Have you ever wondered how to learn about the original meaning of words in Scripture, without becoming a Hebrew or Greek scholar? Conducting word studies can give fresh insight into Scripture that you may otherwise miss. Here are five simple steps to get you started.
Choose a word. Because a single Bible verse has many different words you could study, it’s not very realistic or practical to look up every single word and study it in-depth. It is helpful to first find what are called ‘key words’. These are words that are important, or key, to the passage you are studying. They can be words that appear in the passage multiple times, or are unique to the passage, or that are important in establishing the main idea of the passage. These can also be words that simply pique your interest. Start by reading through the passage you are studying, and mark the word (or words) you would like to learn more about.
Look it up to find the word in the original language, using a concordance. You can either use a physical or an online concordance. I will be using the online resource of Blue Letter Bible (blueletterbible.org) for my examples.
If you are unsure how to look up a word on Blue Letter Bible (BLB), they have an article that explains it: https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/conc.cfm. Once you get to the interlinear, click on the Strong’s number next to the word you want to use (it will be an “H” or a “G”, followed by numbers), and it will take you to a page which tells you the English transliteration, Biblical usage, Strong’s definition, and concordance results.
Find the definition, and take note of the word in the original language. Since the 2021 National Bible Bee theme is ‘witness’, our example passage will be Hebrews 12:1. This is what it says in the New American Standard Bible: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Looking at the context, we see that the witnesses this verse is referring to would be the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11. Their example of faith through difficult circumstances is a witness to God’s goodness and faithfulness. Using BLB, we find out that ‘martys’ is the Greek word for ‘witnesses’ in this verse, and the definition it gives is, ‘a witness (literally (judicially) or figuratively (genitive case)); by analogy, a ‘martyr’:—martyr, record, witness’.
Make observations, and take notes. When doing a word study, it’s helpful to notice the other times in the Bible the word was used, by looking at the concordance results. Scrolling down on Blue Letter Bible, we see different portions of Scripture where the same Greek word, ‘martys’, was used. Jot down or type out observations you make while glancing over the verses. Be sure to read the verses in context to make sure you interpret it properly.
Reflect and apply. You can come up with a few open-ended questions to ask yourself. Give yourself time for reflection and prayer, and ask God for wisdom and grace to apply what He has pressed on your heart through your study. Based on our word ‘witness’, and the verse we looked at, here are a few questions to get you started:
- How can I be a witness for Christ to those around me, saved or unsaved?
- Is there someone I can reach out to this week and share the gospel with?
- Are there sins I need to be laying aside in order to run with endurance the race of life?
Written by NBB Alumna: Ruth Derby