An Ode to My Thompson Chain Reference Bible

I love my Thompson Bible. I really do. There are few possessions that I value or cherish more than this gigantic, leather-bound, gilt-edged horse-choker. Seriously. I could rhapsodize at length about how using it has helped revitalize my quiet times, encourage my Bible-nerdiness, answer questions about Scripture, challenge my thinking. But let me just tell you a little bit about Frank Thompson, the man who dedicated his life to making a study Bible for the layman.
Dr. Frank Charles Thompson was a young preacher in the late 1800s when he became disappointed with the reference Bibles being sold to preachers. Dr. Thompson believed the Bible should be presented in a simple, but scholarly way. He saw the need for a well-organized reference Bible that would be of practical use to the layman as well as a minister.
In 1890, Dr. Thompson began the work he would continue for the rest of his life. He completed the “thought suggestions” opposite the verses throughout the Bible. These are what became the “chain-links” that are the heart of the Thompson system. Some of the men in Dr. Thompson’s church saw his Bible and told him this would be a great help to them in their Bible study too. They encouraged Dr. Thompson to have his Bible, with marginal references, published so that everyone could enjoy the blessing of this helpful study tool.
The Thompson contains over 100,000 references, over 8000 chain topics, outlines of each Bible book, an Archeology segment, and over seventy other kinds of study helps. It has been invaluable to my personal study. It’s the classic layman’s study Bible, but I relied heavily on it during my Seminary studies.
I have other Bibles, including a good parallel (the Essential Evangelical Parallel Bible), a girly pink slimline ESV, a plain slimline NLT, and a Greek new testament. But the one I use for daily study is my Thompson. I highly recommend it.

7 thoughts on “An Ode to My Thompson Chain Reference Bible

  1. A KJV Thompson Chain Reference was the first real study bible I ever had. My dad gave it to me.

    And Laura's dad gave the one she has to her.

    Isn't it grand to pass along such a precious gift?!

    Laura's Dad

  2. Look, OSO, I'm two classes away from a masters in theology — I understand the deficiencies of any tool designed to be usable by a wide variety of people espousing different opinions on various doctrinal issues. I get that the Thompson is far from perfect. But I've been blessed by it again and again, and for your first comment to include the words “naive” and “simplistic” is far from helpful or appreciated. I understand that it's just your opinion, but perhaps demonstrating what you think some of the weaknesses are would go further in convincing people than pejorative language.

    And yes, dad, thanks. 🙂

  3. So you have read Goldsworthy then. I'll assume as much.

    Essentially Thompson doesn't take into account salvation history when you go through the OT. You're not going to find comparisons between, say, Joshua and Christ or Gideon and Christ. There's not much there in terms of understanding how the Old and New Covenant fit together.

    The chain system was sort of like a prototype concordance but it linked English words together rather than Greek and Hebrew ones. As you know, the original language is important when exegeting so any comparison between words based in English (KJV English no less) can lead to erroneous interpretations.

    Of course, Thompson can't really be faulted for neglecting Biblical Theology since it hadn't been developed yet (ie the recognition that the Bible has one message which is Christ – although Theodore of Mopsuestia said as much when he was around). So when I said that it was simplistic and naive it was based upon reading backwards into the time period what we have now.

    I now realise that when I said it was simplistic and naive it could easily have been interpreted to mean that I was accusing you of that. It was my fault that I communicated this incorrectly to you because I do not think that about you. For that I unreservedly apologise. Moreover I visit your blog regularly and find your thoughts interesting.

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