Posts Tagged ‘exegesis’

How to study the Bible- Part 2- It’s time to learn Greek

How to Study the Bible- Part 2- It's time to learn Greek part 2

This semester I am taking a Gospel of Matthew class, decease which is proving to be super interesting so far. In the email the professor sent out before our first class, cheapest he wrote, caries “you will need an English translation of the Bible if your Greek is not fluent.” Umm? My what? Yeaaaaahhh. I don’t know any ancient Biblical Greek but, come to find out, neither does anyone else in the class (phew!). Although it would be so great to learn Greek, because it would help me understand the New Testament so much better, that’s not really an option for me right now.

In my last post, I talked about the importance of using solid translations when doing Biblical exegesis. But even when we are using a variety of translations, we always have to keep in mind that we’re removed from the original language of scripture and no Bible translation is perfect or infallible. So what do we do? Well unless you have a couple of years to learn Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, I suggest you use a concordance to help you out. A concordance will show you the original text and then how that word is translated throughout the Bible, what all its different meaning are, what root words the word is derived from, etc. The best online took for this I’ve found is Blue Letter Bible. Blue Letter Bible is an online Bible study website which includes a concordance, among many other study tools. It’s so great, but it took me a long time to figure out how to use so this post is to help you figure it out quickly :)

How it works:

The first step is to go to the http://www.BlueLetterBible.org. At the top right you will see this box. Type in whatever Bible chapter, verse, or phrase you want to look up, and then you can select your preferred translation in the drop down menu below. In this case, I wanted to look up Ephesians 5:22. And then click search.

When you search a chapter of the Bible, you will be brought to a page that shows each individual verse of that chapter. To see the breakdown of the individual verse you are searching, you need to click the blue chapter/verse name, for example Eph 5:22.

When you click the specific verse, this box (in the photo below) will appear. As you can see, there is the original Greek text at the top and then each translated word corresponding to the Root Form, the far right column. The middle column says Strong’s and that refers to Strong’s concordance entry.

Note: Blue Letter Bible has Strong’s data for the King James and the NASB. In this example I selected the NIV translation, so you see that translation used for the verse at the top of the picture. However, the break down of translated words and Greek uses the NASB, since there is no data for the NIV. Depending on the translation you choose, you will either be shown the KJV data or the NASB data. The New Testament Strong’s data for the KJV is based on the Textus Receptus and the NASB is based upon the Nestle-Aland text. The Textus Receptus is used as a basis for the KJV, NKJV, RVR, ASV, and RSV, and so the KJV Strong’s data will be used when you chose any of  those versions. And since the Nestle-Aland text is used as a basis for the NLT, NIV, ESV, NASB, DBY, and HNV, the NASB Strong’s data will be used whenever you select any of those versions.

Ok so to see the concordance entry for a specific word, click on the Strong’s number. In this case, I want to look at the Greek word that is translated as “be subject to your own,” so I click on G2398 (highlighted).

When you click on the Strong number, you will be brought to an entry for that specific word. The word in Greek is at the top, underneath that is the transliteration and pronunciation, part of speech, root word (if the root of the word is known, there will be there corresponding Strong number that you can click on to check out the root word), Vine’s Dictionary (another useful tool) and then it will have an outline of Biblical usage. Some words have a ton of entries while others, like this, are shorter. Then you will see how this word has also been translated and how many times it is used (in the KJV).

So what do we find out about the word idios, which is translated as  “be subject to your own” ? We find out that the Greek just includes the “your own,” not the “be subject to” of the translation. This is something that Greg Boyd brought up in this sermon: Who’s the Boss (I highly recommend listening to the sermon). In the sermon, Greg said that the Greek does not include the “be subject to,” and so a better translation of the verse would be, “and wives to your husbands, as unto the Lord,” and now we know that he was right!

If we go back to the previous page, we can look at the verse that comes before 5:22. In this verse, the phrase “and be subject” is translated from a different Greek word. We can click on the Strong’s number for that word (G5293).

In this entry, you see that the word Greek hypotasso means “to be subject to.” The absence of hypotasso in verse 22 makes even more clear that the translation is repeating the phrase “be subject to” without it being in the original Greek.

So there’s a quick preview of Blue Letter Bible, how it works, and an example of the interesting information you can learn! BLB has a lot of other resources, including commentaries. I suggest you explore the site and discover all it has to offer. I absolutely recommend Blue Letter Bible for all your Bible-studying needs :) While it’s not the same as really knowing ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, it’s a good starting place and can really add to your understanding of the Biblical text.

How to study the Bible- Part 1- Choosing a Bible Translation

how to study the bible- part 1- choosing a bible translation

Jesus teaches us that we are to love Him with all our heart, what is ed soul, visit this strength, see and mind and I think one big part of loving the Lord with our mind is to get to know Him through Scripture. Last year I heard the word exegesis for the first time when I studied the Bible in one of my classes. Exegesis is the critical study and interpretation of any text, not just the Bible, but it’s pronounced “exe-Jesus” so to me it sounds like it has to do with scripture.

Exegesis is one of my favorite things ever—in fact, if you search Instagram for #exegesis, you will probably see some of my pictures. Yep, I’m a Bible nerd. And while I recognize that not everyone is as enthusiastic about studying the Bible as I am, I think studying the Bible is so important and can really help us love the Lord more. However, it can be pretty daunting if you don’t know where to begin. So I’m writing a series of blog posts talking about different Bible study tools so you will feel confident when you read the Bible yourself!

This first post is about picking a Bible translation. When choosing a Bible translation, it’s important to know what method the translators used in creating their translation.

Word for Word/Formal Equivalence Translations—There are some translations that try to literally translate the meanings of individual words into English, using pretty much the same syntax, not adjusting grammar, sentence structure, or trying to make idioms or figures of speech more understandable. I personally don’t enjoy reading these word-for-word translations since they can sound really choppy and I think they’re hard to read. However, there is a benefit to reading these translations when doing exegesis because they help you get closer to the original Hebrew/Greek.

Thought for Thought/Sense for Sense/Dynamic Equivalence Translations—In these translations, the translators have tried to translate the meaning of each whole sentence, trying to bring in more of the original meaning. These translations are typically easier to read because an effort has been made to make the sentences sound more natural in English. The trouble with these translations is that they involve more interpretation because the translators are trying to re-create what the original text is trying to say.

Paraphrase—There are some translations that are extreme thought-for-thought translations that stray a lot from the original language, meaning that they’re more paraphrases than actual translations. These translations are trying to keep the same expressions and original conversational tone of the original language. One example of this is The Message translation—Eugene Peterson, who created The Message, felt that people weren’t connecting with the original vitality and spirit of the text, and so he returned back to the original Greek the New Testament and, without looking at other English translations, tried to bring into English the rhythms and idioms that were present in the Greek. I personally love the Message and feel like it has a special anointing, but I won’t deny that in places Patterson has taken some liberties with the text making the Message a great paraphrase, but not really a translation in the traditional sense of the word. Another great thought-for-thought translation is the Voice, which was created, “through a collaboration of nearly 120 biblical scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and artists, The Voice recaptures the passion, grit, humor, and beauty that is often lost in the translation process. The result is a retelling of the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works yet painstakingly true to the original manuscripts.”

Most Bible translations fall on a spectrum between formal and dynamic equivalence. Here is a chart that shows you where they fall on the spectrum:

About Specific Translations:

The NIV is one of the most-read and most-trusted translations, created and updated in inter-denominational committees. It is clear and easy to read, but some have criticized it for having too much of an “evangelical” leaning (aka don’t show up to a theology class with you NIV translation unless you want to risk your professor telling you that you need to “throw that Bible away” haha).

The NRSV, an updated version of the King James Version, is a pretty denomination-neutral translation and is often used in academic settings.

Another great word-for-word translation is the Amplified Bible, which puts into parentheses amplified meanings of the Greek and Hebrew words so readers can get a deeper understanding of all the nuances and connotations of the original language.

Manuscripts: Another thing that is important when choosing a translation is to check what manuscripts the translation is using. For example, the King James Version was translated in the 1500s and uses pretty poor manuscripts. Since the KJV was translated, new Bible manuscripts have been found which are much more reliable. I personally recommend not relying only on the KJV for exegetical Bible study for this reason.

Bible Gateway is a great website that allows you to pull up a passage of scripture and then add tons of parallel translations—this way you can compare the NIV, ESV, KJV, the Message, the Voice, NRSV, and NAB all at once! It’s a way more practical way of crosschecking translations, rather than buying a zillion Bibles.

An example of formal vs. dynamic equivalence: 

As I was researching Bible translations, I found this article and it had the coolest example of the differences between formal and dynamic translations.

This is Matthew 5:1-2 in four different translations:

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:  -NIV

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: -NRSV

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, -KJV

Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: -Amplified Bible

So the first two translations do not include “He opened His mouth,” which is present in the original Greek. It seems pretty obvious that if Jesus is speaking, His mouth is open, so it makes sense that the NIV and NRSV left it out. But why would Matthew write “He opened His mouth” ? If we look back to Matthew 4:3-4 when Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness, this is the dialogue:

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Right there Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, which says:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

What if by pointing out that Jesus “opened His mouth” Matthew is actually saying that Jesus is Lord and what He is about to say, the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, are words from the Lord? I thought this insight was super cool, and something I would have totally missed had I not looked at more literal translations. So does this prove that you should always use a literal translation? No, but when doing Bible study it’s a good idea to use a variety of translations so you can do comparisons like this.

Click here for great chart that talks about specific translations, and it’s also where I got the translation spectrum picture above from.

What about me? My Bible has the NIV and the Message translations side by side, which I absolutely love. When I meditate on, memorize, or read scripture for fun, I use these two translations. When I’m doing exegetical Bible study, I always check several others.