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.