Greek Tools for Bible Study - Lesson 9
In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of English tools used in Bible study. You will learn the definition and purpose of lexicons, commentaries, and study Bibles. You will also be introduced to examples of each tool.
<p class="out-1">NT203-09: English Tools</p> <p class="out-1">I. Introduction to English Tools</p> <p class="out-2">A. Importance of English Tools</p> <p class="out-2">B. Overview of English Tools</p> <p class="out-1">II. Lexicons</p> <p class="out-2">A. Definition and Purpose of Lexicons</p> <p class="out-2">B. Examples of Lexicons</p> <p class="out-1">III. Commentaries</p> <p class="out-2">A. Definition and Purpose of Commentaries</p> <p class="out-2">B. Examples of Commentaries</p> <p class="out-1">IV. Study Bibles</p> <p class="out-2">A. Definition and Purpose of Study Bibles</p> <p class="out-2">B. Examples of Study Bibles</p> <p class="out-1">V. Conclusion</p> <p class="out-2">A. Recap of Importance of English Tools</p> <p class="out-2">B. Encouragement to Utilize English Tools</p>
This class was taught at a church in 2006. This is Bill's greeting to the class and sets the stage for the class as a whole.
In the first part of lesson 1 we will learn the Greek alphabet and how to pronounce words. If you want to be able to use the better study tools, you have to be comfortable with the Greek alphabet.
Why are translations so different? In this lesson we will look at issues of how words carry their meaning, differing translation philosophies, and what it means to be "literal."
It is not possible to understand a good commentary unless you have a basic understanding of grammar, and that means we have to start with English grammar. Unless you are very comfortable with the concepts of case, inflection, verbal agreement, tense, voice, mood, clauses and phrases, please do not skip this chapter. Bill also introduces his basic exegetical method, how he goes about interpreting the Bible.
Now that we have a basic awareness of how language functions, we can get into how people go about understanding what the text means. Even if you don't want to learn much about Greek, this lesson will be invaluable for how you study your Bible.
In the first half of lesson 3 we look at ways in which we modify ideas, specifically using conjunctions, adjectives, phrases, and clauses.
Now it is time to do more in-depth work on phrasing by working through the book of Jude.
- This lesson teaches the meaning of verbs in Greek and the present, imperfect, and aorist tenses of Greek verbs.
- You will learn about English tools used in Bible study, including lexicons, commentaries, and study Bibles.
- This lesson provides knowledge on the different non-indicative moods in Greek verbs and their significance in Bible study.
- In this lesson, you will learn about Greek word studies, their importance, and the steps, types, and resources for conducting them.
- The lesson covers the English noun system, including types, forms, and usage rules.
- This lesson will provide insight into commentaries, their types, and how to choose and use them in Bible study.
- In this lesson, you will gain knowledge and insight into the history of the formation and transmission of the Old and New Testaments.
Have you ever wanted to know enough about Greek so that you could find out what the words of the Bible actually mean? Or why are the translations so different in places? Or perhaps you just want to learn enough Greek so that you can understand the better commentaries?
Then this class is for you. The lectures are based on the author's, Greek for the Rest of Us (Zondervan) and will teach you enough Greek, without lots of memorization, so that you can achieve these goals. The book can be purchased from any bookstore.
Greek for the Rest of Us
This book provides a crash course on Greek for people who want to study the New Testament more deeply. It covers the essentials of the language so readers can understand it better.
Course: Greek Tools for Bible Study
Lecture: English Tools
Week 4a: How Do We Describe Action?
Chapter 19: Paper and Electronic Tools
Chapter 19 is on how to use the paper and electronic tools.
NOTE: Some of the tools referred to in this lecture may be out-of-date or no longer available. Check with the publisher for the latest version of the resource/software.
Regular and Reverse Interlinears
All right, let’s start with the ''Reverse Interlinear''. I am unashamedly marketing my own book, and that is okay. The interlinear concept is actually very old, about 500 years old. Normally the top line is Greek, and it keeps Greek word order, and then under every Greek word is the English word for word translation which is normally unreadable and sometimes very unhelpful.
If you use a regular interlinear, the English reads something like this: “not on bread alone he will live the man.” That is how awkward interlinear translations can become. But you make do. Most people do not just sit down and read interlinears for the fun of it. They are generally looking for what a specific word means. The advantage of a standard interlinear is that you can get your Greek phrases. You can see what a relative clause is and participial clauses and all that kind of stuff.
So I got the idea, “Well, anyone who needs an interlinear doesn’t really know Greek well, so why make Greek the dominant language? Let’s make English the dominant language.” So I reversed the order using the NIV, keeping the English word order. The idea was to have a study Bible, something that you could read, mark, highlight, and write notes to yourself. I had wanted them to publish it on Bible paper which would have been a lot thinner, but they didn’t; I wanted it to be a Bible people would carry around and use as a study
So you go to the English word and drop down, and there are three lines under every English word. There is the actual Greek word, so underneath “live” is zhvsetai (zēsetai). Then underneath this is what is called its parsing, and along the bottom on both the left and the right pages on the ‘’Reverse Interlinear’’ are a set of keys to help you understand the parsing codes. The first is what part of speech is it; “v” means it is a verb. Then “fmi” means it is a future, middle, indicative. Then it is 3rd person, singular. Most importantly for you all is this number. “Live” is word 2409.
Now, if you are learning full Greek, you would need to look at zhvsetai and figure out that it is from zavw (zaō) (zeta-alpha-omega), and the s is a tense formative, e is a connecting vowel, tai is your personal ending but it is middle and the future…. Okay, that is what most people spend their first two years of Greek figuring out. Here you can just look at it and they will tell you; it is a future, middle, indicative. But the number is key because for someone doing regular Greek, they would have to go from zhvsetai back to zavw and then that is the lexical form, its basic form. So if you go to a dictionary and you look up zavw to see what it means, it’ll be alphabetized under z-a-w. But you can’t do that because you’re not going to spend that first two years memorizing all the paradigms.
So what you do is you go down the letter 2409, and then you use a word study book and look up word 2409. It’s that simple.
Now, let me say something about the numbering schemes because I want to make sure this is clear. There are two numbering schemes out there. The first is called the ‘’Strong’s Number’’, and you are probably all familiar with that. Dr. Strong did it by hand about 150 years ago. He listed out all the Greek and Hebrew words, assigned numbers to them and wrote them at the end of every entry in his concordance (we’ll see that in a second). It’s a good numbering system, except (and we’ll talk about this later) we have discovered so many more Greek manuscripts and words since he did his works that there are large gaps in his numbering system. He didn’t make a mistake; he just didn’t know that this particular word ever occurred in the Bible because in the Greek manuscripts he was working from, the word didn’t occur.
But there are some other issues involved with it, too, and so about ten years ago Zondervan asked John Kohlenberger and Ed Goodrick to develop a new numbering scheme that included all of Strong’s words and all the words that he was unaware of. Because the two gentlemen are Goodrick and Kohlenberger, we call them the G/K Numbers. Goodrick was a professor at Multnomah, and Kohlenberger was actually one of his students. John has gone on to do a tremendous amount of publishing in reference works. I am sure you have seen his name all over the place.
So we have two numbering systems. Now, if you go pick up a Vine’s word study, they are all Strong’s Numbers. In fact, just about everything other than Zondervan’s stuff is Strong’s Numbers. The ‘’NIV Exhaustive’’ was, I believe, the first book to use the G/K Numbers, and then there is a conversion table in the back. When I was doing the Reverse Interlinear, they wanted me to use G/K Numbers, and I said, “The problem is, this book is going to work best if there is a word study book that uses the same numbers.” So I said, “If you want me to do this book, you need to do a word study book that uses the G/K Numbers.” And they did, and I will show it to you next week. It is a really good book, about this thick as well.
So these are the G/K Numbers, and there is a conversion in the back so if you want to find out what the Strong’s Number is and use your Vine’s or whatever, you can. But the numbers are different, and I wanted to stress that.
This is the easiest way to get the Greek behind the English, for word studies, for trying to figure out the conjunctions, for looking at the verbs and seeing what tense they are, for all of that stuff.
Now there is another book somewhat like this by Spiros Zodhiates. He uses the King James, and there is also additional information in the back of his book. So, if you’re just dying to use Strong’s Numbers and you read the King James, that might be a better book to get.
See the little brackets? That means that the words between the brackets are a unit, and they have included the definite article oJ (ho), which is word 3836, which you obviously will see all over the Reverse Interlinear.
The Reverse Interlinear is not an attempt to prove the NIV translation theory. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with it. I am saying, “What Greek got translated as ‘man’? Well, oJ a[nqrwpoV got translated as ‘man’.” They didn’t say “the man”; the article is doing something different there. So they translated oJ a[nqrwpoV as “man”, that’s why oJ a[nqrwpoV are in brackets.
The arrow means that this word, in this case “does”, comes from another word. And because the arrow goes up and over, it means that you are supposed to kind of go up and over a word or words. The number under the arrow, 2409, tells you what verb the “does” comes from. So I used the numbers to link them. So zhvsetai is translated “does live”. See, whenever you put a “not” in English, you need a “do” or a “does” or something like that. Let’s say the word “not” wasn’t present; if it was just “does live”, it would just be a regular arrow under the “does” pointing at zhvsetai without a number. I figured that was pretty obvious. The arrows can go back the other direction, too. But when there is a little hook in the arrow, when it goes up and over either direction, then you look at the number, 2409, and find the verb with that number or the word with that number, and that tells you how to hook them in.
Anyway, that is the easiest way I know of to get at the Greek behind the English, either this or the other book.
Okay, how else can you get at the Greek behind the English? The way in which most people use them, in terms of paper, is to have an exhaustive concordance. You understand, there are different kinds of concordances. There is the concordance in the back of your Bible that has some of the words and some of the entries for that word, but not many. Then there are complete concordances; they are called different things. This is the ESV one they just finished, and it concords almost every word and gives every single entry for that word. There are only about 40 words we did not concord. These are complete concordances or some such nomenclature.
An exhaustive concordance is very large. Let’s look at how you use it, using Romans 12:2 as an example, looking to find the Greek behind the word “perfect”. If you do not have The Reverse Interlinear and you have an exhaustive concordance, you would look up the word “perfect”; find your entry (Romans 12:2); then off to the side in italics will be a number. The italics number is the number of that Greek word that is in that entry. (If you are healing with Strong’s Numbers, Hebrew is regular Roman Script and Greek is italicized.)
Then you have your number. Most of these exhaustive concordances have a tremendous amount of information in the back. Kohlenberger did one he called The Strongest Strong’s, and the stuff John put in the back is incredible. There are dictionaries back there. I mean, it is a phenomenal amount of information. They sell the thing for 20 bucks! They are selling them by the thousands.
Even if you like computers to look up words (and we’re going to look at that in a quick second), a lot of the databases for Hebrew are defective. Now, they are getting better and, you know, maybe in a year they will be really trustworthy. I know a couple years ago the Hebrew databases that a lot of the software’s using were not trustworthy.
This is one of the really important things on concordances. And, again, I am assuming you know it, but let’s just make sure. Match your concordance to your Bible. This is critical. There are exhaustive concordances for the King James, the NASB, and the NIV. The illustration I like to use about this is, let’s say you know this verse in the back of your head, 1 Corinthians 13:1. If you have 1 Corinthians 13:1 in the back of your head and you know this verse has “love” in it, and you have a King James concordance. If you look it up, you will not find it because they use the word “charity”. And that’s why you have to match the concordance to your translation.
Now, Zondervan is finding (and this is fascinating) that, although the NIV Exhaustive is a good concordance and people are generally reading the NIV, people are still buying King James concordances! It’s odd, and you still have all these inherent problems since you are not normally reading anything else other than the King James, which means you are not going find all the verses that you are looking for.
So the encouragement is to match the concordance with the translation. The ESV does not have an Exhaustive yet. But if the translation makes it, I’m sure they will because you have to have an exhaustive concordance.
How to Use a Concordance
Just a few other things on concordances. Again, you probably know this one. When you want to look up a verse, pick up the most unusual word in the verse. Do not look under “and”; look under “propitiation”.
Be sure you check your cognates. You may be absolutely sure that the verse you are trying to remember has the word “believe” in it, but it is going to be “believes” when you finally get there. So pay attention to cognates, related words.
And just be sure you check out the full context. That is the encouragement that I have always given to students. You cannot know what the verse means and the word means if all you are doing is looking at three words on either side. This is straightforward information, but I wanted to reiterate it.
Now, there is another concordance that you all can use, and this is one of the beauties of this class. I really want to stress what used to be called Englishman’s Concordances. (Marketers aren’t willing to use that word any longer.) I think the term “Englishman” probably came about because this was a concordance for people that didn’t know Greek but knew English and wanted access to the Greek behind it.
Kohlenberger came out with a new one called ‘’The Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament’’, using the NIV.
He has one for Hebrew, too. This book is worth its weight in gold. If you are going to do serious Bible study, this is important.
We already talked about this with conjunctions, that one Greek word is not always going to be translated the same way in English. If you look up the word savrx (sarx), which means “flesh”, you can find this thing translated… Well, let me tell you how many different ways it’s translated. It is just translated all over the place. Even in a single book like Galatians, there are many, many different ways to translate it. The Greek word savrx is translated by the NIV: “flesh; sinful nature; body;” (it’s not translated 8 times); “human; people; sinful man; earthly; in the ordinary way; man; nature; world; as a man; birth; bodies; corrupted flesh; …” and I’m only a third of the way through the paragraph.
So, let’s say you were using the NIV (and just about any translation) to study “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and you wanted to study the word “flesh”. The problem is that if you pick up a regular concordance, it will show you every place that the translation has the word “flesh”, but that’s not going to be every place the Greek word savrx occurs, and there may be other words translated as “flesh” that aren’t savrx. That’s the major limitation of an English concordance.
So what the Greek-English Concordance or the old Englishman’s Concordances do, is that everything is listed by Greek word so that you can pull up savrx–it’s word 4922–see what they’ve done? They assumed you are using tools; you’ve figured out what the word is. You come to here… “Oh, I’m in John, reading ‘flesh’. I’ve done something to find it’s word 4922. Oh, that’s savrx.” And then it comes down and it shows you in English (and that’s the important part), it shows you in English all the verses where the Greek behind it is savrx. This is how you do word studies. You do not do word studies with English concordances because of the limitations.
So for example, Matthew 16:17 “…of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man”, that’s savrx. Matthew 19:5 “…and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”, that’s savrx. Mark 13:20 “…the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive”, that’s savrx. So this is an invaluable tool. You can see the semantic range of a word. These things are invaluable.
So, Zondervan has been working hard to get you The Reverse Interlinear to find the Greek. We have the Englishman’s Concordance to get semantic range and use. They also have a really good word study book that uses the numbers as well.
Dictionaries and Concordances, Paper and Software
Dictionaries and Concordances. Again, I’ve given you some names. This is simply one of the best books that’s ever been written. It’s by Walter Elwell who teaches at Wheaton College, and it is called the ‘’Evangelical Dictionary of Theology’’, published by Baker. I live out of this book. It is just marvelous. It is a dictionary where you can look up: “Anne Hutchinson”; “hyperdulia” (that is the veneration offered to the blessed Virgin Mary).
Under “i” for example, you have the “‘I am’ sayings”. You have “___________”, “identification with Christ”, “idolatry”, “Ignatius of Loyola”, “ignorance”, “illumination”, “the illuminative way”, “the image of God”…
The beauty of Elwell’s book is that the articles are good and the rang or articles are so broad. In a lot of the books that compete with this one, they are very narrow. For example, they will only contain words that occur in the Bible. If you want anything about theology or church history, it really tends to be in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.
That’s it for paper. Let me say a few things about computers, and we can be done.
There are many websites you can now go to and look up Bibles and get information. There is somewhere that has the King James, and after every King James word they list its Strong’s Number. I mean, there is quite a bit of stuff on the web. Crosswalk has them. Blue Bible has them.
But the best piece of software that’s free is called ‘’Online Bible’’, and they have Mac and Windows versions. The program itself is free, and the texts that are public domain you can get free. In fact, I know the last time I looked at the Mac version, which was years ago, the copyright was some church in Canada, I think. Apparently some people had a vision for doing this. So if you want a Bible search software that does not cost anything, then you can get Online Bible.
On the Macintosh, the very best piece of software is called Accordance. It is written by a man named Roy Brown. His wife’s an anesthesiologist and he’s a PhD in physics, a very interesting couple. Roy is simply the best programmer I have ever met in my entire life. His work is scary. I mean, it is an unbelievable piece of software.
On the Windows side, Zondervan has a piece of software they are in the final stages of coming out with. There is another one called BibleWorks that is also a very, very good Bible search program. BibleWorks is one of the best ones for getting at the Greek behind the English on the Windows platform. It is laid out for that kind of stuff. I have not seen Zondervan’s new product. They supposedly have built that into it as well.
So anyway, on the Mac it’s Accordance. On the Windows it’s the Zondervan product or BibleWorks for getting at the Greek behind stuff. There’s Logos, too, and many, many other ones out there. These are the ones that I’m most familiar and comfortable with.
Basically, these things are just super fast concordances. You can type in words, partial words, and you can look up verses and have parallel Bibles so you can see how different translations translate it. For Bible Study, they’re marvelous tools; and if you are going to do them, I would really urge you to get something.
BibleWorks is a little different in that you pay one lump sum and you tend to get everything. On other programs like Accordance, they have to pay royalty fees for different translations, and so you buy them separately. So you will buy the NIV and you will buy the ESV, and they are around 30 bucks apiece, something like that. Now there is a tremendous amount of public domain information. They never charge for the King James or the ASV. And then Young’s and Darby’s and some of these other ones that are in the public domain, they do not charge for those. Some of these packages come with that and then you add in what you want. BibleWorks gives you a lot of stuff for whatever their fee is.
Getting to the Greek
In terms of getting to the Greek (and that’s the thing I wanted to emphasize), what some of these programs are doing now is, let’s say you’re reading Matthew 4:4, and “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” As you run the mouse over the Greek, down below it tells you what it is. It gives you the inflected form; it gives you the lexical form (in verbs: first person singular, present indicative); they can give you transliterations of the Greek or Hebrew; and then a short gloss, they’re called, of what the word means.
On some of the English translations (the NASB has this; I believe the NIV has it; maybe others do it), when you run your mouse over the English, the Greek and the Hebrew appear below as well. So in other words, what I am doing in The Reverse Interlinear you can do in this software, which is really sweet. Now, if you have the NASB module that does that, they do not do every word, but they have just tagged the main words, you know, the nouns, the verbs, that kind of stuff. It is really helpful, and normally you do not care what a preposition is in Greek or Hebrew. But the nouns and the verbs are pretty major. That is a great feature. So, if that is something important to you, you will want to make sure whatever software you buy has that facility. For example, you can buy the NASB with just the English or you can buy it with the Greek and Hebrew behind it. Figure out what you want to do, and then get the right translation and text for it.
That’s what’s really cool about Accordance and BibleWorks, and I believe the new Zondervan product does the same thing as well.
What Else Can You Do with Software?
Here are a couple of things on software. They are built for concordance searches; that’s how they all started. There are things called wildcards. If you type in <believe> <*>, it will pick up “believe, believes, believed…”, that kind of stuff. Wildcards give you intelligent searches.
They can show the translations parallel, which I live on.
They can also analyze the search results in different ways. Accordance can graph things. It can show you frequencies. They can provide just all kinds of interesting information.
If that is all that the software did, it would be good software. But, the second and probably most important feature in terms of the future of these packages is their ability to tie reference books into the text. So, if you are working along and you do a mouse over on Greek, you see the little gloss, and go, “I really want to know what that word means.” Well, you can buy Louw and Nida’s Lexicon. You can buy Bauer. You just click a button, and up comes their entry. You do not have to have the book on the shelf. Don’t have to page through pages and pages. That saves a phenomenal amount of time.
But they’re bringing commentaries online. So, if you’re on Mark 1:6, and you want to know what this verse means, you can click a button and the commentaries (you’ll pay for these) that are there, whatever you’ve paid for, if you want-- well, just choose which one you want and up will come the commentary. You can spend a lot of money on this stuff, but you can also spend a lot of money on books. And it’s interesting, some publishers sell the software for the same price as the paper even though the software costs a fraction of what the paper costs to duplicate.
This is going to be huge. Logos was the company that really headed out with this and made a big marketing push and got a lot of books. The new product from Zondervan is so good because they have gotten unbelievable resources, and it is all going to be for one basic price. Now you can still add on and some of these other series that cost two, three hundred dollars. But the add-on reference book that’s coming with the new Zondervan stuff is really, really, really good.
When you pick your software, you want to find out what reference works are available for them, and you want to be really careful to do that because this makes studying so much easier. For example, you can get ''The Expositor’s Bible Commentary'', 12 volumes; I do not own it in paper, but I have an electronic copy because I wanted something for the Old Testament more than what I had on my shelf. I remember working on a sermon one late Friday night, and I could not figure out what the Old Testament said; “Oh, wait a minute. I’ve got, online, a commentary on Joshua.” I looked it up and found the information I needed. So these things are really, really valuable.
Now here is where you have to be very careful. There is a phenomenal amount of junk out there. Sometimes I think, “Come on. Have a little humility in marketing.” “Hey! We’ve got 27 Spanish translations of the Bible!” … So what?! I mean, I don’t read Spanish, you know, and I don’t think the people that do really care about the last 400 years of translation unless you are an academic. I mean, it really does not matter. I have seen these people advertise these things, “Sixteen Danish translations!” (I eat danish. I don’t read Danish.) You know, it’s that’s kind of stuff. All this stuff is in the public domain, and that is why they can give it away. But books go on the public domain for a reason. They are either good and old, or they are just old. And a lot of them are not worth reading. I have also seen huge claims, “Buy our software! You can get 800 books!” Quantity is not the question. The question is, “Are any of these 800 books worth reading?” And the answer is, normally not. You can get ''Calvin’s Institutes''. I had to pay a little for Accordance. I like having Calvin’s Institutes on my computer. I don’t have anymore shelf space, so it is on the computer. Be really careful with most of the free stuff.
But this is all really cool and it is the future for software. They are just now starting to release translations for PDAs. They are really nice, especially with the newer PDAs that you can read easier. Plus on the little ones that run Windows Light (or whatever it’s called). You can get most of the translations on them, and you can even get some of the Greek stuff. Gramcord has a version of the Greek where you can see it and get to the Greek behind the English; they’re at Gramcord (gramcord.org). I use Olive Tree, is the one that I have found easiest to use. There are some other ones out as well. But when I go to church and when I’m preaching, I take my Bible. When I’m out traveling and stuff, I just take my PDA because I have 4-5 translations, plus the Greek, so it is all right there. I know everyone thinks I am playing games, but it is right there.
Well, that is it for software. Oh, by the way, you can always go find someone who has one of these packages, as well, and just play around with it. That is always a good idea just to get your hands wet, so to speak.