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Bible Word Study

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

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 BibleGateway.com. You can compare four translations, as shown here:

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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!

I recommend comparing 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)

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:

Hints and Problem Solving

  1. Always write down the number associated with your word and whether that number is the Strong's Number, the Goodrick/Kohlenberger, or the numbering system in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.
  2. If you are having a hard time finding your word, make sure that you are using the correct concordance for your Bible translation of choice and that you have written down the correct number and the correct numbering system. 

Below is a list of the books you will use and thier numbering systems.  Conversion chart information is also included:

Organized by Strong's number

  1. The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (REF 225.3 Z72)

Organized by G-K number

  1. The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words (REF 225.3 N641)
  2. New International Dictionary of OT Theology and Exegesis 5 vols. (REF 221.3 N42v)

Conversion Tables

    1. Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance pages 1607-1647 (REF 220.2 G626e 1999)
  • Old Testment words
    1. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis vol. 5, pages 761-834 (REF 221.3 N42v v. 5)
    2. Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament vol. 3, pages 1469-83 (REF 221. T342l 1997)
    3. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament pages 1087-1124 (REF 221.44 T342 1980)
  • New Testament words
    1. The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words pages 1514-1544 (REF 225.3 N641 2000)
    2. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament  vol. 3, pages 693-94 (REF 225.48 Sp47t 1994 v. 3)
    3. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament vol. 10, pages 61-84 (REF 225.48 K65t v. 10)