Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Using Biblegateway.com for Study - Part 1 - Guest Post by Brendan Ian Kennedy

Many of us have heard of biblegateway.com, an online Bible resource that allows a user to choose from a large variety of English translations quickly and easily. In my experience of using it as a professional biblical scholar I have found a tremendous amount of functionality on it that most casual users have never even thought to look for. Many of these functions could be of great value to bivocational pastors who lack the time and money for serious study with powerful, usually expensive electronic tools. Biblegateway.com offers many of the same benefits as electronic study tools, and it is free!

Biblegateway.com is a free website maintained by HarperCollins Christian Publishing. It
allows users to use quickly what amount to web-based study, accessibility, and personal devotional functions. The study capabilities are most useful for preparation of sermons and lessons. The accessibility functions make the Bible more effective in outreach to those for whom reading is a challenge, and for non-English speakers. The devotional functions enable pastors and others to learn more and better ways of using the Bible for personal spiritual growth. In this post, we will survey some of the very basic study features of the site that will be useful for anyone who wants to study their Bible in more depth, including pastors and Bible study teachers. Subsequent posts will cover more advanced features that will be especially useful for sermon preparation and academic research.

First of all, biblegateway.com offers some very powerful study tools for busy pastors that are free, and can maximize one’s investment of time, if they are used properly. One such tool is the search box. There is a drop-down menu of Bible versions on the top right-hand side of the homepage which may be used to select the version you wish to read. Next to it on the left-hand side is a search box which can be used to look up passages by their chapter and verse reference, but it also may be used as a concordance for whatever version you are using. Simply enter a word or phrase in the box, click “search,” and a list of verses including your search terms will appear.

This concordance function is powerful enough to be useful, but it is not quite exhaustive. A search on “love” using the New International Version turned up 686 occurrences, which included words in which “love” was merely the first component, such as “lovely.” This is not as powerful or precise as my electronic study tool, which found 814 occurrences of “love” in the NIV as either a complete word, or with prefixes or suffixes attached. The program I purchased is better than biblegateway.com for this purpose, but a serious student of the Bible with limited funds should consider whether the investment is worth it when something almost as good is available for free. I have the program because I use it for academic research, not sermon or lesson preparation.

A second basic study feature of biblegateway.com is the parallel button. After you have selected a passage using the search box, a series of brown icons will appear just above and to the right of the text. The fourth one from the left looks like an open book. Click that, and it will divide the viewing area for the text into two columns, with your original version on the left, and a new version that you can choose on the right. You can use the drop-down menu above it to change the version as you desire. You can add up to four columns with parallels on the same screen, for a total of five versions.

You may be asking, “What is the point of reading two translations side-by-side? Isn’t my (ESV/KJV/NIV/whatever my favorite is) good enough?” That is a fair question. It would take another blog post (or several) to answer it completely. In brief, reading translations in parallel helps the reader identify spots where the different teams of scholars who create translations disagree. If you know where the disagreements are, you can begin to think about why they might disagree, and make an informed judgment on which translation is more accurate. Keep in mind that no translation is perfect. God did not breathe out the NASB; he breathed out words in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic which are faithfully but imperfectly rendered by the NASB into English. The same could be said for every other legitimate translation of the Scriptures.

The search box with its concordance capability and the parallel button are two basic features of biblegateway.com that are free, easy to use, and can yield great rewards for Bible students at all levels. In the next post we will discuss some more advanced features for even deeper study of the Scriptures. May God bless you as you continue to discover the riches of His Word!

Brendan Ian Kennedy
Ph. D. (cand.), Biblical Studies
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary


  1. Thank you for the information! For a layman such as myself I find the Bible commentaries sometimes useful when preparing for adult Sunday School. There are also translations into other languages (including audio for some versions).

    1. Thanks for sharing, and glad it was a big help to you.