Thursday, November 16, 2023

7 - Word Study Bible Study Method

 Big Idea: Introduction to the Word Study Bible study method guides one to examine the use of significant words found frequently in the Bible, exploring their usage in its original language and in the Biblical context.

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life

The Word Study Bible Study Method

Our kids have always loved word plays like anagrams, cryptograms and word scrambles. They are much better at it than I am.

Words are fascinating and words matter. They are at the core of good communication.

The importance of studying words in the Bible

There are words in the Bible that occur frequently with key ideas associated with them. Words like grace, and faith. To ignore their meaning or be unclear about what it says hinders our better understanding of God’s message to us.

The study of words related to key ideas will unlock a deeper understanding of the Bible. A correct interpretation of biblical truths is based on understanding the words.

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Proverbs 30:5

Of course the Bible was written originally in primarily Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament). Bible translation into other languages (like English) try to best convey the meaning but word equivalents don’t always exist.

That is why it is invaluable to study a word’s meaning in its original language and examine the context. The English use of a word is not enough.

Tools needed:

Study Bible
Several translations (but not paraphrases)
Exhaustive concordance   (Scripture Spy: How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)
Bible dictionary or encyclopedia
A good English dictionary
A set of word studies
If you have had an introduction to Biblical Greek or Hebrew, their Bible concordances and tools may be useful.  Ralph Winter’s Word Study Concordance and The Word Study New Testament are helpful.

Three Common Difficulties listed by Rick Warren

1. Sometimes several Greek words are translated by just one English word.

2. Sometimes one Greek or Hebrew word is translated several ways in English.
  • List the different ways the word is translated
  • List how many times it is translated each way
  • Give examples of each translation if possible
  • Write down how the different meanings might be related
  • Determine if the writer of the book is using the word you are studying in a single sense or is giving it a multiple meaning
3. Sometimes an original word is translated by a whole phrase in English.

Simple steps on doing a word study

1. Choose your word. Maybe there is a word you have been mulling over in your studies.

2. Find its English definition. Check a good English dictionary.

3. Compare translations that have that word. (Scripturespy: This is fairly easy on Bible with a single word. At the bottom it gives the option to see all translations.) 

4. Write down the definition of the word in the original language. Find this using your exhaustive concordance.

5. Check the word’s occurrences in the Bible.
  • How many times does the word occur in the Bible?
  • In what books does it occur?
  • What writers used the word?
  • In what book does it occur most?
  • Where does the word occur first in the Bible?
  • Where does it occur first in the book I am studying?
6. Find the root meaning and origin of the word. Use a Bible dictionary, a theological word book, etc.

Here are a couple of tools for that, that Rick Warren recommends.
The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study: New Testament, 3 vols. (Victor) • The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study: Old Testament, 4 vols. (Victor) • Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Hendrickson) • Kregel Dictionary of the Bible and Theology (Kregel)

7. Discover the word’s usage in the Bible

a. Find out how the word was used in the time the book of the Bible was written?
b. Find out how the word was used in the Bible?
    • How does the writer use the word in other parts of the book?
    • How does the writer use the word in other books he has written?
    • How is the word used throughout the whole testament?
    • Does the word have more than one usage? If so, what are its other uses?
    • What is the most frequent use of the word?
    • How is it used the first time in the Scriptures?
c. Find out how the word is used in the context of the passage?
    • Does the context give any clues to the meaning of the word?
    • Is the word compared or contrasted with another word in the context?
    • Is there any illustration in the context that clarifies the meaning of the word?
8. Write out an application. Keep your goal application, not interpretation. This is for your personal study and growth, not an academic paper. Pray over it.

Include a list of resource books you found useful in studying this word.

Helpful resources

The webpage has a page on Warren’s Word Study Method with a form also available on that page.

Also Scripture Spy has a number of blogs about tools both in book form and online that can be used, as well as helpful information about the process.

What is a Word Study 
Choosing a Bible Translation
Lost in Translation 
Word Study using the Blue Letter Bible 

In the New Year (2024) Scripture Spy Blogs will be about various tools to use for Bible study.  Some are hard copy books and others are electronic sources. Many of the resources are useful for this kind of study. Some of the resources mentioned by Rick Warren are old and out of print. We will look at more update or electronic tools. 

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Topical Method of Bible Study
Up next: Book Background Method of Bible Study


1. Do you have any experience learning or speaking another language? If so, think about some of the words that are difficult to translate into English or vice versa.

2. Rattle off 5 important words used in the Bible. Is there one that you would like to study more carefully?


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