How-To Do a Word Study

Posted by on 10/05/2017 in: ,

While many have lamented the thought of having to learn the original languages in Bible college or seminary, I relished the idea. I saw it as an opportunity to unlock a new world of Bible study that would give me greater insight for Bible interpretation. But after several years of study I learned something very important. My English Bible was enough!

Yes, there were times when knowing Greek and Hebrew proved useful; but, for the most part, I found Bible translators had done a great job in conveying the thoughts of the Bible’s authors. But I was still asking myself: “How can I effectively use the original languages in my Bible study?”

Are you wondering the same thing? Let me share what I’ve learned.

FIND A WORD TO STUDY

A few years ago I was teaching through 1 Thessalonians at my church. As I was reading through the second chapter, I encountered a phrase in verse 4 that made me pause: “we have been approved by God.” The word “approved” felt a bit awkward to me, so I decided to investigate. To get started, I switched from my standard ESV Bible to the ESV with Strong’s tagging.

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Then, I tapped on “approved” in 1 Thessalonians 2:4, which gave me some quick information from the Strong’s dictionary. I see that I’m dealing with the Greek word δοκιμάζω (dokimazō), which is Strong’s number G1381. The glosses are helpful in showing me how the word is translated, but that doesn’t satisfy my curiosity.

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FINDING ALL OCCURRENCES

Next, check all the occurrences of this word in the New Testament. This will provide a wider understanding for how dokimazō is translated and its meaning(s). Our app makes this step really easy! All you have to do is tap the “Search for g1381” button, and it’ll search the ESV Strong’s Bible for every occurrence of dokimazō based on its Strong’s number.

What I found is that dokimazō has a lot to do with the idea of examining or testing something. The majority of the usage comes from Paul and refers to examining one’s self. That’s an interesting observation. And, in the case of 1 Thessalonians 2:4, it’s interesting to see how God is the one approving or examining Paul and his co-laborers for the work of ministry.

It’s also worth noting that dokimazō occurs twice in this verse, which I wouldn’t have noticed from the English alone, since the second instance is translated as “tests.” This information further improves my understanding of the original phrase in question.

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DIGGING DEEPER WITH LEXICONS AND DICTIONARIES

At this point, I have a good grasp on the lexical range of dokimazō—at least how it’s used in the New Testament. But, I don’t want to leave my study there because I may be missing something. What can I do to go further? It’s simple! I’ll go back and tap the “Lookup δοκιμάζω” button from my Strong’s popup and search my dictionaries. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis appears and it sparked my interest! There are two things I like about this dictionary: 1) the entry provides a list of related words that I may want to study further, and 2) it looks at the word’s usage and how it is theologically relevant, instead of just giving me a list of ways it can be translated into English.

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After some reading, I find my understanding of dokimazō to be on par with what the dictionaries say. As it relates to our verse, not only does God test, like on the day of judgment (1 Cor. 3:13), but He is currently testing our hearts—specifically as it relates to our usefulness in ministry.

GET THE RESOURCES YOU NEED

While it takes some time to read through all the material, a word study is really easy with the Olive Tree Bible App. Everything you need to do a word study is at your fingertips! Many of the resources you need to perform a word study are currently discounted in our How to Study the Bible Sale! Pick them up today while they’re at these low prices!

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