I loved my time in seminary, but I regret one thing. I wish I had studied Greek and Hebrew. Although they were not required for my Masters in Christian Education, I could have taken them as electives. However, I have learned how to use the invaluable tools available to us “English only” speakers to enrich my Bible study. You can use them too!
The Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew with a smattering of Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek. Having the tools to look deeper into the meaning of the original words God chose to use can deepen our understanding of His Word. The good news is, these tools are available to everyone. And many of them are free!
Word of Caution about Greek and Hebrew
Like any two languages, when translating from Hebrew or Greek to English there is often not just one equivalent English word. Choices have to be made by educated scholars based on the word’s usage and context. We see this reality reflected in different Bible translations. (Also see “Why are there so Many Bible Translations?”)
The reverse is true as well. For instance, in English we use the word “love” to cover a wide range of feelings and actions towards others. The New Testament primarily uses two different Greek words that have significant differences in meaning. It’s important to know which Greek word is translated “love.”
When studying definitions of the Bible’s original language, we need to assure we are dealing with the correct Greek or Hebrew word. That is easily accomplished by using an index or interlinear Bible. These are briefly explained below.
Different Types of Resources
- Bible Lexicons – A linguistic resource similar to a dictionary that provides etymology, definitions and more of the original language of the Bible. See “What is a Lexicon?” for more information and suggested lexicons.
- Interlinear Bible – This resource shows the original Greek or Hebrew alongside the English translation. For a great definition of an interlinear Bible and how to use it see “How to Use an Interlinear Bible”
- Expository Dictionary – Defines major and key words of the Bible. Good ones will include an index so you can confirm you’re dealing with the right word. See “What is a Bible Dictionary” for more information.
- Strong’s Numbers – An index of every word in the Bible’s original languages. For more information about Strong’s Index, including its limitations, see “What are Strong’s Numbers?”
- Exhaustive Concordance – This alphabetical listing of every English word in the Bible cites every passage in the Bible where it appears.
Free Online Resources
There are quite a few free online sites where you can look up the original language. The following three all include lexicons, dictionaries, and concordances.
I most often use Blue Letter Bible. This site has multiple language resources. Below, I’ve bulleted the best way I’ve found to utilize them:
- From the home page, look up the Bible book and chapter you’re studying.
- To access Strong’s, use the KJV translation.
- When you are on the passage page, click the “Strong’s” button in the middle of the narrow tool bar near the top of the page.
- The blue Strong’s numbers, which come from an index of the Bible’s original language are hyperlinks to a lexicon page full of helpful information for that word.
- However, you can also access the Interlinear Bible from any translation by clicking on the small “Tools” button next to each verse in the left column.
- You can also access the Interlinear Bible from any verse in the Blue Letter Bible app!
My Favorite Printed Resources
- Complete Word Study – These resources include the Strong’s numbers over the KJV translation of the Scripture. Definitions are included in the back. It comes in two volumes:
- The Complete Word Study Old Testament See on Amazon
- The Complete Word Study New Testament See on Amazon
- Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary – This has sections on both the Old and New Testaments plus an index. See it on Amazon.
- Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary- This resource includes the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries and a Scripture index. See it on ChristianBookCom.
- Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance – Every word in KJV translation is indexed and includes Strong’s numbers. Includes Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, a topical index, and more. See it on Amazon.
I hope one or more of these resources will enrich your Bible study!