Why Word Studies?
Welcome to the new series I am doing about biblical words in the original languages. To start, I wanted to highlight why I think original word studies are essential and give some tips.
Have you ever had that lost in translation feeling? .
Both Greek and, to a lesser extent, Hebrew is lexically rich languages. Here it is especially true that a lot of meaning is lost when translated. An excellent example of this is Jesus is the reinstatement of Peter in John 21:15-21. In the original Greek different words for love are used. However, in English, you cannot see that unless additional terms are added to clarify the original meaning. From these examples, you can how knowing the original words can deepen your understanding of the verse.
You might wonder what is so new about Jesus' command to love in John 13:34 when God gave a similar command before? The original Greek provides us with the answer. The word used is kaino, which means a new aspect of a pre-existing concept.
Similarly, With different contexts of the same word, a translator has to guess which one is meant. Some of the OT Hebrew phrases are hard to translate. So the word they choose may not be the best one to describe the original. Moreover, the modern definitions of the translated word don't always fit what was meant in the original. Here are some examples of both
The one and only son would be better than the only begotten son for the Greek monogenes used in John 3:16. The Greek word teleloi, translated as perfect in Matthew 5:48, means complete, not flawless as the modern meaning of perfect would suggest.
Do I need to have a good command of the languages?
No, but since entries in some dictionaries are arranged according to how the words are written in the original script, you might want to learn the alphabet to look up words easier. The dictionaries I use have the alphabet as well as pronunciation and transliteration guides in the intro. If you want to understand how the sentence and grammatical structure of the original sentences affect the meaning, you may want to learn a little bit of the grammar. However, learning the whole language is not necessary for basic word studies.
A good word study bible and dictionaries are all that is needed. You can get the Strong's dictionaries themselves or ones indexed to the Strong numbers. The numbers make it easy to look up the words. The following are links to the ones I have that I won after a bible study class I took in 2018. Here is a picture of the ones I use.
If you don't have access to a paper word studies bible, I recommend the online ones on Stuydlight.org. On their new site, they introduced a new version of their interlinear resources. This has the original text transliterated and in the original scripts along with the English. This makes comparison easier. The strong numbers are directly above the transliterated words. However, the definitions in the companion lexicon are condensed. Therefore, I recommend using a physical one for greater detail and examples.
Where should I start?
I have focused more on the NT Greek because I have seen most of the words that have confused me. In addition, Greek t is easier to read in transliteration than Hebrew to me. Like Arabic, Hebrew is read from right to left. This is a big adjustment for speakers of an Indo-European language like English. If you struggled with the Hebrew names in the OT, you know how hard it is to pronounce with the proper phonetic knowledge. Therefore, I recommend starting with Greek and working your way up to Hebrew.