When studying the Bible, one can gain a deeper and more enlightening understanding of God’s Word and its meaning through the practice of word study. Word study, or exegesis, involves examining a single word or phrase found in scripture and researching the use of that particular word in both the Old and New Testament contexts. A word study is a helpful tool for interpreting passages of scripture and understanding the meaning of a text. This article presents an overview on how to do a word study in the Bible.
The first step for doing a successful word study is to gather the necessary resources. Two key elements are the version of the Bible being used and a lexicon or dictionary of biblical words. The lexicon provides the original language meanings for numerous words found in the Bible, such as Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. A basic English Bible and a English/Greek or English/Hebrew Dictionary will provide helpful information for doing a word study. There are also concordances, commentaries and Bible encyclopedias on CD-ROM and online.
Next, one should thoroughly examine the word in the Bible. This includes the type of word, such as a verb or noun, the tense, the degree verbs are used in, and the context in other Bible translations. A chart you have created can be helpful for tracking all your observations and conclusions. For example, if the word being studied is a verb, research other places in the Bible where this verb appears in order to gain a better understanding of the different meanings.
One should also look up the biblical word(s) in the lexicon or dictionary. A lexicon or dictionary examines the different uses of the word in the Bible and other literature from the same time period. It may also provide information on the time period in which the word is used. Pay particular attention to definitions in different Bible translations and make sure to take notes to track the various uses. The language used in the lexicon should be understood, so if the definition is difficult to understand it should be researched.
Finally, it is important to apply the results of your word study to the text. This step involves understanding the meaning of the word in the text, noting relevant insights into the passage and comparing the current passage with other passages in the Bible.
Word Study Tools
Word study tools are a great way to help with the task of researching a particular word in the Bible. An example of such a tool is the popular Bible software program E-sword. This software has a variety of features designed for studying the Bible, including lexicons, concordances, dictionaries and commentaries. These tools are invaluable in helping to gain a better understanding of the words used in the Bible.
Another helpful tool is the interlinear Bible. An interlinear Bible is one that is arranged in two columns; one containing the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek text, and the other containing a corresponding and verse-by-verse translation. This Bible format makes it easier to compare the original Bible text with the transliteration.
Finally, word study tools can be found online. Websites such as Biblegateway.com provide a wealth of resources for studying Bible words. These websites usually provide easy-to-use search functions and an abundance of Bible passages and commentaries that can be accessed quickly and easily.
Syntax analysis is another powerful tool for studying words in the Bible. This practice involves the analysis of the grammar of the passage, especially verb tenses and moods, as well as the relationship between words and phrases. Syntax analysis allows one to see not only the meaning of individual words, but how they fit into the overall context. Paying attention to how the words are used helps to draw out the author’s intent and gain deeper understanding of the passage.
Interlinear Bibles are also useful for syntax analysis. By observing the words in their original language order, it is often easier to gain an understanding of the author’s intent and the overall structure of the passage. This tool can also be used to identify words, phrases and sentences that are related to each other and may carry similar or contrasting meanings.
For example, if the word being studied is allos (“another”), looking up this word in an interlinear Bible might show that it is linked to a particular verb, such as proserxomai (“to come”) or luō (“to loose”). By examining the relationship between these two words, one can gain a better understanding of what they mean in context.
Conclusion and Application
Once a word study has been completed it is important to apply the results. This involves using the knowledge gained to draw out the author’s intent, gain insight into the context and message of the passage, and create an encounter between the reader and the Word. Through regular practice and diligent exploration of God’s Word, one can learn to interpret passages of scripture in ways that brings clarity and insight to both the text and the reader.
One of the most important aspects of word study is understanding the context of the passage being studied. This should involve both a broad understanding of the scope of the passage and a detailed understanding of how the passage fits into the larger narrative of scripture. Reading the surrounding verses and chapters as well as researching key words in other parts of the Bible can give one a better grasp of the meaning of the word in the particular passage.
For example, the word “salvation” is commonly used in the Bible. By examining other verses in the Bible, one might discover that this word is often used to refer to deliverance from trouble. Word studies such as this can help to bring depth and clarity to our understanding of the Bible.
It is also important to examine the cultural, literary, and historical context of a passage. Understanding the culture in which the passage was written can help us to make sense of words or concepts that may not make sense to us from a modern-day perspective. Investigating the literary context can also help us to see how the passage fits into the larger story of the Bible. Finally, researching the historical context can help us to gain a better understanding of how the passage fits into the larger narrative of scripture.
Creating a word list is another useful tool for doing word studies. A word list includes the words that are used most frequently in the passage being studied. Looking up these words in a Bible dictionary or concordance can often produce a wealth of new information. This can include the relationship of the words to each other, their meaning in the passage, and how they are used in other parts of the Bible. For example, one might create a word list for a passage about the gospel containing key words such as “redemption”, “salvation”, and “grace”.
Word lists can also be used in tandem with interlinear Bibles. By examining the relationships between words in the original language and the English translation, one can gain a better understanding of the nuances and nuances of the text. As an example, a word list of “believer” might include the word pisteuō which can be translated as “have faith”, “trust”, or “believe”.
Discourse analysis is the practice of examining a passage of scripture in light of its larger context. This includes examining the structure and literary devices of a passage, as well as the wider theme that it is emphasizing. For example, in a passage about the grace of God, one might examine the use of metaphors, similes and other forms of figurative language. Discourse analysis can also be used to identify important key words and concepts that are used to emphasize a central message or idea.
Discourse analysis can also reveal insights into the author’s rhetorical strategies. For example, by examining the syntax and structure of a passage, one can gain insight into how the author is leading the conversation. This can help the reader to understand the passage in greater depth and gain a better understanding of the author’s intent and message.
Word study is a powerful tool for gaining insight into the Bible. By taking the time to thoroughly examine the context, grammar, literary devices and structure of a passage, one can gain a deeper understanding of the Word of God. Word studies can also be used to complement traditional methods of studying the Bible, such as reading scripture, prayer and meditation.
Understanding the meaning of words in the Bible is not only helpful for understanding the text, but also for gaining insight and meaning in our own lives. By studying the Bible and its words, we can gain a richer and fuller experience of God’s Word and its power.