People assume Biblical word studies is something as simple as picking up a concordance, but in reality there is so much more to it and I’d like to show you how to do more. Why does this matter? Because if we are to accurately preach the word of God and declare that we are doing accurate word studies it needs to hold up to any test or investigation by those listening to us. Many English-speaking people don’t understand the Greek language and its dynamics, they simply assume it follows the same rules as English. The truth though is far from it. Greek sentences and word structures are significantly different from English and even more so for Hebrew.
I’d like to use this post to give several things to consider the next time you do a word study. They are short and to the point, but will be more than sufficient to get you started.
- Use a proper concordance to find the word you are looking for. Once found find out what the original Greek or Hebrew word for that word is. The Strong’s Concordance can be a good place to start with, but you will require other sources as well.
- Next look at how many times the word is used throughout the Bible, and in what ways it was translated.
- How many times is it used by that author and how does he generally use the word. How is it translated in those places?
- How many times it is used in that book of the Bible and how is it translated each time.
- If applicable, how many times is in used in that passage, and is it translated the same way?
- Look up the meaning of the word in a good Greek Dictionary if possible or concordance.
- Find out how the word was used in the culture it was written in. How was it used in the Septuagint and in classical Greek?
- Reconstruct the meaning of the word considering all the above questions.
- Read up in a good commentary and see if the commentator comments concerning that word, as the word might have been used uniquely in the Greek and have a greater meaning than what is in a dictionary.
- Context, context, context. This is the most important part above all. When a word is used in any language it is used with a certain context in mind by the writer. Find this and you’ll know what meaning to apply a word. Just because the dictionary gives it 10 different words as possible meanings, doesn’t mean all 10 are applicable. The author intended only one of those and that is the one you need to discover.
These points above are guidelines to help you in this journey, but they are not full proof. You could do all of these and get it completely wrong but you might also be spot on and get a better meaning of what is going on. Even if you don’t get it 100% right you will have a better background of the word you studied to correct that in the future or explain why you had a particular opinion. Even the best scholars get it wrong, but like the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”
The more you do this the more you will know when to go into more detail and when the word has a simple meaning to grasp.
In personal devotions you might not have time to go this deep and spend so much time on this, but in those times it is still acceptable to do a brief word definition check. However, when one wants to really dig into the meaning of the word these steps would help you get that.
If you are comfortable with the Greek alphabet most of these things can be answered by one to three proper sources. Having a proper theological library in place or near you makes this easier. Otherwise a good Bible software package would help, there are some good ones to choose from, as long as you don’t get stuck with only using Strong’s (which is not the worst thing either if you really can’t afford anything else). Strong’s is great, but it is too simple for the depth most of you would be looking for. The types of books you’d be looking for is Greek/Hebrew Lexicon’s (you’ll need to know the Greek/Hebrew alphabet), a concordance to show you the Greek word, theological dictionaries, cross-reference books, word study books and so forth. There is so many sources available in regards to word studies, find them and use them, just don’t rely on one source alone.
I trust this brief explanation of word studies has helped you, it is a very simple process. The best final advice I can give is, explore, read and discover the truth behind the use of the word.