To do this, many people turn to a printed “topical Bible” that groups all the scriptural instances of a given word such as “faith” together. This method works reasonably well, but it has serious drawbacks. The main problem with using a topical Bible for this kind of search is that we can only look up one word at a time. This might get every instance of the specific word we select, but it may miss many scriptures that use other related words. For example, searching “faith” might not get scriptures with the word “belief” or “trust” that are obviously part of what we are looking for. The problem is made worse by the fact that many of the same underlying Greek or Hebrew words may be translated differently in different verses.
The answer to this problem – and others associated with printed topical Bibles – is to conduct a search online using a major Bible website such as BibleGateway.com. An online search of this type allows us to put all the relevant words into the search at the same time instead of having to laboriously search them all individually.
But there are a few things we should remember in order to optimize an online search for a biblical term or concept. The basic method is simple. If you are using BibleGateway.com, just select “keyword search” under the “Bible” tab at the top of the page. Then, after selecting the Bible version you want to use, you can fill in all the words you want to search and, finally, delimit the search parameters by choosing from: [book name] to [same book name] for one book, or [first book in sequence] to [last book in sequence] for whatever range of books or section of the Bible you wish to search.
Notice that when you enter your search word you are given the choice of “Match ALL words,” “Match ANY words,” and “Match EXACT phrase.” This differentiation is very helpful and one of the ways the BibleGateway search shines. For example, if you want to search a single word such as “sin,” it helps to choose “Match EXACT phrase” so that you only get scriptures mentioning sin and not scriptures with words like “since” or “sincerely” in your results. This can save time and avoid frustration.
If you are searching multiple words, selecting “Match ANY word” is usually the best way to get the most complete results regarding a concept found in many scriptures. “Match ALL words” is best for finding a specific scripture you are trying to locate. This is much harder to do with a printed topical Bible where you can only search one of the words in the scripture you want and may have to plow through a great many false matches. With the “Match ALL words” feature you can include any other words that you remember in the verse you want, even if you only have a few of them.
Yet another advantage of online searches is that searching words in a printed book may mean we don't get the context of surrounding verses – something BibleGateway allows us to do by simply clicking “In Context” or “Whole Chapter” links beneath the verses returned in the search.
So, whether you are searching for an individual scripture you know but want to locate or searching for all the scriptures on a given topic, an online search using BibleGateway.com can save a great deal of time over using a printed topical Bible – and can often produce far more relevant and useful results for your study.