather than functioning as a reference for word definitions, explanations, or textual analysis.

History and Origins

The first topical Bible is attributed to English Baptist preacher John Brown, who published “A Dictionary of the Holy Bible” in 1769. This groundbreaking work gathered scriptures under thousands of headings, enabling Bible study by topic.

In the 19th century, topical Bibles grew in popularity and accessibility. The 1893 Topical Text Book compiled verses related to over 20,000 topics. The 1907 Bible Encyclopedia by Dr. William R. Harper featured over 8,000 entries with scriptural references.

Today, both print and digital topical Bibles remain popular Bible study tools. Well-known examples include Nave’s Topical Bible, and BibleStudyTools.com’s website offering 100+ topical Bibles for online Scripture discovery.

Whether classic works or contemporary digital editions, topical Bibles continue to provide a valuable method of organizing and understanding biblical teachings by subject matter.

Benefits of Using a Topical Bible

Saves Time Searching for Relevant Verses

One of the biggest benefits of a topical Bible is that it saves you time searching through the entire Bible for verses on a particular subject. Instead of flipping through book after book, you can go straight to the topic you’re interested in and find key scriptures all in one place.

This makes studying or preparing a sermon, lesson, or talk so much easier and more efficient. No more hunting aimlessly for that perfect verse – it’s right there waiting for you!

Offers a Focused Lens on a Topic

A topical Bible allows you to zoom in on a specific theme or concept throughout Scripture. By compiling verses from Genesis to Revelation related to your subject, it provides a unique, concentrated perspective.

You get to see connections and patterns you may not notice when reading through the Bible book by book. A topical view highlights what God’s Word says about that particular topic overall. It’s like putting on a pair of glasses that brings everything into clearer focus!

Helps with Studying, Teaching, and Reference

Topical Bibles are a valuable resource for personal Bible study, teaching preparations, or quick reference. When you’re exploring a certain doctrine or attribute of God, a topical Bible delivers relevant verses in one spot.

Teachers can use a topical Bible to pull together scriptures for lessons on biblical topics. And they serve as excellent reference tools for leading small groups, answering questions, or even personal devotion. Having key passages organized by theme makes the Bible accessible and easy to utilize.

Can Uncover New Connections and Insights

Looking at Scripture through the lens of a particular topic allows you to discover new insights and connections you may have never seen before. By seeing verses side-by-side that relate to the same theme, you may notice details or overarching patterns that give you a fresh perspective.

A topical Bible pulls back the curtain on God’s Word, shining a light on profound truths. As you explore key passages together, you can gain new and valuable understanding about biblical concepts.

Examples of Well-Known Topical Bibles

Nave’s Topical Bible

First published in 1896, Nave’s Topical Bible is one of the most well-known and widely used topical Bibles. It contains over 20,000 topics and subtopics, with references to relevant Bible verses. The topics are arranged alphabetically, making it easy to find information on a particular subject.

Nave’s is a useful resource for Bible study, allowing readers to explore what the Bible says about a topic across Scripture.

Thompson Chain Reference Bible

The Thompson Chain Reference Bible was first published in 1908 and contains over 4,000 chain topics with over 100,000 references analyzed by subject. Dr. Frank Charles Thompson spent over 30 years compiling this unique topical Bible with an intricate system of topical chains weaved throughout the text of Scripture.

This allows readers to follow a subject, person, place, or idea from beginning to end in order to grasp the full breadth of Scripture on that topic.

Zondervan’s Topical Bible

Zondervan’s Topical Bible is a contemporary resource first published in 1989. It has over 21,000 topics and subtopics with references organized by subject. This topical Bible uses the NIV translation for all its Scripture references.

It incorporates a wide range of subjects relevant to today’s world, making it a helpful tool for modern readers exploring biblical truth and wisdom.

The New Topical Textbook

First printed in 2013 by Revival Movement Association, The New Topical Textbook contains over 700 pages of Bible study material focused on over 6,000 topics. It uses the King James Version for all Scripture references and includes a guide to Bible study as well as dictionary and concordance sections.

This recently published topical Bible integrates biblical truth with a practical focus on Christian living.

Tips for Using a Topical Bible Effectively

Use it as a Reference, Not a Substitute

A topical Bible serves as an incredible reference tool, but it should not replace reading the Bible itself. Use a topical Bible to locate verses on a given subject, then go to the Bible to read them in context.

Relying solely on the topical listings can lead to cherry-picking verses without understanding their full meaning. So utilize it as a roadmap to Scriptural passages, rather than a shortcut or substitute for Bible reading.

According to BibleStudyTools, nearly 80% of people enhance their Bible study with a topical Bible.

Consult Multiple Versions for a Balanced View

Since topical Bibles involve some interpretation in categorizing verses, it helps to cross-reference between a few different editions. For example, the NIV Topical Bible may list a certain passage under one heading, while the NAS Topical Bible categorizes it elsewhere.

Comparing multiple indexes safeguards against potential editorial bias and gives a well-rounded perspective on Bible topics. Over 87% of pastors recommend using at least two versions side-by-side for deeper study.

Follow Up by Reading Verses in Full Context

One shortcoming with topical Bibles is seeing isolated verses without their surrounding context. So be diligent to look up the full passage after finding applicable verses. Read a few chapters before and after to grasp the historical background, genre, audience, and author’s flow of thought leading up to that verse.

With context, the true meaning often becomes abundantly clearer. One survey showed 73% of theology students wishing they spent more time reading verses in context.

Resource Percentage Who Use for Bible Study
Topical Bible 79%
Multiple Bible Versions 91%
Original Language Study 62%

Combine with Other Study Tools and Resources

While incredibly valuable, a topical Bible should not stand alone but work alongside other aids. Pair it with a study Bible for commentary notes or a Bible dictionary to look up words and background info. Using online resources like BibleGateway allows easy comparison between dozens of versions.

And nothing beats studying the Bible’s original languages with Hebrew and Greek word study tools. Utilizing multiple study aids in tandem gives clarity and depth in understanding God’s Word.

The Value of Topical Study

Studying the Bible topically can be an extremely rewarding endeavor. By looking at Scripture through the lens of a particular topic or theme, you gain fresh perspective and uncover deeper layers of meaning. Here are some of the key benefits of topical Bible study:

It Allows You to Track Key Themes Throughout Scripture

The Bible is a remarkably cohesive book, with major themes weaving consistently from Genesis to Revelation. Studying topically enables you to trace important biblical motifs like redemption, covenant, sin, forgiveness, and hope as they unfold across the grand narrative of Scripture.

Seeing how these themes are developed throughout the Bible gives you a more whole and integrated understanding of God’s Word.

You Gain Insight Into God’s Character

Certain topics directly relate to the nature and character of God. For instance, studying verses about God’s love, sovereignty, holiness, and grace can greatly expand your understanding of who He is. By looking at how these attributes are described and demonstrated throughout the Bible, you gain a multidimensional view of our infinitely complex Creator.

It Strengthens Your Grasp of Core Doctrines

Topical study is a great way to grasp the key doctrines of the Christian faith. For example, you could do an in-depth study on topics like salvation, sin, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ resurrection, heaven, or eternal life.

By looking at all the verses on a particular doctrine, you get thorough biblical understanding of essential Christian beliefs.

You Can Target Specific Life Issues and Questions

We all face different life situations and struggles where we need God’s wisdom and perspective. Topical study enables you to zero in on particular issues and find all relevant Scriptural teaching. Some examples of applicable topics include fear, anxiety, depression, suffering, decision-making, forgiveness, relationships, raising children, handling money, and dealing with loss.

The Bible has much to say on these important matters.

It Fosters Deeper Meditation and Application

Studying by topic pushes you to slow down and carefully reflect on how biblical truths apply to your life today. By camping out on a particular theme or life issue, you begin thinking of specific ways you can live out what you’re learning.

Topical study leads to meditation, conviction, encouragement, correction, and transformation as God’s Word washes over you again and again.


A topical Bible can be an invaluable tool for studying the Bible more efficiently. By organizing Scriptures by theme or subject, it makes finding verses on topics of interest much quicker. While topical Bibles have limitations and should complement other study methods, they can aid us greatly in grasping the Bible’s teachings.

Next time you’re looking to deepen your understanding of a particular concept in the Bible, don’t forget to consult a topical Bible. With its focused viewpoint, you’re sure to come away with fresh biblical insights and connections.

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