Bible concordances have been around for about 600 years, but they really weren’t accessible to “laymen” until the 19th century.
As you will note, the vast spread of divergent Christian denominations and offshoots really took off during the same time.
It is my opinion that, as handy as they might be, concordances have done more to damage the integrity of Christian doctrine than any other influence, besides the Devil, of course.
And people who think God talks to them.
And Joel Osteen.
And Veggie Tales.
Here are the top three negative influences of the concordance.
1) Context Destroyers.
Chapter and verse notations are a fairly recent invention in the Bible (1545). Some have argued that these numbers in the books were the first thing to destroy context, but when concordances began to record chapter and verse, it was all but over.
Certainly the ability or need to memorize the reference along with the verse vanished!
Bible verses can only be understood in their context, yet the concordance allows a person to find a word and rip it out, often just a phrase from a verse, and re-purpose it to their individual and unique needs.
Rather than deal with the messiness of context, it’s easier to get your phrase and build your doctrinal house upon its sands.
2) Point Invention.
“What’s a verse that says something about ____________ (insert freshly created point here),” is the way many a Bible lesson preparation begins.
I remember back to my early days of teaching the Bible, when I taught kids that were three grades behind me. I would think of a funny illustration or story I could tell, invent some sort of Christian moral out of it, think of a Bible word that summed it up, and then get my dad’s concordance to get a phrase that would seal the deal.
Many teachers of the Bible still rely heavily upon this technique. It is disastrous.
3) Deceptive Knowledge.
Many theology books put scripture references in quotes. Always look those up on any questionable teaching. A vast majority of those references have nothing to do with the authro’s point, it just happened to use a word he used. Those verses often comically refute the point being made.
Books with tons of references all over them give the appearance of knowing the Bible. One of the reasons I like reading old, dead theologians is because they didn’t rely on concordances. They didn’t make points and then quick get the concro0dance to throw some references in.
Older theologians actually had to know the Bible, and often pulled these obscure verses from their memory, because unlike many modern theologians who mostly read other theologians, older theologians read the Bible and came across verses no one else heard of.
Not that all older theologians knew everything or were right, but they did know the Bible. Not having a concordance, in my opinion, made them rely on the Bible itself.
Yes, I know concordances are great tools, I use them all the time. But I do caution people about over-using them. It’s best to get to know the Bible first, only use a concordance when you know what verse it is you need, you just can’t remember where it is, or when doing a word study.
I am not suggesting we all burn our concordances, I merely observe that they have wrought some confusion. It’s a tool; it’s not your main text by any means. If you can’t preach a sermon or Bible lesson without a concordance, you might want to brush up on the Bible a bit.
Be careful out there.