Bible Study Articles
Learn more about how to use Olive Tree’s Bible Study App and other products for Bible study.
By Olive Tree Employee: David Mikucki
The great part about this resource is that anyone can use it. You don’t need to be seminary trained or have years of experience. You can just tap and read. The tool is powerful and practical enough to be useful even for personal study.
As with many powerful tools, this resource can do more if you know how to use it. It can also be somewhat dangerous if you don’t know how to use it. We don’t just want to provide you with the resource; we want to help you get the most out of it and avoid the dangers of misinterpretation. In this post, we’ll talk about the basic features of the ESV with Strong’s and about how to get the most out of each of them.
Tap to See Greek/Hebrew Word
The first feature is the most obvious. As soon as you tap, you can see what Greek or Hebrew word is behind it. This is the first thing you’ll see when you tap on a word. It’s probably most helpful for people who know Greek or Hebrew.
Now, if you tap on a darker word and it doesn’t open to do anything, that means that the word isn’t explicitly in the Greek or Hebrew text. The word was added by the translators in order to help the sentence make sense. We do this all the time in English, leaving out words because they’re assumed. Of course, the words left out in Greek aren’t necessarily the words we can leave out in English. Different languages have different rules for what’s important and what can be left out.
The takeaway here is that, while a word might not be in the original Greek or Hebrew, that doesn’t mean the word isn’t implied by other words. Sometimes the translators of the ESV add those words so that we English readers won’t be left scratching our heads.
Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary
The Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary is what appears when you tap a word that does have a Greek or Hebrew word behind it. This is a really handy tool because it will show you all the ways that the word gets translated throughout the Bible and give you an idea of how common each translation is. This can give you a fuller idea of what the word meant in the original language.
The thing to keep in mind here is something that all languages share in common: just because a word can mean something in one place, doesn’t mean it means that thing everywhere else. How and where a word is used in a sentence, paragraph, chapter, and book is a critical part of understanding what the word means.
Many words in English have several diverse meanings. For example, the word “dodge” can mean to get out of the way of something. It can also mean to lighten part of an image or photo (like the “dodge brush” in image editing programs). If you were to simply look up the dictionary definition and pick the first one, you could find yourself very confused. Another example is the English word “love.” When someone says “I love ice cream,” he means something very different from when he says “I love my wife” (or at least he ought to).
The point here is that we want to let the dictionary help us get an idea of what the word can mean, then let the context of the passage determine what the word does mean. If we’re in a class on photography, “dodge” probably doesn’t mean “get out of the way.” It probably means “lighten.” But we wouldn’t want to make that assumption in gym class.
View All Occurrences
This is probably my favorite feature in The Bible Study App for word studies. It’s the button that says “Search for g5457” (or some other number). This feature allows you to search for everywhere in the Bible where that particular Greek or Hebrew word is used. Since a translation might translate one word twelve different ways, it’s hard to know when that word is being used. But this feature can help.
The best way to use this feature is to start with where the word is used closest to the verse you’re studying, then work outward from there. Look in the verse, then the chapter, then the book, then other books the author has written, then in the whole Bible.
In this way you can get a sense for how a certain author used a particular word in its context, in all his writings, and how the word gets used throughout the whole Bible. While this doesn’t necessarily result in the same mastery of the word that a scholar might have, it certainly does help us to better understand the word and the passage we found it in.
Generally speaking, this isn’t going to completely change the way you read a passage of Scripture. The translators know the languages a lot better than most of us, so most often we’ll end up agreeing. But doing a word study can help us discover a richness to the word that we otherwise might not have seen. It can also help us to connect things in Scripture that we otherwise might not have thought to connect.
Look Up Word in Dictionaries
The Look Up feature allows you to look up a word in any Greek/Hebrew dictionaries that you might have. There are a lot of really helpful dictionaries out there by scholars who have already done the work of a detailed word study. They may also include information about where the word came from and how it was used in books outside the Bible. These can be extremely helpful to supplement the word studies that you’re already doing with the ESV with Strong’s. Here are a few you might find helpful:
- Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
- Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
- Easton’s Bible Dictionary
Tools like the ESV with Strong’s and Bible dictionaries can be really helpful in understanding what God has to say. We should pray that, in our study, we will allow God to correct us with what we learn about the words of Scripture. This is very different from using the tools to bend God’s words to mean what we want them to. Humility and openness to correction are important here.
If we come to the Scriptures with our tools, ready to be taught by the Scriptures, then we will be in the right place to see God’s love for us in Christ and how we are to live in light of that love. We hope these tools prove helpful in your studies.
Psalm 119:130 (ESV)
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple
If you’re like me, your introduction to Bible study tools was a bit rocky. I first began teaching and preaching in my local church at age 14. Before my first sermon, my Dad handed me my first Strong’s Concordance and a brand new Bible. Not really knowing where else to start, I would read through a passage of Scripture and look up every word in the Strong’s Concordance that I didn’t understand or that caught my attention.
I quickly learned that I needed a more formalized approach to studying God’s Word. Since that time I’ve learned that I needed some basic tools to keep my Bible study on track.
A Basic and Solid Library
To help you get started, Olive Tree has bundled resources together to help you dig deeper into God’s word. These bundles give you the basic tools to help you build a solid starter library. All of these wonderful resources are designed to be integrated into the Resource Guide within The Bible Study App for a seamless and easy-to-use Bible study experience.
What’s in The Study Bible Bundles?
- Choose from the following Bible Translations: NIV, HCSB, NKJV or NRSV
- A Study Bible that corresponds to your Preferred Bible Translation
- Bible Dictionary
- Everything in the Essentials bundle
- Strong’s Tagged Bible
- Essential Bible Companion
- Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
- Expanded Maps
- Everything in the Standard bundle
- Key Word Commentary
- Expository Dictionary
- Bible Concordance
- and even more Maps
- Everything in the Expanded bundle
- More Commentaries
- Bible Encyclopedia
- More Cross-references
- A Bible Atlas
Bible Study Bundles are available in the following Bible translations: NIV, HCSB, NKJV, or NRSV.
Using these and tools will deepen your Bible study and further prepare you to present God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15).
What are your favorite Bible Study resources?
You have the NIV, but what’s the next step in your Bible Study Experience?
Here are three ways you can enhance your NIV Bible Study Experience (screenshots are taken from an iPad 2. Click for a larger view).
#1: NIV Study Bible Notes
A study Bible in The Bible Study App is an easy to use and very powerful tool in guiding you in your understanding of the text. Many study Bibles contain resources such as maps, timelines, profiles on Biblical characters, commentaries and articles.
Our most popular NIV Study Bible Notes are Archaeological Study Bible Notes and the NIV Study Bible Notes. However, there are also several other Study Bible Notes to choose from. From Quest Study Bible Notes, and Couples’ Devotional Bible Notes, to Men’s Devotional Bible Notes and NIV True Identity Notes: The Bible for Women, we are sure you can find one that will help deepen your spiritual walk. Because study Bibles are uniquely enhanced for the resource guide they will work with any version of the Bible that is open in the main window.
#2: NIV Application Commentaries
After you’ve studied the Bible for yourself, it is often helpful to read trusted Bible scholars to see how they explain the text you are reading. Bible Commentaries can be an extremely valuable study tool. The NIV Application Commentaries merge the original, ancient context with right now, showing us both how ancient readers would have read the Bible and how we can connect to this living word of God from a modern context. Most importantly, however, it helps us begin the life-changing process of true application, showing how God’s word can continue to have a powerful voice in our lives today. The resource guide of The Bible Study App makes using the NIV Application Commentaries a seamless part of your study.
#3: NIV Bible Study Bundles
Olive Tree has bundled collections of resources to help you dig deeper into God’s word. These bundles give you the basic tools that you need like the study tools mentioned above. All of these wonderful resources are designed to be integrated into the Resource Guide within The Bible Study App for a seamless and easy-to-use Bible study experience.
NIV Bible Study Bundles come in the following Collections:
- Bible Study Essentials (NIV Bible, Dictionary, Cross-Reference and Maps)
- Bible Study Standard (Essentials bundle, plus Strong’s Tagged Bible, Essential Bible Companion, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery and Expanded Maps)
- Bible Study Expanded (Standard bundle, plus Key Word Commentary, Expository Dictionary, Concordance, and even more Maps)
- Bible Study Premier (Expanded bundle, plus more Commentaries, Bible Encyclopedia, more Cross-references and a Bible Atlas)
Bible Study Bundles are also available in the following Bible translations: HCSB, NKJV, and NRSV.
As you can see, these titles will enhance your NIV Bible Study experience to help you go deeper in the Word of God. All of these NIV enhancements are on sale now through January 27.
The newly released Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times has amazing content and is a great resource for Bible Study. The introduction states that the “goal of this visual guide is to restore clarity and vitality to those portions of God’s Word that speak of the activities and social stations of the past.” The Bible Study App integrates this resource into a seamless part of your Bible Study.
Here’s one example of an article I found on “Pharisee”. (screenshots taken from the Windows Desktop Bible Study App. Click for a larger view).
With Matthew 23:2 in the ESV opened in the Main Window, I read that Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses ‘seat…”. I can open The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times in the split window and navigate to the article on “Pharisee”.
Once I get to the article, I can see the article on Pharisee and read it in the split window without having to leave my Bible text.
As I’m reading I see several full-color photographs relevant to the article I’m reading. For example, within the Pharisee article is a picture of “the seat of Moses”. If there are any footnote references, I can tap/click on those and they can be viewed in a pop up.
Continuing to look through this article, there are several other photographs that help give me not only a better understanding of Pharisees, but also a visual picture of what a synagogue would have looked like:
even down to a temple warning inscription blocked Gentile access to certain segments of the temple complex. As with all resources in The Bible Study App , I can tap/click Scripture references to view them in a pop up without having to leave my place in the Bible text.
With The Bible Study App, I can also make notes, highlights, and tags within the The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times to help keep my Bible Study organized.
Looking through these beautiful full-color photographs gives a sense of being “in the action” and gives a sense of realism and depth. As the author states, “cultural practices of the past are fascinating on their own, but even more so as they help us correctly interpret God’s Word and apply it to our lives.”
As you can see, The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times is a fantastic resource that will help you increase your Bible knowledge.
By Olive Tree Staff: LaRosa Johnson
Christmas is right around the corner, so I decided to have us take a look at Matthew’s gospel to show how we can use the Life Application Study Bible (see previous post for an introduction to the Life Application Study Bible) to help us dive into a familiar passage of Scripture and draw some personal application from it. The passage that we’re taking a look at is Matthew 1:18-25.
In this passage we encounter the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. We all know the story; we hear & read it every year, so let’s not waste time going over the account. With the help of the LASB, let’s take a look at some of the specific details we might have overlooked because of our familiarity with these verses. In verse 19 we find Joseph ready to break off his engagement with Mary, which is a fact that we typically gloss over. This is what the LASB has to say:
Joseph was faced with a difficult choice after discovering that Mary was pregnant. Perhaps Joseph thought he had only two options:divorce Mary quietly or have her stoned. But God gave a third option—marry her (1:20- 23). In view of the circumstances, this had not occurred to Joseph. But God often shows us that there are more options available than we think. Although Joseph seemed to be doing the right thing by breaking the engagement, only God’s guidance helped him make the best decision. But that did not make it an easy decision. Consenting to marry Mary surely cast doubt on his own innocence regarding the pregnancy, as well as leaving them both with a social stigma they would carry for the rest of their lives. Yet Joseph chose to obey the angel’s command (1:24). When our decisions affect the lives of others, we must always seek God’s wisdom and then be willing to follow through no matter how difficult it may be.
After receiving the dream, we find that Joseph awoke and did as the angel told him. Again, let’s see what the LASB has to say:
Joseph changed his plans quickly after learning that Mary had not been unfaithful to him (1:19). He obeyed God and proceeded with the marriage plans. Although others may have disapproved of his decision, Joseph went ahead with what he knew was right. Sometimes we avoid doing what is right because of what others might think. Like Joseph, we must choose to obey God rather than seek the approval of others.
In looking at the notes from the LASB we find some important details that we otherwise would have glossed over. First, given that we’re dealing with Jewish culture, Joseph could easily have chosen to have Mary stoned for adultery, but his initial reaction was to take the more righteous approach and simply divorce her. Yet, once the Lord spoke to him in the dream and revealed the truth behind her pregnancy, Joseph chose the third option of marrying her, the one that he had not even considered. As the notes point out, we don’t realize that marrying a pregnant woman came at personal cost & ridicule to Joseph, with people now believing that he had sinned & was the one who had truly gotten Mary pregnant. All of this helps to paint a more vivid picture of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, which was not as calm and stress free as we often times make it out to be.
Now that we better understand the passage, we can look to find personal application, and probably more application than we had originally bargained for in a nativity narrative. The two immediate ones that are mentioned from the LASB notes are: 1) When our decisions affect the lives of others, we must always seek God’s wisdom and then be willing to follow through no matter how difficult it may be, and 2) Sometimes we avoid doing what is right because of what others might think. Like Joseph, we must choose to obey God rather than seek the approval of others. Those are the two obvious ones and there are plenty more to be had, especially when you look at Joseph’s personality profile and look at the notes and points of application to be had there.
Ultimately, what we see here is the value of the Life Application Study Bible. It doesn’t matter what passage of Scripture you’re studying, this study Bible will help you to understand what you’re reading and then help you to apply the truth of Scripture to your life. What more can you really ask of your study Bible? If you want to be able to make this kind of application while studying the Bible then add the Life Application Study Bible to your Olive Tree digital library today.