Level 1 Word Study: Doing It Yourself
Studying Greek Words
When you want a loaf of bread, the easiest way to get it is to stop at Safeway or Panera to pick one up. But if you’ve ever walked in your front door and found the house full of the aroma of freshly baked bread, you can appreciate the virtues of doing it yourself! My wife used to run a small baking business at home, even grinding her own wheat (not by hand – she had a heavy-duty Bosch mixer). And we found that there’s something special about whole wheat rolls that come from your own oven.
Similar dynamics are at work in the task of Bible study. When you want to know the meaning of a New Testament word, it’s easiest to check with the experts. Look it up in Zodhiates’ study Bible or Vine’s Expository Dictionary. There’s nothing wrong with relying on reference books, because those scholars have spent their lives studying the Bible and the Greek or Hebrew language. We would be foolish to ignore the information they have gathered.
But at the same time, we cheat ourselves of half the fun of Bible study if we leave everything to the experts!
You can study a Greek word on your own, discovering intriguing insights about its meaning that you might never find in the dictionaries.
Doing it Yourself: Step-by-Step Guide
1. Get a list of all the verses where the word is used.
You can find this information in a concordance like Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
- You can use software packages like Logos or BibleWorks.
- And many Bible study Web sites have a concordance function.
Make sure your list focuses on the Greek word, not just the English term.
2. Study each verse where the word is used.
Here’s a helpful procedure: Type out the verse in English, but leave a blank where the target word appears. Suppose, for example, that you want to study homologeo, the most common Greek word for “confess.” You would write 1 John 1:9 like this: “If we ________ our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If you prefer, you may insert the Greek word itself, rather than leaving a blank.
Once you have created this new version of the verse, examine it in its context and ask yourself, “What idea goes in this blank?” You already know, of course, that the general idea is “confess.” But what does it look like to “confess” something? Can you express the idea in a phrase, rather than just a single word?
You may not notice anything revealing as you analyze a single verse, but when you repeat the procedure on 15 or 20 verses, interesting patterns should start to emerge.
Look at the words combined with your target word. Notice the subject of a verb to find out who performs this act in Scriptures. Notice the direct object of a verb to find out who or what receives the impact of the action. In 1 John 1:9, a person confesses sin. In other passages such as Romans 10:9, a person confesses Jesus as Lord.
3. Write down your observations on each verse.
4. Organize and summarize your findings.
- Matthew 7:23
- Matthew 10:32 (twice)
- Matthew 14:7
- Luke 12:8 (twice)
- John 1:20 (twice)
- John 9:22
- John 12:42
- Acts 23:8
- Acts 24:14
- Romans 10:9
- Romans 10:10
- 1 Timothy 6:12
- Titus 1:16
- Hebrews 11:13
- Hebrews 13:15
- 1 John 1:9
- 1 John 4:2
- 1 John 4:3
- 1 John 4:15
- 2 John 7
By doing this process, you are actually writing a homemade entry in a Greek lexicon. Oh, it’s not as professional as the entries produced by lifelong scholars of Greek. But it’s yours! And it will not only solidify your insights into God’s Word, it will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you have carved out this piece of truth for yourself . . . a very good thing!
If you would like to try your hand at this kind of study, you can use this list of verses where the word homologeo appears (at right):