How to Research the Word

March 2, 2023

Periodically, I get asked a question along the lines of, “How should I research things in the Word?” Or “How do I find that in the Word?” And also, “What does the Word say about such and such?” Often, I am able to just provide a direct answer to what the person is curious about. Sometimes I have to do some light research myself before answering. But in the spirit of “teaching a person to fish” being better than merely “giving them a fish”, I think it’s a good idea, when there’s time, to go into the various ways of finding this information on your own without the aid of a religious professional.

With that in mind, here are some really useful tools you should know about.

Reading the Writings

First, a good all-around online tool is This website, created by members of the General Church, includes digital versions, in various translations, of every book of the Heavenly Doctrines, as well as the Bible. (To look up a specific passage in the Heavenly Doctrines, go to the “Theology” section.) There are also numerous articles on various topics here, written from a New Church perspective. A nice feature of this website is the ability, while  reading one part of the Word, to find a list of cross-references and related articles elsewhere on the site. You do this by clicking the handy “Study” button at the top right of any page of the Bible or Theology sections. Much of what the rest of the resources I’m about to recommend provide things that can also be found on New Christian Bible Study, so if you’re looking for a one-stop-shop, this is it. But some of the tools that now follow go into more depth in some ways than what is available on this website for now.

Connecting the Writings with the Bible

So speaking of cross-references, my go-to tool for finding every reference in the Heavenly Doctrines to a specific chapter or even verse of the Bible is This New Church website gives you access to the Kempton Translation of the Old and New Testaments, and if you are reading via the “Study” button, it also lists a table of clickable links to every passage of the Writings that quotes or even cites the portion of the Bible that you are looking at. And if you prefer physically printed reference works, you can do the same thing using a book called Searle’s Index to Swedenborg’s Scripture Quotations. These days I more often use the Kempton Project site, but I still also often use Searle’s for certain searches.

Studying the Literal Sense of the Bible

For additional insight into the Bible that does not involve the spiritual sense, a good study bible is handy to have. Two I recommend are the ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version published by Crossway, and the Harper Collins Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version. Both are single-volume study Bibles that go into some depth with notes and explanations of the historical, linguistic, and cultural context of the literal sense of the Word.

Two good online sources for the same kind of material are and Keep in mind when using any such Bible study tool that even the most denominationally “neutral” scholarship has some sort of a theological bias, and so any doctrinal points made by a study Bible ought to be checked against New Church doctrines before being taken at face value.

And here I am tempted to get into dictionaries, interlinear Bibles, Latin texts, NeoSearch, and various original language concordances, because I love getting into the root Hebrew, Greek and Latin of the texts when doing a deep study. However, I don’t think that is quite in the spirit of this general starter guide. If you are interested in going deeper on the language study side of things, though, please see me.

Studying the Writings

Now, for studying the Heavenly Doctrines themselves, a good online resource is Here you can perform text searches using key words and phrases, not only of the Heavenly Doctrines, but also of past issues of New Church Life and a whole library of books written by New Church scholars on the topics in the Word. If you want a more powerful version of this search tool, you can get hold of a copy of a windows application called New Search and install it on your home computer. There is also, of course, Potts’ Swedenborg Concordance, an amazing work compiled in the late 1800s that I still find uniquely useful today. Even though tools like New Search,, the Kempton Project and the New Christian Bible Study all offer ways to search the Writings, there is something uniquely useful, I find, in the way The Swedenborg Concordance excerpts relevant text around the search terms and lays it all out on the page. If I want to do a deep study on a topic in the Heavenly Doctrines, I will often start by opening to the entry in the Concordance and just reading, start to finish, all the passages presented there. Often, in a single sitting, this gives me 80% of everything I need to know on the topic without having to do any further digging. As much as I love and promote digital tools, I am still highly enthusiastic about people continuing to use this six volume (seven, with the short Addendum produced by Don Rose) masterpiece.

Finally, there are some “reference works” Emanuel Swedenborg himself produced. One is full on a book of the Writings itself: New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine. Not only is this small work (often published as part of a larger collection under the title Miscellaneous Works), a great primer on the very basic ideas of the New Church, but it also concludes each short chapter with an organized index of passages from Secrets of Heaven that go into more depth on the topic. The other one is Swedenborg’s personal index of Secrets of Heaven, which he appears to have compiled for his own use in making references as he wrote later books of the Writings. You can get ahold of it as published by the Swedenborg Society under the title, Index of Words, Names, and Subjects in the Heavenly Arcana. Not only is this a handy index of a major portion of the Heavenly Doctrines, but it is also done by Swedenborg himself. This gives us a unique insight into what he himself understood as the main points of the passages he is citing, since each citation includes a terse summary of the passage as it relates to the index term.

And There’s More

And at that, I’d better cut myself off, as we’re getting a touch beyond New Church Reference Works 101, and into 102 or 201 territory. I’d love to go on more about commentaries, dictionaries, and other secondary works that you can find online and in printed form, but for now, this list is sufficient to get anyone started on some basic studying of how the Lord speaks to us through revelation.

I hope this has been helpful, and I happily invite any further questions or conversation you might want to engage in on this topic. I find great pleasure and value in digging deeper into the Word using tools like these and am always happy to help others do the same.

Rev. Glenn “Mac” Frazier, Pastor
Washington New Church, 2023-02-28

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