Category Archives: Bible Study Basics

The Blessings of Bible Study (I)

What’s in it for me?

“What’s in it for me?” That question is part of most people’s decision making process. Today we’ll begin to answer that question when it comes to Bible study. Let’s take a look at a couple of passages together. Then, I’ll suggest some additional reading for you to consider.

2 Timothy 3:15-17

is a central passage about the blessings of Bible study. It says…

“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

This passage lists seven blessings that come from studying God’s Word. Before you read on, can you briefly describe each of those blessing? Here they are:

  • The Bible points us to the way of salvation.
  • The Bible is the authoritative source for all Christian teaching.
  • The Bible shows us where we are wrong.
  • The Bible teaches us how to get right.
  • The Bible instructs us in right living.
  • The Bible helps us to become fully mature (perfect) believers.
  • The Bible fully equips us to do all the good works God has planned for us.

Psalm 19:7-11

also lists many blessings that flow from God’s Word. It says…

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.”

Again, before you look at the list below, try to identify the blessings in the passage for yourself. Here are some of the blessings of the Bible according to this passage:

  • The Bible converts the soul.
  • The Bible makes the simple wise.
  • The Bible makes the heart rejoice.
  • The Bible gives enlightenment.
  • The Bible is more precious than gold.
  • The Bible is sweeter than honey.
  • The Bible warns us of danger.
  • God rewards those who keep its sayings.

Points to Ponder

Can you look back over the last month and see times where you have experienced one or more of the blessings of God’s Word that we have talked about today? If so, what are they? If not, why do you think that is?

Read More About It

Psalm 119 is one of the major Old Testament passages about God’s Word. Throughout the week, I’ll be asking you to read and meditate on a portion of it if you have the time. Today, take a look at Psalm 119:1-32 and make note of the blessings of God’s Word that you find in the passage.

The Blessings of Bible Study (II)

The blessings of God’s Word flow to those who do their part to receive them. Today, we’ll look at more of the blessings of Bible study, and see that we need to meditate, study and obey if we want to be blessed.

God’s ignores the words of those who ignore His Word.

“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (Pro. 28:9)

“But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts:” (Zec. 7:11-13)

According to Galatians 6:7, we will reap what we sow. That general rule is specifically true when it comes to the Bible. If we refuse to hear what God has to say to us in His Word, He will refuse to hear what we have to say to Him in prayer. Why should He listen to us and do what we ask, when we won’t listen to Him and do what He asks? If we neglect His Word, it’s crazy for us to expect any real success in life.

God’s blesses the diligent student.

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Jos. 1:8)

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psa. 1:1-3)

Both of these passages encourage us to meditate on God’s Word. Don’t confuse biblical meditation with sitting on the floor with you legs tied in knots while you chant a mantra. No, biblical meditation is focusing your thinking on an idea and holding it there. The Hebrew word translated meditate is also translated as murmur, or mutter. It is the idea of having a conversation with yourself about something that has grabbed your attention. (We will talk more about how to meditate in a future lesson in this series.)

We are to focus our attention on Bible passages and principles done day and night. That is, thinking deeply and fully about God’s Word ought to be our habit. Like the noble Bereans, we must study the Bible with a ready mind and search the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11). According to Hebrews 11:6, God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

God made it clear to Joshua that the purpose of his diligent study was that he might do what God said. James makes this same point:
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (Jam. 1:22-25)
It is the doer of God’s Word who will be bless, have good success and prosper in whatever he does.

Points to Ponder

  • Can you think of any specific answers to prayer you have had in the in the last three months? If not, is it possible that God is ignoring your prayers because you have been ignoring His Word?
  • Do you think long and hard about the Scriptures you read, or just skim over some Bible passage each day so you can feel good about yourself?
  • Can you list two specific actions you have taken in the last month in response to something you read in the Bible?

Read More About It

Today, take a look at Psalm 119:33-64 and make note of the blessings of God’s Word that you find in the passage.

The Blessings of Bible Study (III)

Today’s study is a hodgepodge of additional blessings associated with the Word of God. This list is incomplete, but here are some additional blessings that come from being an obedient student of the Bible:

More blessings from God’s Word

God’s Word keeps us from sin.

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” (Psa 119:9)

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psa 119:11)

If you are struggling with sin in your life, it may be because you are neglecting God’s Word. As D. L. Moody said, “Sin will keep you from this book and this book will keep you from sin.”

God’s Word helps us avoid error.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?” (Mar 12:24)

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa 8:20)

The Bible is the standard against which all teaching must be measured. One of your most important safeguards against false teaching is thorough, consistent Bible study.

God’s Word helps us endure the storms of life.

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” (Mat 7:24-25)

Whether you’re lost or saved, you will have problems. Some believers handle them well while others fall apart. Building your life on the principles of God’s Word is the way to survive whatever troubles you face.

God’s Word teaches us to be patient and comforts us.

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom 15:4)

The Bible tells us about the trials and troubles God’s people faced in the past. In story after story we see how their suffering had a purpose. The record is clear that God delivered them from, or carried them through, every crisis. Their stories will comfort you and help you patiently endure life’s problems.

Points to Ponder

  • Is your neglect of God’s Word making you too weak to get the upper hand over sin in your life?
  • Are you testing the teaching you hear against the Word of God? Honestly, when was the last time you searched the Scriptures to verify a sermon you heard?
  • Do you fall apart when the storms of life hit? If so, how much of your instability can be traced back to a lack of time in the Word of God?

Read More About It

Today, take a look at Psalm 119:65-96 and make note of the blessings of God’s Word that you find in the passage.

Scripture Study Starters: God's Word

There are a few things you need before you can become a successful student of the Bible. Over the next couple of days, we’ll take a look at the prerequisites for Bible study. Today, we’ll consider the fact that you need God’s Word.

You need God’s Word.

This one seems obvious, doesn’t it? You can’t study the Bible if you don’t have a Bible. But I’m getting at something deeper. I’m asking if you believe that the book you’re studying is God’s Word. If you think the Bible is just a collection of human opinions about God and life, then you don’t have God’s Word. Do you believe the Bible you’re reading is an accurate rendering of what God said when He originally spoke? The Bible claims God as its Author. You can accept that or reject it, but that’s what the Bible says about itself. Here are two key passages:

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2Ti 3:16-17)

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2Pe 1:20-21)

God inspired about 40 human authors over a period of around 1500 years to record His revelation to us. Even though they were from different cultures and situations, had different occupations and spoke different languages, their writings speak with clarity and unity about a wide variety of subjects.

You really need God’s Word.

Have you ever considered how much we woudn’t know unless God revealed it to us? Here are a few examples:

  • We wouldn’t know about events that happened before man was created.
  • We wouldn’t know the motives and personal thoughts of Bible characters
  • We wouldn’t know about events in the invisible spiritual realm, like God’s conversation with Satan about Job.
  • We wouldn’t know God’s thoughts.

That last point is especially important, because God doesn’t think about things the way we do. We really need His insights.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9)

Since you have God’s Word

We’re blessed to have God’s Word, but that blessing comes with some responsibilities. Since God has given us His Word in a language we can understand…

  • We must read it.
  • We must learn it.
  • We must interpret it literally. (We must believe God meant what He said.)
  • We must harmonize it. (We must fit the parts together instead of throwing some parts out.)
  • We must humble ourselves before it. (When we disagree with the Bible, we need to know God is right.)
  • We must obey it.

I think it’s helpful to think about the Bible as if you were standing before God and He was speaking to you personally. Would it comfort you to hear your Father say, “Don’t be afraid, child.” He says that in the Bible – take it personally. Would you share the gospel if God appeared to you personally and said, “Take this good news into all the world.” He said it in the Scriptures – take it personally.

Points to Ponder

  • Do you believe the Bible is God’s Word?
  • Do you react to the Bible the same way you would if God appeared and spoke to you personally?

Read More About It

Even though we’re not studying the blessings of Bible study today, we’ll stick with this theme in our reading for the rest of the week. Take a look at Psalm 119:97-128 and make note of the blessings of God’s Word that you find in the passage.

Scripture Study Starters: The Holy Spirit

Imagine trying to explain the idea of a radio to someone from the 1800s. If you told him that dozens of people were trying to talk to him, to sing to him and sell him stuff, he would think you were crazy. He would look around, wondering where all these people were. Then he would take a step or two back from you – just to be safe. It wouldn’t make any sense to him because he doesn’t have the equipment to receive the broadcasts. If you pulled a radio out of your pocket, though, and turned it on, he could hear for himself what you were trying to explain. Some folks feel just like that man from the 1800s when they read the Bible. Today we’ll take a look at why that is.

We need the God’s Spirit as our Tutor

1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us:

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The natural man, that is the person who doesn’t have God’s Holy Spirit living in him, is not equipped to understand God’s Word. Thankfully, though, it doesn’t have to stay that way. God wants to help us. Earlier in that same passage, Paul told the Corinthians:

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1Co 2:12)

That’s What He Does

The Bible makes it clear that one of the Holy Spirit’s main jobs is to tutor God’s people. Consider these verses:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (Joh 14:26)

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (Joh 16:13-14)

“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” / “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1Jo 2:20/:27)

In yesterday’s study, we saw that “…holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2Pe 1:21) God’s Spirit, who inspired the human wirters of the Bible, wants to help you understand what they wrote. So if you already have God’s Spirit, be sure to ask for His help each time you study His Word.

“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psa 119:18)

Wait a minute! How do you get the Holy Spirit?

Good question. How do we receive God’s Spirit. Well, the Bible says:

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Act 2:38)

That is, God gives His Holy Spirit to those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Has there ever been a time when you have admitted to God that you, like everyone else in the world, are a sinner?

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Rom 3:23)

You have done some things you shouldn’t have done. You have not done some things you should have done. Your sin has a price:

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

Jesus Christ, God’s Son, shed His blood and gave His life on the cross to pay for your sins. He was buried and rose again from the dead. He didn’t have to do all this for you, but because He loved you, He chose to. Now it’s up to you to take the gift God is offering you. He said:

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom 10:9-10)

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom 10:13)

This good news is summarized in the Bible’s most famous verse:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(Joh 3:16)

Points to Ponder

  • Have you trusted Christ as your Saviour? If have trusted Christ today, or you want to talk more about it, please email me at keith@progressivedevotions.com.
  • Are you asking for and receiving the Holy Spirit’s help as you study the Bible each day?

Read More About It

Today, take a look at Psalm 119:129-152 and make note of the blessings of God’s Word that you find in the passage.

Scripture Study Starters: Diligence & Obedience

We saw yesterday that the Holy Spirit wants to help us study the Bible. Today we’ll take a look at your part in the process of understanding Scripture.

You need to work hard to master God’s Word.

You can have wonderful teachers in school, but they don’t do your homework for you. Likewise, the Spirit’s wants to help you understand God’s Word, but you still need to study diligently. Here’s what the Bible says about it:

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2Ti 2:15)

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Act 17:11)

Part of being a hard working student of God’s Word is structuring your life to make room for Bible study. Here are a couple examples from the life of Christ where He got up early, got alone, and spent time with the Father:

“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (Mar 1:35)

“And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.” (Mar 6:46)

Here are some simple suggestions for making more time for God in each day:

Use the time you have during the day.

Carry a pocket Bible with you at all times so you can seize those spare moments during the day that you normally waste.

Get up earlier, which may mean going to bed earlier.
(It ain’t rocket science.)

Set realistic goals and move forward in small increments.

Trying getting up a little earlier each day, instead of getting up two hours early tomorrow. If you try to make a big change like that all at once, you’ll probably go back to your old habits next week. Besides, you’ll probably be so cranky that the people around you will wish you would stop seeking God and get some sleep.

Set an alarm and move it out of reach.

I’ll tell you what I do. (Don’t laugh.) I’m not a morning person, so I set the alarm and put the clock far enough away from my bed that I can’t turn it off without getting up. I also put an Andes mint on the tap alarm bar. That way, when I go to shut the alarm off, I get a tasty treat. The mint freshens my breath, wakes up my mouth, raises my blood sugar a little, and makes getting up a sweet experience. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

Enlist the help of an early rising friend.

Ask some early riser you know to call you each morning. I’ve done this for a number of people over the years and it works. The first couple of mornings they answer with sleep heavy on their voice. Pretty soon, though, they are answering on the first ring bright and chipper.

If you watch TV, determine that you will spend at least as much time each day reading the Bible and praying as you do watching TV.

You’ve got to develop the skills to read effectively.

Some Christians don’t enjoy the Bible because they don’t enjoy reading in general. Do you dislike reading because you can’t read well, or do you not read well because you dislike reading? It’s hard to tell which is the chicken and which is the egg here, but God commands you to study His Word either way. Here are a couple of tips for improving your reading:

Read often – you’ll improve with practice.

Read aloud, or listen to the Bible on tape or CD.

Look up words you don’t understand and note the meaning in the margin of your Bible.

You should be ready to do what God says

Remember, this is God’s Word. It is the word of a King, and is to be obeyed. It’s meant to be done, and you will not understand it if you are unwilling to do it.

“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (Joh 7:17)

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (Jam 1:22-25)

Bible study that doesn’t lead to right living or revise wrong living is self-deception.

Points to Ponder

  • Are you working hard at studying God’s Word?
  • What practical changes do you need to make in you schedule and activities in order to spend more time studying the Bible? Will you make these changes?
  • Do you come to God’s Word ready to obey whatever you find there, or do you decide after you read it whether or not you will obey?

Read More About It

Today, take a look at Psalm 119:129-152 and make note of the blessings of God’s Word that you find in the passage.

Understanding the Words of the Bible

It’s hard to understand God’s Word if you don’t understand God’s words. That is, if you don’t know the meaning of the words you’re reading, you won’t understand the ideas God is trying to communicate. Today, we’re going to start looking at how to overcome the language problems you run in to when you study the Bible. This lesson isn’t really a Bible study – it just sets the stage for our studies over the next couple of days.

Even if you have a good attitude toward becoming a better Bible reader, there are still some roadblocks to understanding its words. Today we’ll look at each problem area, define it and give a quick example. To make these problems easy to remember, I’ve put them in the acrostic W.O.R.D.S.

  • Weak Vocabulary
  • Old Languages
  • Remote Ideas
  • Double Meanings
  • Spiritual Definitions

Weak vocabulary

You don’t understand the words because you need to build a better vocabulary.

Example

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Gal 3:19)

Old languages

You don’t understand the words because they are Old English, or because of how the Hebrew and Greeks words were translated into English.

Example 1 (Old English)

“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (Jam 1:21)

Example 2 (Greek)

“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” (Joh 15:2-3)

(Same Greek root word for purgeth and clean.)

Remote ideas

You don’t understand the words because of the historical and cultural differences between our world and the world of the Bible.

Example

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Gal 3:24-25)

Double meanings

You don’t understand the words because of the figures of speech the Bible uses, or because the word has multiple meanings.

Example

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Mat 18:21-22)

(Hyperbole)

Spiritual definitions

You don’t understand the words because they have special theological meaning.

Example

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

Points to Ponder

  • Are you a good reader?
  • Are you working at becoming a better reader?
  • Have you come across any of the reading problems we talked about today as you have studied the Bible?

Read More About It

Read the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. As you read, make note of the words and phrases that you don’t understand or that you want to investigate. Try to classify each item in your list into one of the five W.O.R.D.S. problems. Don’t skip over that last part, because you’ll be using the classifications in your studies in the days ahead.

Understanding the Words of the Bible (II)

You can overcome many of the roadblocks to understanding the Bible if you have the right tools. Today we’ll go back to the W.O.R.D.S examples we talked about yesterday and begin looking at tools and techniques that will help us solve these problems.

Weak vocabulary

You don’t understand the words because you need to build a better vocabulary. Here, again, is yesterday’s example:

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Gal 3:19)

If you don’t understand words like transgressions, ordained, and mediator, it’s going to be tough to figure out what this verse is talking about. These words are used in modern English, but you might not be familiar with them.

Sometimes the context in which a word appears will tell you something about what the word means. But you have to be careful about jumping to conclusions about the meaning of words based on their context. If you’re not sure, check it out.

What do you do when you come across a word you don’t understand? Hopefully, you stop and look it up. (If you pick up most any book I’ve read and thumb through its pages, you’ll find words with a * by them and a definition of each word in the margin.) This is a simple way to build your vocabulary.

Here are dictionary definitions for the underlined words in the verse:

Transgression

“The act of passing over or beyond any law or rule of moral duty; the violation of a law or known principle of rectitude; breach of command.” (Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English)

“Go beyond the limits set by (a moral principle, standard, law, etc.).” (Oxford Dictionary)

Ordained

“Appointed; instituted; established; invested with ministerial or pastoral functions; settled.” (Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English)

“1. make (someone) a priest or minister. 2. order officially. 3. (of God or fate) decide in advance.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Mediator

“One that interposes between parties at variance for the purpose of reconciling them.” (Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English)

“(mediate) 1. try to settle a dispute between two other parties.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Reread Gal 3:19 and plug in the definitions you’ve just read. Does it add to your understanding of the passage?

Points to ponder

  • Take a look at these verses: 2Ti 2:15; Luk 12;47.
  • Are you being a diligent student who works hard to improve your understanding of God’s Word? If not, does your slothfulness please God?

Reference recommendations

I’d like to start by recommending my favorite free Bible study software. Rick Meyers has done a fantastic job creating eSword. It gives you a vast toolbox at your fingertips. There are dozens of reference tools you can download. I use it every day. I could say a lot about eSword, but you’d be better off taking a look at Rick’s site:

eSword Bible study software

Throughout the week I’ll also be offering some other reference recommendations with links you can click to review.

Read more about it

Go over your word list you wrote yesterday as you read Ephesians 1. (If you’re just dropping in today, yesterday’s assignment was to read Ephesians 1 and jot down “the words and phrases that you don’t understand or that you want to investigate.”) Look up these words in an English dictionary. Plug the definitions you find back in to the text and see if they improve your understanding of the verses.

If you don’t have a dictionary, Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English is available for eSword. You can also use one of these online resources:

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

Mirriam-Webster’s Online

Clicking on these links will open a new browser window.

Old Languages (I)

Most of the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. Later, the translators of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible translated the text into Old English vocabulary. Both of these facts can cause problems for modern readers. Today we’ll start by considering four types of difficulties that readers have when they read the KJV.

  • Old words that aren’t used in our day to day conversations
  • Words that have a different meaning now than they did when the KJV was written
  • Old English pronouns, like thee and thou
  • Old English verb endings

Old Words

You don’t hear words like anon (Mar 1:30), beeves (Num 31:38), and churl (Isa 32:5) very often, yet they appear in the Bible. First, read these verses in context and jot down what you think each of the three words mean.

If you downloaded eSword yesterday, you can look up these words in the KJV+ portion of the program. The Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries will tell you that:

Anon means:

G2112 yoo-theh’-oce Adverb from G2117; directly, that is, at once or soon: – anon, as soon as, forthwith, immediately, shortly, straightway.

Beeves means:

H1241 baw-kawr’ From H1239; a beeve or animal of the ox kind of either gender (as used for ploughing); collectively a herd: – beeve, bull (+ -ock), + calf, + cow, great [cattle], + heifer, herd, kine, ox.

Churl means:

H3596 kee-lah’ee, OR kay-lah’ee From H3557 in the sense of withholding; niggardly: – churl. (We would say stingy.)

Old Words with new meanings

Example 1

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: (Gal 1:13)

You probably got the idea from the context that the word conversation in this verse means something more than just how Paul talked. Reading a modern dictionary wouldn’t be much help, My Oxford dictionary says:

“An informal spoken exchange of news and ideas between two or more people.” (Oxford dictionary)

However, the 1828 Websters give a clearer picture here:

“1. General course of manners; behavior; deportment; especially as it respects morals.” (Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English)

And Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries gets right to the point with:

“G391 an-as-trof-ay’ behavior”

Example 2

A friend told me that he was worried about someone in our church because he was planning to lease a car. My friend had read:

“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?” (Psa 4:2)

“Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.” (Psa 5:6)

He was worried that this man was leasing a car when the Bible warns us about leasing. The problem is that the meaning of that word has changed since the Bible was written. The Old English word leasing means falsehood or deceit.

Old English pronouns

I’ve heard some people complain about the thees and thous in the Bible. When you take the time to learn what they mean, though, you find that these personal pronouns make the Bible clearer. Here are the Old English personal pronouns that the Bible uses, along with their meanings:


Pronoun

Meaning

Thou

You, second person singular.

Thee

You, singular, (Object case of thou)

Thy / Thine

Yours

Ye

You (all), second person plural.

Take a look at this verse from the story of Nicodemus’ visit to Jesus:

“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (Joh 3:7)

In modern translations this comes out something like this:

“Don’t be surprised that I said to you, you must be born again.”

Modern English is a little sloppy like that. You can’t tell who the two yous are. The second you in the verse, Ye, means all of you – y’all, as those of you down South say. So you could translate the verse like this:

“Don’t be surprised that I said to you, Nicodemus, that everyone needs to be born again.”

Old English verb endings

Like te Old English pronouns, Old English verb endings give you extra information that may not be communicated in modern English.


Ending

Meaning

Example

Est, ast, st

Second person singular, present

Thou talkest.
You are talking.

Edst

Second person singular, past

Thou talkedest.
You talked.

Eth, ath, th

Third person singular, present

He talketh
He talks.

Reference recommendations

Here are two concordances I use that have original language dictionaries:

Read more about it

Go back over your word list from Ephesians one and use a Strong’s Concordance or eSword to find definitions for the original Hebrew and Greek source words. Make a note of any new light these definitions shed on the chapter.

You can download eSword by visiting the links section of this blog.

If you want to access Strong’s dictionary online, one place you can go is BlueLetterBible.org

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the impact of translating from Hebrew and Greek into English.

Old Languages (II)

Introduction

It’s hard enough to communicate with someone who speaks your own language. When you try to communicate across a language barrier, it gets even more difficult. Today we’re going to look at some of the barriers caused by translating the Bible from one language to another.

Translation Variations

Most of the Bible was originally penned in Hebrew or Greek. There are variations in how words in the original texts are translated into English.

  • One Greek or Hebrew word may be translated into several different English words.
  • Several different Greek or Hebrew words may be translated into the same English word.
  • Greek and Hebrew verbs may carry richer meanings than their English equivalents.
Example 1

“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” (Joh 15:2-3)

According to Strong’s Expository Dictionary, the word translated purge in verse 2 and clean in verse 3 is:

“G2508 kath-ah’ee-ro From G2513; to cleanse, that is, (specifically) to prune; figuratively to expiate: – purge.”

I heard a preacher once say that God prunes us through the painful circumstances of our lives. I think that’s true, but it is not the main point of this passage. God wants to use His Word to prune us. By missing that point, the preacher missed a golden opportunity to help his audience avoid a lot pain in their lives. If we would let God’s Word clean away the unproductive parts of our lives, we wouldn’t have to be pruned by pain before we do right.

Example 2

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (Joh 21:15-17)

When you first read this passage, it seems a little odd. I know Jesus is making an important point to Peter, so the repetition is warranted. But it still struck me as odd when I first read the passage. Then I turned to my Strong’s Concordance and looked up the words. Let’s take a look at the passage again, but this time we’ll show the Strong’s numbers for the word love in the passage.

  • Jesus: lovest [25] thou me?
  • Peter: I love [5368] thee.
  • Jesus: Lovest [25] thou me?
  • Peter: I love [5368] thee.
  • Jesus: Lovest [5368] thou me?
  • Peter: I love [5368] thee.

Now take a look at Strong’s definitions for each of the words used:

“G25 ag-ap-ah’-o = to love (in a social or moral sense)”

“G5368 fil-eh’-o = to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), that is, have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while G25 is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety:”

It adds flavor to the passage to see the different forms of love used in the conversation.

Reference recommendations

In addition to the Strong’s and Young’s concordances I recommended yesterday, the following reference tools will give you more original language insights.

You can also access Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words online.

Read more about it

If you haven’t finished looking up the Greek vocabulary from your Ephesians 1 word list, continue with your study today.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at how remote ideas influence your understanding of the Bible.