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Some back story…

I was first introduced to the Topical Reference Bible in 1992. I bought it from a Preacher that was preaching in a tent revival that we were supporting. I was playing guitar in the revival (I am a Church musician). The edition I bought was published in 1985 by Dugan Publishers. It became my carry and study Bible until I got a genuine leather Thompson for $7.00. I was developing my marking methods and wanted a new Bible to start over. I used the Thompson for many years, but I missed my Dugan (which was bonded leather and very much worn out). I was getting tired of the poor print and paper quality of the Thompson (at least my Thompson), so I searched for another Dugan. I found several on eBay, but they were going for over $100 (out of my price range). I ended up getting the Note-taker’s from Local Church Bible Publishers. I loved the Note-taker’s, but I still wanted a topical reference Bible. I kept searching and learning about Bibles, Bible tools, and Bible publishing. The knowledge I gained from that several years of searching for the perfect Bible, and the Bible’s I was collecting, compelled me to share my knowledge and start Bible Buying Guide. And now I’ve decided to write a review of the Bible that started me down the path of Bible-geekiness. OK, back to the topic…

Note – the Bible in these photos is the Jubilee edition with thumb-index. It was recently acquired and has a damaged cover. I’m planning to have it rebound. When I do, I will be sure to post new photos. I also have this Bible as a Dugan. In this review I’m making many comparisons between the two.

Various publishers…

This Bible has been published in many forms by many publishers over the years. I’m not positive as to who published it first. I recently bought a Wilmore edition published by Funk and Wagnall in 1918. This wasn’t the first edition of the Wilmore, but I suspect the Wilmore was the original version of this Bible. It is very large and has thumb index and full color maps. There were versions of it printed in the 70’s for Crusade. They removed the Bible Helps and the Cruden’s Concordance. It was also published by Jubilee (with all of the tools intact). I can’t be sure, but I’ve heard that Jubilee did the printing for Dugan, and when Dugan went out of business, Jubilee just published in it their own name. I saw a Jubilee edition that had a Strong’s Hebrew and Greek dictionary instead of the normal “Comprehensive Bible Helps” encyclopedia. Today’s versions are known by names such as “The Subject Bible”, although the newer versions are not even close to the original because they’ve removed many of the tools that made it such an awesome study Bible. So, what are these tools that have me raving about how awesome the Topical Reference Bible is? Let us look and see…

Features…

  • 100,000 references
  • Chapter summaries
  • Translation notes
  • Philip Schaff’s “Comprehensive Bible Helps” (Bible Dictionary/Encyclopedia)
  • Roswell Hitchcock’s “The Whole Bible by Subjects”
  • Topical Index
  • Cruden’s Concordance
  • 9 5/8 x 6 7/8 with thumb-index (6 ¾ without)  x 1.75

Cover and Binding

This Bible was available in bonded leather, genuine leather, or top-grain leather. My Dugan is bonded leather and is badly torn. The Jubilee is also bonded, but its wear is from being chewed by a puppy. I’ll keep it in an organizer Bible cover until I get it rebound.

The binding is sewn and has no problem lying flat on the very first page.

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Paper and Font

The paper is very thin (it has to be since this Bible has almost 2200 pages!), but surprisingly opaque. It has a light cream tone that makes it easy to read. Markings do show through a little, but not so bad that I want to stop marking in it. I’m not sure of the font size for the main Bible section. All of my font sizes for this Bible are guesses. I could be way off. I’m guessing the main text is around 8-point. It has a decent leading, so there’s plenty of space between the lines for underlining. The font is clean and sharp, and has the right amount of boldness for comfortable reading for long periods of time. The Jubilee is darker than the Dugan. This is a red-letter edition. The red in the Dugan is fairly dark and is easy to read. This is one of my favorite shades of red for red-letter Bibles. The red in the Jubilee is lighter and tends to fade. The fonts in the back sections are smaller, but they are all sharp and readable. There are 20 pages in the back to write on, but they’re regular thin pages. Ruled writing paper would have been sweet.

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Layout and Text

The text is King James (KJV). I’m not sure which edition it is, but it does have the British spellings. It is in double-column, verse-by-verse format. References are located on the outside and inside margins. The center of the page has two small columns that include page numbers to The Whole Bible by Subjects section. That’s the page number where that verse is location in the topical section.

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References and Notes

The references and notes are located on the outside and inside margins on each page. They are keyed to the text with the standard keys: letters for references and numbers for notes. I don’t know where I read this, but I read that it has 100,000 references. I’m not counting, but just comparing to other Bibles I can believe it. The notes include translation notes and comparisons to the RV.

Comprehensive Bible Helps

This section is a 124 page dictionary/encyclopedia with three columns per page. Information includes people, places, books, the Bible, harmony of the Gospels, and much more. It also includes a pronunciation guide of names and places. Mostly information you would expect to see in a Bible dictionary. I’m guessing the font size in this section is 6-point. It has a nice leading and is very readable.

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The Whole Bible by Subjects

This section, titled A Complete Analysis of the Holy Bible or The Whole Bible Arranged in Subjects, is by Roswell D. Hitchcock- President of Union Theological Seminary (1880-1887). This section is where every verse in the Bible is printed again- this time under specific topics. The Bible is arranged in 27 books, with each book broken up into many chapters. This is a wealth of topical study. I like to go to this section, choose a topic, and just start reading. Don’t get me wrong- it’s not perfect and I don’t agree with every topical choice, and verses don’t always fit into just one topic, but it’s a great start on a topical study. The text for this section is smaller than the text for the standard section. It is 685 pages. The font size might be 7-point. It also has a good amount of leading and is very readable.

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Topical Index

The topical index contains 32 pages and three columns per page. It includes all of the topics found in the Whole Bible Arranged in Subjects. Each topic includes a page number where that topic will appear in The Bible by Subjects section and the section number. I’m guessing the font is about a 5-point. It’s still surprisingly readable.

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Cruden’s Concordance

This is the best concordance I’ve ever seen in a Bible. It has every instance of every significant word (although my wife found one verse missing). It has four columns per page, has around a 5-point font, and it still very readable. No other concordance in a Bible even comes close. This is the only Bible I’ve ever seen that includes a 342 page concordance. If I could only have one of the tools in this Bible, the Cruden’s Concordance would be it.

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Thumb-index

My Dugan does not have thumb-index, while the Jubilee does. I’ve seen a Dugan with thumb-index and I suspect only the Jubilee had it.

Ribbons

My Jubilee has a ribbon and my Dugan does not. I’ve seen several Dugan’s and I’ve never seen one with a ribbon. I suspect the Dugan wasn’t available with a ribbon and that it was only available with some of the Jubilee editions (most likely the thumb-indexed model).

What I’d like to change or add

These are some features I would like to change or add. They are not in any particular order.

Maps

I would add maps. I don’t understand the removal of the maps from the Wilmore edition. This Bible already has almost 2200 pages. Eight to sixteen more pages wouldn’t make a difference.

Ribbons

I would add ribbons. The Jubilee only comes with one ribbon and the Dugan has none. I would add at least two, but preferably four or five. I’d like to have a ribbon for each major section.

Production

I would put it back into production. I’ve contacted several publishers trying to convince them to produce it, but there hasn’t been any interest so far. There are stripped-down versions on the market, but they’ve taken away what makes it useful. If I were to ever hit it rich, I would see to it that this Bible was produced again, but with these upgrades.

Where to Buy

This Bible is very rare. It’s been out of print for at least 20 years. The only place I’ve seen them is eBay (I did find my Pastor one at a Christian bookstore near Pigeon Forge, TN, but only one). Most go for well over $100. I have seen a few in bonded leather for around $75. Expect to pay $150+ for top-grain leather. I was just blessed with a Jubilee with a damaged bonded leather cover with thumb-index very cheap, so it is possible to find one at a good price. The key is to know what to look for, as not all sellers advertise its features so buyers don’t always know that it’s an Analytical Study Bible.

— Buyer Beware –

Not all analytical study Bibles have all of these tools. Most are stripped-down versions of the Dugan/Jubilee. The Subject Bible does not have the references, encyclopedia, or Cruden’s Concordance. The Crusade does not have the encyclopedia or the Cruden’s Concordance. The Dickson is a completely different Bible all together. Be sure of what you’re getting before you buy.

Conclusion

The Topical Reference Bible – Complete Analytical Study Edition has a fine set of study tools, making it the most useful study Bible I’ve ever used. Remove any one of these tools and this Bible would not be as useful, but all these tools combined make this an excellent study Bible. It is my favorite study Bible of all time. This is the Bible that I use as my answer to the ‘deserted island’ question. One could question its usefulness in an age when we can have better tools on our smartphones and people are carrying smaller Bibles. I use Bibles and dictionaries on my phone. Those are nice. They’re great study tools, but I still want a good set of tools in my Bible. Smart-phones are helpful, but I still want to flip through the pages of my Bible and read through the references, making Scripture connections on the page- rightly dividing the Word of God. I don’t want to rely on having my phone with me and hoping it has a good charge. I also don’t want people to wonder what I’m doing with my phone out in Church. Nothing will ever replace a good study Bible, and IMHO, a good study Bible will give you the tools you need to do your own study. This is where the Topical Reference Bible – Complete Analytical Study Edition shines above the rest. It’s an all-in-one Bible study library that allows Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Here’s a comparison to the regular size Thompson Chain Reference:

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