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Mastering Cross-References

No single book of the Bible stands alone. The biblical writers continually referenced, quoted, and built off previous books. Cross-references connect related verses and provide the full context for the passage you are studying.
The Faithlife Study Bible provides two sets of cross-references. The first set comes with the Bible text and will vary depending on which version you choose. The second set is found in Faithlife study notes.
Let’s go through a sample passage to demonstrate how these cross-references work. We’ll use Matthew 12 in the ESV for this example.
Matthew 12:1–8 recounts the time Jesus’ disciples plucked some grain and ate it. The Pharisees then rebuked Jesus for his disciples’ actions, and Jesus came to their defense.
This same event can be found in two other Gospels. Find those passages by going to the small letter w before the word Jesus in Matthew 12:1. Tap or click on it to see the cross-references—Mark 2:23–28 and Luke 6:1–5. Tap one of the references (or mouseover if you’re using to see a preview of those verses.

Why did the disciples feel free to take this grain in the first place? The answer to that is found in the cross-reference marked by a small letter x in Matthew 12:1. It will take you to Deuteronomy 23:25, where you can read the law which allowed for eating a neighbor’s standing grain.
Why then did the Pharisees object? They objected because they thought the disciples’ actions counted as work on the Sabbath. In the Faithlife study notes, you’ll see an entry for “the Sabbath.” That entry includes a cross-reference to Exodus 20:8–11; 34:21 where you will find the law prohibiting work on the Sabbath.
Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ accusations by reminding them of the time David and those with him ate the bread of the presence from the house of God. Want to read the full account of David’s action? The entry in the study notes for “what David did” includes a cross-reference to 1 Samuel 21:1–6.

Experiment with the other cross-references in this passage. See if you can use them to answer these questions, and answer them below in comments.

  • What was the purpose of the bread of the presence?
  • Where does the quote “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” come from?
  • In what other passages did people accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath?

Use cross-references in the Faithlife Study Bible to connect the Scriptures and expand your understanding of the Bible.

Written by
Chuck McKnight
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Written by Chuck McKnight