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The Problem With Word Studies

Iíve done many word studies throughout the last 35 years, but Iíve come to the conclusion that they have their limitations. I wouldnít stop doing word studies altogether, but while doing them, I understand their perimeters.

This is the problem. Letís say you do a word study on the word "faith". You look up every place in your English New Testament where the word faith is used. You gather all of these verses together and formulate your thinking from the information you gather. The problem is that there is more information on this subject than what youíve just studied. There are other words related to faith that you need to consider to get a more complete understanding of this subject.

Examples of other related words to faith are, "trust" and "believe". You must carefully study all of the passages where these words are found as well in order to gain a complete understanding of faith. Then beyond these two words you have other related words such as "trusting, believing, believed", and so on. So it is clear that you need to look up more than the one word "faith" in order to come to a balanced understanding.

Thereís a another problem to consider as well. If you only look up the English word faith, along with the related words, you still might miss some verses. Why? Because some Greek words are translated into more than one English word. For example, "pistis" is the Greek word most commonly translated as faith. But "pistis" is also translated into other English words as well. So in order to get the full understanding of faith you need to get a full understanding of "pistis", and how and where it is used. The word "pistis" is used more times in the Greek text than the word "faith" is used in the English text. That shows you the importance of the word "pistis" when studying faith. At this point, youíd need to dig out your Greek concordance to find all of the places "pistis" is used, assuming you have such a book.

This also works in reverse. You can have one English word that appears in two or more different verses, and this one word is translated from two different Greek words. Now youíd need to know what both of these Greek words are and find their meaning and how and where theyíre used in the Greek N.T.

I know this may sound quite confusing and youíre about ready to give up on sound Biblical interpretation. Youíre probably thinking that the ordinary guy canít possibly interpret the Bible correctly. You donít know Greek and you donít have the books, so why try. There is hope for the ordinary guy. There must be, since Iím pretty simple and ordinary. There are a number of books and aids that can help you, even when it comes to Greek words. Some of these books are simpler to understand than others, depending on your knowledge base. Whatever the case, I believe you can understand more than you think. Iím not saying you or I will always get it right, because if youíre like me, youíre knowledge of Greek is limited. Yet I believe we can get it right more times than not.

So once again, I wouldnít throw out word studies altogether. Iíd do the best you can and understand that they do have their limitations.

In my opinion there is a better way of Bible study. It probably takes longer, but in the end you gain a more complete picture of Biblical truth. This approach to Bible study is called "a verse by verse exegesis of Scripture". Many preachers used to preach using this method of Biblical interpretation but for some reason, and its to our detriment, many have forsaken this form of Bible study and preaching.

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