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Searching the Bible Online


The Bible is the most widely read book in the Western world. And since the advent of public libraries in the United States, patrons have always asked every conceivable type of question about it. ASK NYPL, the ready reference division of The New York Public Library that takes patron queries by telephone, email, chat and text, is often asked about biblical quotations, what was said (and by whom), what was the language used, and where did the quotation, phrase, name or prophecy appear in the Bible.

The Bible is a rather large book. It contains both the “Old Testament” (Hebrew Bible or “Tanakh”) and the “New Testament.” In fact, the Manuscripts and Archives Division owns a copy of the "Authorized Version” of the King James Bible printed in 1611 — and its two volumes together weigh approximately 30 pounds. It also comes in a variety of translations. Some translations are “authorized” by some religious faiths and others are favored or disfavored by different faiths. Experienced searchers might think to go to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible to search for the occurrence of terms in the Bible (and this is still quite useful for certain issues), but there are several much faster ways to search both the Old and the New Testaments online.

The King James Bible

The Authorized Version of The King James Bible is the preferred translation of the Bible by the Church of England (the Episcopal Church in the United States) and many Protestant denominations in America. It is also widely considered to have the most beautiful language. It was translated and first printed during Shakespeare’s lifetime. Many writers and poets ask for a quotation from the King James Bible for this reason. If you wish to quickly search the King James Bible for the occurrence of any quotation, word, phrase, name or prophecy, it can be easily done using this online concordance:

And another website contains both a concordance and a search engine for searching text within the King James Bible. As to a search within the Bible, usually less (search terms) is more. This is especially true as many people’s recollections of passages and psalms can be inaccurate:

And then there is this search engine which is available to search the New International Bible:

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Certainly the most famous concordance is Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is the most widely known and most popular concordance and also includes ancient Greek and classical Hebrew lexicons if a much more thorough understanding of the original meaning of a word or phrase in the Bible is sought. Note that the NYPL owns many print versions of this tool, which can be helpful with certain more difficult questions. And see for online searching of Strong's:

Bibles Sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church

St. Peter's and the Vatican, Rome., Digital ID 1253555, New York Public LibrarySt. Peter's and the Vatican, Rome., Digital ID 1253555, New York Public LibraryThere over a dozen of these (some Roman Catholics may not know this.) The earliest one to be sanctioned was the Douay-Rheims Bible (compiled 1582-1610.) Roman Catholic Bibles differ from Bibles accepted by Protestants in that they accept certain apocryphal books found at the end of the Old Testament (and these texts are not accepted by Jews as part of the Hebrew Bible.) However, one of the most widely accepted Roman Catholic Bibles in the United States is the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (1989) and an online search tool for this Bible is:

The questions of Roman Catholics about their faith are much less likely to be driven by the Bible and its language than the history, practices, sacraments and Saints of Roman Catholicism as defined by the Church. Therefore, to answer most Catholic questions, try the New Advent Encyclopedia (formerly known as the Catholic Encyclopedia) at:

Bibles Sanctioned by Jews

Jews can search the “Old Testament” of the King James or other Protestant versions of the Bible, which unlike Catholic Bibles, do not contain certain apocryphal texts at the end of the Old Testament that neither Protestants nor Jews accept. You can then use any of the Protestant search engines above for this purpose. In the Jewish faith it would be referred to as the “Hebrew Bible” or the “Tanakh” and not as the “Old Testament.” For a more specific search of either the Hebrew Bible or a Jewish annotated version of the New Testament (in English), consult the Dorot Jewish Division.


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Very useful, Matthew. Thank

Very useful, Matthew. Thank you.

Great Research Resources, however...

As a world-class institution, it's this kind of scholarly service one comes to expect. The Library did not fail in this most recent effort in Biblical research. My suggestion stems from the advice offered at the end of the article. It recommends patrons wishing to delve into the Hebrew biblical text to investigate the "Old Testament" portions of the King James Bible and other Protestant bibles. Scholarly work, motivated by religious or academic investigation would probably not be served by this. Language differences and varying nuances of word meaning would be significant. The articles closes with a better suggestion for the patron-scholar.

Bible Search Engines & are great online Bible search & study tools.

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