by Erin Bird
We are continuing with our How to Study the Bible series where we are taking a glimpse of a different Bible Study method each week. (If you’ve missed any of our previous weeks, head over to the blog.) Last week, I encouraged you to “Get the Big Picture”by looking at the context of a passage. Well this week, I want to go the opposite direction. Rather than go wider to understand the text, I want you to go deeper. In other words, I want to teach you to “Get the Details.”
But truth be told, this week’s study method is really just another form of “getting the big picture.” Rather than trying to understand the immediate, broader, and historical context of any given passage, I want to teach you how to do what many people call a “word study.” In other words, to gain a deeper understanding of the Scripture, sometimes you need to stop at just one word and see how all of the Bible defines that word.
For instance, in last week’s email, when I addressed the idea of looking at the broader context of a passage by looking at the entire book, I brought up the Apostle John’s use of the word “light” in 1 John. I pointed out that when you saw how he used the word “light” throughout his letter, it helped you understand a verse like 1 John 2:8better.
But this week, I want to encourage you to go even further by not just letting the context of one book (in this case 1 John) inform you, but to let ALL of Scripture inform your understanding.
So let’s continue with the word “light.”How does the rest of Scripture define and use this word?
Let’s Study Light
To do a word study, you will either need:
- a cross-reference Bible(something like this),
- a concordance(many Bibles have a small one in the back, or you can get something like Strong’s Concordance),
- or an online toollike Blue Letter Bible(BLB).
For our purposes right now, let’s use BLB. Here’s one way you might dig deeper into your understanding of “light.”
- Open a browser window on your computer and head over to BLB.
- In the search box at the top of the BLB website, type in the word “light” and select your preferred Bible translation.
- After clicking the search icon, you will see your search results. But you are far from done!
- Immediately to the right of the “Word Search” bar and chosen translation is a button that says “Adv. Search”. Click that:
- Just in case there were multiple words in ancient Greek that could be translated “light”, you want to make sure you are studying the correct word. So click on the drop-down menu for “Predetermined List” and select 1 John.
- Then click the blue arrow next to your preferred translation and you will see new search results appear.
- Each verse in 1 John that contains the word “light” is now in your browser window. To the left of each verse is a button that says “Tools.” Click on that.
- You now have some options.
- My first leaning would be to click on “cross-references” to see where else in Scripture the words has been used. But doing that doesn’t seem to yield me very good results.
- So the next thing I would try is “Interlinear.” (An Interlinear Bible parses out the original language and helps you see how the verse was translated into English.)
- If you’re still tracking with me, on this new search results page, you see each word/phrase parsed out into a list. Scroll down to “light.” Now, click on the Strong’s reference number. (It’s the middle column.) In this case, the number is “g5457“.
- As you scroll down the resulting page, you see
- that “light” refers to “light” just as you would imagine (light from the sun, stars, fire, etc.).
- But then you also see that the word is used metaphorically throughout the Bible, one of which is “truth and it’s knowledge.”
Personally, as I see this, it shows me why John and the other apostles were so passionate about telling others about Jesus. If Jesus is the “light of the world“, and that light was “the life of men,” you can understand why John wanted to “shine” the light of Jesus. Because to Him, the gospel was truth to be shared, and knowledge that could change lives. So of course he is going to refer to Jesus and his gospel as “light,” because by the light of the gospel, you see life differently and better than ever before.
To go deeper with the Bible, sometimes you need to go deep with just one word. So I encourage you, use tools like Blue Letter Bible or a cross-reference Bible and go deeper with words like love, patience, or Immanuel. Take time to get the details, not being content to just skim across the surface of the Scripture, but to plunge deep, letting the details of even one word illuminate your understanding of life and God’s love.