When I first became a Christian, I had a simple King James version of the bible and it had almost no helps in it. As I was around other Christians and saw their bibles, I noticed that they had a center column down the center of each page with a lot of small notes. I asked them what that was and was told that they were cross references. So what are they for, I asked? They are to refer you to other places in the bible that are related to that verse. Being quite ignorant of this new tool I asked, so how do you use them?
They showed me that when you are reading a verse, sometimes you will see a small number or letter, raised a little higher than the type which is to signal you that there is additional information available. If you find the corresponding number or letter in the center column, it will refer you to where to look. So I tried it and immediately I was confronted with another problem. Every book of the bible was abbreviated so I was shown that the abbreviation was simply the first two or three letters of that book. For example, Matthew is Matt or Mt, and John is Jn. I pretty well figured that out and then I found another problem. What was the numbering system? I was then shown that each cross reference was listed the same way: book, chapter: verse. I also learned that the book abbreviation may or may not be followed by a period. Then the chapter will always be followed by a colon (:) which is then followed by the verse(s). Okay, I think I have it . . . but then what is the dash? In the example: Jn 3:16-18 the dash means the same thing as it does on a grave stone, everything in between, or verses 16,17,18 all inclusive.
The next thing I found was that in the cross reference there were numbers or letters repeated but with different references. That turned out to be quite simple. It meant that there was more than one reference to that particular place in the bible.
Sometimes I would look up a cross reference and it didn’t make any sense at the time but as I continued to learn more and more about the bible I found that there was indeed an insight that I didn’t know about. I also found that sometimes I already knew about the relationship and didn’t need to go there as I recognized it immediately. Cross references have added a whole new dimension to my bible study methods.