Today marks ten weeks and nine postings of my Effective Resources for Bible Study, a series that I began with the intention of providing some basic resources for a believer’s Bible study while also expounding a bit on the importance of doing a Bible study. I would suggest to you that a poor relationship with the Word of God indicates a poor relationship with the Son of God, after all, they are one in the same (cf. John 1:1, 14 & Revelation 19:13).
Strangely enough though, I don’t think I have to write much to convince you or anyone else reading this of the importance of studying Scripture. Personal Bible study is generally accepted as an important premise and a worthy ambition. The function of Bible study though, is often noteworthy for its lack of prominence in our lives. It is my hope that this series has been a motivation to each of us for making our relationship with the Word a more intentional part of our daily routine.
I want to close this series with some final resources about word studies (perhaps close isn’t the best word; I know that over time I will add to this series, but in terms of it being a weekly and formal focus, I draw that portion to a close and next week will bring our attention to something else). I have noticed that for many, word studies are equated with the pinnacle of Bible study. I lament that sometimes we focus so much on individual meanings of words, we often forget to look at the context and overarching theme of the passage we are studying. However, word studies also serve a very important and vital aspect to personal growth.
One of my favorite aspects of preaching, speaking, and writing is the precision of language. The goal of communication is always to be understood, but we have gotten lazy in our communication. We speak in broad senses and generalities making listeners and readers work harder to understand what is being conveyed . . . this extra work often results in the whole ‘lost in translation’ misfortune that is so prevalent today. Yet, the vastness of words we have at our disposal can convey any thought with an amount of specificity to convey even the most minute of details. Instead of offering a simple summary, give a detailed description. For example, instead of telling you that language is specific, I tell you that language is precise. One carries a more meticulous meaning that enables you to capture the exactness of what I am trying to say.
Why is the concept precisional language so important (no that’s not an actual concept, but I’ll coin it because you get what I’m saying)? Because the Lord was meticulous in conveying His Word. The words used throughout Scripture carry meaning that is meant to convey an exact nature.
Consider the depth of Romans 12:2 (“Do not be conformed to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . . “) when you understand that conformed literally means ‘to be squeezed into the mold of this world’ and transformed indicates a complete transformation from the word metamorphosis, like a butterfly who transforms from a caterpillar into a butterfly. When we see the meanings of such word, we see that Paul’s writing captures an inward heart attitude in that conformity deals with the outward shape or conformity, while the transformation refers to something in totality. Even more meaning is understood when we see that both words are in the passive tense, meaning that the work being done here is not by the people or audience, but by an external force (in this case a person is conformed by the world as the verse indicates, but less obvious is how transformation takes place, but Paul’s wording tells us it is the work of God). These are spectacular points that understanding language helps draw out. Thus, the importance of word studies.
While stressing the importance of word studies, we are then left with question of how. Below are some of the best resources that I would recommend to you (click the links to go to the source):
Some quick articles by George Guthrie regarding how to and how not to do a word study:
- Lumina: Lumina is a neat web-based Bible that allows you to read in a variety of translations while looking at the Greek or Hebrew text. Simply click on the word and it pulls up a box at the bottom with some information (Strong’s number, transliteration, and some usages) and then highlights that word for you so you continue to see how and where it is used through. In the photo you can see how I clicked the word logos and it highlighted the usage for me.
- Blue Letter Bible: Blue Letter Bible has been my go-to for a long time for basic information. Pull-up a verse, click the tools icon on the left and it will bring up the information for every word in that particular verse (as you can see in the photo below). Click the strong’s number and it will take you to a lexicon that gives you dictionary information, number of uses, and concordance information to see all of its uses and translations.
- Daily Dose of Greek and Bill Mounce: For those wanting to learn more about the Greek language or learn the language itself, these scholars have put together some great resources. Bill Mounce offers classes available online at your own pace. I wouldn’t suggest these for everyone, but for those with a special interest in language, these are the first sources to go to.
Admittedly, the web-resources are lacking extreme depth; however they are free and do help to offer some insight. However, what if you want to go deeper? Then I would suggest the following resources. I have ordered them based on how deep into the meaning you would like to go (and how much money you are wanting to spend). A quick note. Some of these resources use the Goodrick-Kohlenberger numbering system instead of the Strong’s numbering system. Don’t let this stop you from using a particular resource though, because those that do use this numbering system provide an index that will convert the numbers for you.
Old Testament Resources:
- The Complete Word Study Bible-Old Testament and The Complete Word Study Dictionary-Old Testament: This set (and its corresponding New Testament set) were the first word study resources I sought out and bought. The Bible offers insights into how a word is used (verb, noun, shows possession, etc.) and gives you the Strong’s number to look up the definition in the dictionary. The dictionary gives insight into how it is used in various verses to get a more complete look. To save money, purchase the Dictionary first (you can look up the Strong’s number online if necessary).
- New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis: A massive 5-volume set, it’s hard to beat the comprehensiveness of this work. Scholars have provided lots of insight on the use of Old Testament words in their classical sense and throughout Scripture. It’s a great work, however, the cost is high (usually about $150 for the set). If you will use it extensively, I would highly recommend it, but clearly you have to determine if the usage you get out of it is worth the cost.
New Testament Resources:
- New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Abridged): While the cheapest and shortest option of my New Testament recommendations, don’t let that fool you. This oversized book comes packed full of spectacular information. Each word is laid out with three areas of information: classical usage, Old Testament usage, and New Testament usage. Often the New Testament usage is broken down further based on a particular author’s use of the word.
- The Complete Word Study Bible-New Testament and The Complete Word Study Dictionary-New Testament: This is the counterpart to the Old Testament set (although cost for this set is cheaper than the Old Testament set.
- New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis: Also a counterpart to the New Testament set. A great advantage of this set is that it was recently updated this year (2016) and re-released, so you are getting the most current information. Like the Old Testament set, it is a massive five volumes and comes at a cost (usually close to $200).
If you want more detail about how to do a word study, or would like information on how to use the resources I listed above (in particular the The New International Dictionary of New or Old Testament Theology and Exegesis sets) pick up Grasping God’s Word (Hard Copy or Kindle) (which I referenced in the article here). The authors take readers through step-by-step directions on how to make the most use of the resources and gives much more information for proper interpretation of Scripture.
Second, for Logos users, take a look their store. Often the Complete Word Study sets come in cheaper there than if you were to buy a hard copy and it would be integrated with your other Logos capabilities. Furthermore, if you are willing to wait, you may be able to catch the New International Dictionary of New (or Old) Testament Theology and Exegesis sets on sale. I was able to pick up my New Testament set for a mere $70 or something like that, which was a spectacular deal! However, those are rare, so you may have to wait awhile.
For those of you who would prefer a hard copy concordance here are two options I would recommend:
Frankly, these aren’t necessary because you can often get the same information online utilizing the web-based resources above (or similar sites). However, I also understand the joy of having the hard copy books available to you. Personally that’s my preference as well. However, to save money the online resources can easily meet your needs in terms of concordances.
We do not have any excuse for not doing at least a basic study of the Scripture’s use of words. With technology, from the printing press to the computer and internet, the amount of resources we have available to us is almost laughable. However, the tools are meaningless if they are not used. Make the most of out of your Bible study by making the most of the tools you have been given. That includes taking advantage of the free ones and utilizing those that cost if you are so inclined to do so.
And this draws a “close” to my series on effective resources, at least in the formal sense as I earlier stated. Interested in other resources, want me to address a specific area, or just want some information of where to go? Feel free to contact me (use the contact page under “About Me” or simply click here) and I’ll do my best to help you!
To consider others tools and resources available to you in your personal Bible study, browse the previous articles published as part of the “Effective Resources for Bible Study” series:
2) The Tools
3) The Bible