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Finding Articles on a Bible Passage

Introduction: The Problem with Scripture Citation Searching

You’re writing a sermon, researching for an exegetical paper, or preparing a Bible study, and you want to find articles that discuss the Scripture passage that you’re working on. It’s a common task, and it should be easy. Unfortunately, as you may have already discovered, it’s not as simple and straight-forward as one would hope. This tutorial will walk you through the Scripture citation search functions of the major Biblical studies databases and help you work around the quirks of each one.

First, let’s define the problems.

  1. Technological Limitations. Computers don’t naturally understand the notation we use for ranges. For example, consider the citation Ephesians 5:1–10. The human mind instantly recognizes that the dash character indicates a range, and that it would be appropriate to consider articles on just verse 5, or even on verses 1 through 11. The computer interprets the dash as just another character to search for, and so it will only display articles whose indexing literally matches exactly what the searcher enters into the search box.

    Ephesians 5:1-10 ← search phrase
    Ephesians 5:5 ← no match: 5 ≠ 1
    Ephesians 5:1-11 ← no match: 1 ≠ 0

  2. Data Quality. A search can only be as good as the data contained in the database, and some databases only have limited Scripture citation indexing. Thus, there may be many articles written about a particular part of Scripture that are indexed in these databases, but only some of these articles will have the Scripture citations explicitly noted in the database record. Records that lack the Scripture citation indexing cannot be found using a Scripture citation search.

So now that we know the problems, let’s look at how to work around them in each database.

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