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Bible Word Study Resources

This guide will walk you through the process of doing a word study for various Bible classes.
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Greg Rosauer

Getting Started by Comparing Translations

Perhaps the best way to get started with a word study is to compare several English translations of the Bible.

There are dozens of English translations, and each of them is usually the product of a team of translation experts. Chances are that if you notice differences in word usage or meaning when comparing translations, it's a good indicator that the underlying Greek or Hebrew words can be understood differently. These are the words or phrases that you'll want to focus on when trying to interpret the text.

The easiest way to compare several English translations is by using You can compare four translations. I recommend comparing a few of the following translations:

  • New International Version (NIV)
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • English Standard Version (ESV)
  • Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
  • Common English Bible (CEB)
  • King James Version (KJV)



In this example from John 1, notice that some words are agreed upon among all the translations, but they still are important enough that they need to be studied further. For example, the term "Word" seems simple enough, but it carries a lot of meaning. The Greek term behind "Word" is λόγος (logos). This term gets used in a variety of ways in the ancient world, and has an important place in philosophical schools such as Platonism and Stoicism. That kind of depth to a simple word makes for a good word study!

Using Bible Study Websites

The best initial way to find the meanings of biblical words is to use a Bible study website. There are many websites that offer English biblical texts enhanced with the underlying Greek or Hebrew texts. Here are some of the ones I recommend for word studies:

Basic Word Study Steps

Step # One:

Find the Strong's number. Each Hebrew or Greek word has a designated number. Most websites use the Strong's number. And some newer resources use what a different numbering system called Goodrick-Kohlenberger numbering (or just the GK number).

  1. Find your passage on one of the following Bible study sites
    • These sites all look different, but they all display the Strong's number behind each word in the biblical text.
    • Select the word in your passage to see the Strong's number of that word.
    • Many bible study sites utilize Strong's numbers, but here are a few sites that I like best:

Step # Two:

Find the GK number that corresponds to your Strong's number.

  1. For Old Testament words, use the Strong's to GK conversion table in The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis NIDOTTE), volume 5 on pages 370-396.
  2. For New Testament words, use the Strong's to GK conversion table in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE), volume 5 on pages 768-796.

Step # Three:

Find the entry for the word/word group in the volumes 1-4 of either the NIDOTTE or the NIDNTTE.

  1. For Hebrew words in the Old Testament
    • The GK number is listed at the top of each page in the NIDOTTE, from the lowest numbers in volume 1 to the highest numbers in volume 4.
  2. For Greek words in the New Testament
    • Unfortunately, the GK number is not at the top of the page, but the volumes of the NIDNTTE move from the lowest number in volume 1 to the highest number in volume 4. 
    • Each entry is indicated by a box containing the GK number and the word(s) that are discussed in the entry.

Beyond Dictionary Definitions

Studying biblical words and phrases requires more than just looking up dictionary definitions. While the dictionary or lexicon will canvas the semantic range (i.e., the variety of meanings) of a word, you can't just choose which meaning to plug into a specific biblical text. Context is king (as they say).

Levels and Types of Context

There are different levels and types of contexts in which biblical words have their meanings. Exploring these contexts makes for a good exegesis paper.

  1. Grammatical context
  2. Levels of context
    1. usage in the present work (e.g., Galatians)
    2. usage in the author's other works or in the same genre (e.g., other Pauline epistles or other NT narratives)
    3. usage in the OT or NT canon
    4. usage in the entire biblical canon
    5. usage in contemporaneous literature (e.g., Jewish and Greco-Roman writings around the time of the NT)
  3. Cultural, religious, and philosophical contexts (or backgrounds)