The Thompson Chain Reference Bible has been around for over 100 years. There’s a reason that it’s been around that long. The Thompson could be considered a study Bible, a topical Bible, or a reference Bible. I think it is most accurately called a topical reference Bible. To be considered a study Bible, most users would expect it to have commentary. I think that is more accurately called a commentary Bible. I think a better study Bible would be a Bible that gives you the tools you need to study the Scriptures for yourself. With this in mind, the Thompson Chain Reference Bible makes a great study Bible.
Rather than giving commentary, it compares Scripture with Scripture, allowing the Bible to be its own commentary. The Thompson is called ‘influence free’ based on this assessment. However, this is not exactly accurate. The topics themselves are influenced by Charles Thompson’s theology, as well as marginal headings, chapter summaries, and outlines of each book. In most cases, I don’t have any issues with these choices.
The Thompson has many features that I like in a study Bible:
- Chain references
- Topical index
- Better than average concordance
- Chapter summaries
- Page summaries
- Book outlines
- Character studies
- Archaeological encyclopedia
- Red letter
- Italics for added words
- Self-pronouncing text
- Marginal headings (rather than in-text headings)
- Links to parallel passages
- Translation notes
- Sewn binding
- Blank pages for writing
- The first chapter and verse that appears on the page is labeled in the top corner of the page
What makes the Thompson unique among reference Bibles is that the margins contain the topics that are found in the verses with a reference to the next verse in the chain. This is a nice feature because it makes it easier to research topics.
I think one of the Thompson’s most valuable features in the lists of topics in the back. These topics are what’s found in the margins (and many that are not), but in the back you get the complete topic list. For example, in the margin you see the word ‘faith’, the next reference in the chain, and the ‘pilot number’ for ‘faith’. Go to the topic section in the back and go to the pilot number. Here you will find all the verses in the chain. Some chains have all the verses reprinted while others just give the references.
I like turning to the topic section and just start turning pages. Here you will find great devotional, study, teaching, and preaching material. You can even use the material for quick reference in Apologetics. There are many lists on many topics, but there are also lists that you find in other study Bibles that come in handy, such as Harmony of the Gospels, all the titles of God, etc.
The topics are not perfect, nor are they 100% complete. They also tend to follow the words in English. This can cause you to miss verses that are on the same topic but do not use the same word. It can also include a verse that uses the same word even if it’s a different topic. This is usually not the case, but it does happen. Also, not every topic is covered (something I think would be impossible), but of the 8000 topics I’m sure you’ll find enough topics to be useful.