In the last two articles, (Bible Study from the Inside Out Part 1 and Part 2) I gave you the first steps in Inductive Bible study. Since the concept of Inductive study was explained in those articles, I won’t be redundant here. We’ll just dig right in to the next step in our study process.
We are still in the Interpretation step. I laid a foundation of context in the last article, which is the first key to properly interpreting Scripture. Determining context will involve some work with cross references throughout the entire counsel of the Word. By the time you are finished determining context, you should have a good handle on where the passage you are studying fits within the whole of the Bible.
The next element of the Interpretation phase is Word Studies. I am going to direct you to some online study tools out there as well as recommend some basic reference materials you might want to have on hand in your home library.
The most valuable and basic reference tool for word studies is a Strong’s Concordance. Sometime in long ages past (I have no idea the dates of history behind the creation of this tome), a man with the last name of Strong decided it would be really smart to give every word in the Bible a number. (It was INCREDIBLY smart). I’m sure there was some sort of committee or group of learned men that helped him accomplish this task. I know I couldn’t have done it all by myself.
Anyway, since every word now has a number, you can look up ANY word in Scripture and find it’s number. Then you take that number and look up the actual definition of the word from the original language. Most of the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. And the New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek.
I’m sure by now you’re asking “why”? Why on earth do I need this huge book to find out what words mean in the Bible? After all, I know how to read!
The reason is that our English language is so much less complex than the original languages in which the Bible was written. I’m going to show you a very clear example with the word “love.”
In English, we have one word to convey many types of “love.” We can use the word “love” in the following examples and they all mean completely different things:
I love Italian food.
I love my son.
I love my friend Sally.
I love cheese doodles.
I love my husband.
Now, you and I certainly know I don’t love my husband with the same love as I love cheese doodles. (Side note: I realize I used two food references. It’s really late right now and I’m kinda craving a midnight snack!!) But we have no different word to use than love, so that’s what we use.
But in Koine Greek, there are FOUR different words for love.
Eros – sensual or erotic love
Agape – divine love
Phileo – brotherly love
Storge – family love
Do you see how it would be much more simple to understand what someone is saying
when you have all these different types of love? I can agape my enemy. But I can’t phileo her. I can certainly storge my son, but eros would be reserved for my husband only. See the difference?
This is why it’s important to understand definitions from original languages. I’m no expert on Biblical languages, but thank the Lord, He has made resources available for the average Christian.
Bottom line? Get a Strong’s Concordance. You’ll be glad you did. Make sure when you get yours, you get one that is written for the translation of the Bible you use to study.
vine’s expository dictionary
The next resource tool you might want to purchase for further understanding of definitions is a Vine’s Expository Dictionary. Also “keyed” to Strong’s numbers, you can find a more expanded definition than you will find in the Strong’s Concordance.
the complete word study collection
An amazing Greek scholar named Spiros Zodhiates wrote an invaluable resource called The Complete Word Study of the New Testament (and Old Testament). There is also a Bible called The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible that contains all of Zodihates most pertinent notes on the most critical key words throughout the whole Bible. I have the Key Word Study Bible and it is my “go-to” resource for definitions. I can’t tell you how incredibly valuable I have found Zodhiates’ definitions. Zodhiates definitions are also keyed to the Strong’s Concordance numbers.
The Key Word Study Bible is not my personal Bible I use for study, it is something I strictly use for reference. Most often, I find everything I need right in there.
There are two great FREE online resources for word studies. Both these sites contain the Strong’s Concordance numbers and definitions. They are both very different in user interface, so just decide which works best for you. I will say that I tend to prefer Study Light because they make it much easier to find the tenses when studying the Greek definitions.
Verb tenses are something I simply don’t have time to cover here. Perhaps I’ll come back around to that in the future. In the meantime, if you’d like more information on tenses, please request it in the comments and I’ll be happy to share some links with you.
Once you have thoroughly interrogated the text by doing everything in the Observation and Interpretation steps, you should be able to summarize for yourself what the text really says and means. The Bible always means what it says and says what it means. Look over your notes and write down a summary of what the passage means in light of your thorough study.
There is so much more that I haven’t had a chance to cover here. But I’m already at 1000 words and I’m sure you’re probably asleep by now. 🙂 I have given you the highlights and basics. But I’m happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments section.
In our next and final part of this series, I’ll be addressing the third and most important step of Inductive Bible study, which is Application. Stay tuned!