JP’s Powerful and Extraordinarily Unique Reference Query

Building A Better SearchAfter years of development, the JP Reference Indexing and Query engine is finally online. This technology is not available on any other site and could radically change how you use the JP website. If you have any problems or questions, just post a comment at the bottom of this page and we’ll see if we can address it.

Suggested searches to see the engine at work:

  Matt 6-9 Luke 1-4
  Matt 6:19-21
  Matt 6-9 Dwelling  (the root “Dwell” is also searched)
  Matt 6-9 NOT Dwelling
  Matt 6-9 OR Dwelling
  Dwelling Place
  "Dwelling Place"  (quotes require the phrase)

How the Search Engine Works

Basic Queries


There are three types of basic queries: Terms, Phrases, References. A Term (or keyword) is a single word such as ->enigmatic<- and you can search many terms simultaneously. The returned documents will contain ALL terms you enter. For example, if you search for ->enigmatic dwells method<- then the returned documents will be all pages which contain all three of those words. Also, terms (or keywords) will also include roots of the words. For example, searching for the word ->dwelling<- will return documents with dwelling, dwell, and dwells.


A Phrase is a group of words which are grouped by double quotes such as “by foot.” Documents matching phrase queries will contain the exact phrase.


A reference is any typical ancient or Biblical reference. For example, Matt 6:1-6 or Avot 2. If you give both chapter and verse, then just those verses will be returned. If you give only a chapter or group of chapters, like Luke 3-6, then any references to verses in those chapters will be returned.


The real power is the ability to mix and match the three types of queries:

  power "dwelling place" Matt 1-5

Boolean Operators

You can combine basic queries with Boolean operators to form a more complex query. Boolean operators define the relationships between Terms, Phrases, and References. We support the following Boolean operators: AND, OR, and NOT. Please note that Boolean operators must be all uppercase.


This is the default operator. It will be used if there is no Boolean operator between two terms. For example:

  enigmatic dwelling

is the same as

  enigmatic AND dwelling


This operator makes its surrounding terms optional, but at least one must match the document. For example:

  enigmatic OR dwelling

will match documents that either have the word enigmatic or dwelling, while

  enigmatic OR Mt 3-6

will match documents that either have the word enigmatic OR references to Matthew chapters 3, 4, 5 or 6.


The NOT operator excludes documents that contain the term (or phrase) after NOT. For example:

  enigmatic NOT dwelling

will match documents that have the word enigmatic but not dwelling. You can use the NOT operator several times in the same query. For example:

  enigmatic NOT dwelling NOT music
  enigmatic NOT dwelling NOT Luke 3
However, we DO NOT support queries that ONLY have NOT terms.

Specifying Author or Title for queries

Two fields can also be searched specifically (post_author and post_title). If you want to look specifically for articles with a keyword in the title, use post_title:KEYWORD, for example:


You can also use parentheses to expand or contract the search query:

  post_title:(enigmatic OR doublet)

Likewise, you can specify authors by using post_author to search by specific author:

  post_author:bivin Luke 1-5 Burden


The order in which you enter search terms does not effect your results. AND and OR operators have the same precedence and group from left to right. For example “first OR last” is the same as “last OR first” and will match the same documents. If you need to modify precedence for complex queries, you can use parentheses. For example:

  (good AND world) OR post_author:flusser

will match documents which have the words good AND world, or documents that are written by the author Flusser.

  good AND (world OR post_author:flusser)

will match documents which have the word good, and, also either are written by Flusser or have the word world in it.

  enigmatic NOT (dwelling OR Sabbath OR Body)

*all* Keyword

Adding the keyword *all* after any book or volume of work will display all references found in that book. If the work is a collection of volumes, for instance Josephus’ The Jewish Wars vol. 1-7, you can only request all from a specific volume. For instance, Jewish Wars 2 *all* gives you all articles which reference book 2 of Wars. Likewise, you cannot search Wars *all* or Bible *all*.

What Books Are Indexed By The Engine?

The list is ever expanding; currently we are handling over 20,000 different abbreviations of over 5,000 different works. The number of books might sound larger than it needs to be, but each book of the Bible is considered a separate book, as is each volume of a work (e.g. , Antiq. 3 *all*). Many of the Church Fathers’ works are indexed, for example Apology *all* to see Aristides the Philosopher, The Apology.

Searching Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmud

At the present time, there is no way to search across all references of rabbinic material, but we are working on this issue. The major difficulty we face is that there is no standard way of citing rabbinic sources. For example, different authors might use b. Ber. 60b; BT Ber. 60b; b. Berachot 60b; or Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 60b to refer to the same passage. The good news is that searching with any one of these different modes of citation yields the same results. Sometimes, however, you will get different results by trying variations of citations. For example, b. Shab. 115a comes up with 0 hits, but b. Shabb. 115a comes up 3 hits.

For the time being, here are a few suggestions for how to use the search to get the best results:

If you are looking for a specific reference, like b. Shab. 115a, try searching for it a few different ways (b. Shab. 115a; b. Shabb. 115a; BT Shabb. 115a; etc.).

It is also possible to look for articles that intersect on passages:

  Avot de Rabbi Natan *all* Luke *all*

Or even more specific intersections:

  Avot 2 Matt 9


Since 1996, when I began working on the JP website, a problem had been nagging at me: there was no good way to search Bible references. For one thing, authors use different abbreviations, so you would need to search “Matthew” and “Matt” and “Mt” just to get all of the references to Matthew. Some books have over 10 different abbreviations. Second, all search engines ignore colons and periods, so if I search for Matthew 3:10 on Google, Yahoo or Bing the search results are terrible. At least the first page of links are to that verse in the Bible on various sites, and then you get results like Matthew 27:3-10 (because it matches the 3, 10 and Matthew). That’s not what I was looking for….

I tried several times to conquer the issue programmatically, and in 2009 we released, which crawled the JP site and other websites and indexed all the references for easy searching. However, that didn’t fully solve the problem, because it did not allow for keyword searches like normal search engines. Earlier this year I finally discovered a way to merge the two searches, and David Bivin raised the money to complete the programming work.

It gives us great joy to now have capabilities no other search engine in the world has!

Comments 8

  1. You give great information on how to use the ‘Reference Indexing and Query’ engine. But what is remarkably absent is how to access it. HOW DO I GET TO THE SEARCH ENGINE?


  2. Pingback: Can you give me some pointers for how to use your search engine? | Online

    1. Joshua N. Tilton

      Dear Cheryl,
      According to the Gospels, Jesus was crucified on the day before the Sabbath. According to the Gospel of John the legs of the criminals who were crucified with Jesus were broken so that the condemned would die more quickly and the bodies could then be taken down before the Sabbath began (John 19:31). From Luke we learn that after the women who were with Jesus followed his body to the tomb they went home and rested on the Sabbath (Luke 23:56). The Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and continues until Saturday evening. Thus according to the Gospels, Jesus was crucified on a Friday, was buried before the beginning of Shabbat, and rose after the Sabbath had ended.

      1. Jesus must have been crucified on our Wednesday evening at sunset, or he would not have fulfilled the prophetic word of being “three days and three nights” in the grave – the Jonah sign.
        The notion that Jesus was crucified on the day before the Sabbath is true, but it was not the ordinary Sabbath, but rather the Feast of Sabbaths commencing on Thursday. In short, the idea that Jesus was crucified on Friday is based on the misunderstanding of the term “day before Sabbath”.
        One may argue whether this is important or not, but the real important thing is that it did happen – not on which day of the week it happened.

        1. Joshua N. Tilton
  3. Pingback: JPs New Search Could Transform Your Study | Online

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