Quick tips for exploring key words in the Bible
by Rich Robinson, Scholar in Residence
Enrich your Bible study with a Bible dictionary and a concordance. If you are not acquainted with these resources, here is a quick overview.
Bible dictionaries, like general dictionaries, list words in alphabetical order. But unlike a dictionary that gives just a brief definition, Bible dictionaries have longer entries. Suppose you look up “Lovingkindness.” You may find:
- Mention of the Hebrew or Greek behind the English term.
- Explanation of the theological meaning of the term, including where the meaning might vary or remain the same in different parts of the Bible. Sometimes terms are used differently when used concerning God and concerning people.
- References to some of the passages that contain the term.
- A shorter explanation in a one-volume dictionary, and a longer one in a multi-volume.
Note that if you don’t find the term you are looking for, you can try related terms such as “mercy,” “kindness,” etc.
A helpful online resource is at biblestudytools.com/dictionaries. You can find online Bible dictionaries (but usually older ones) by searching in Google, or if you have a computer Bible program, some may be included or available as add-ons.
But Bible dictionaries do not list every verse that contains a particular word. For that you will want a concordance, which list out each Bible verse that contains a given word. Since Bible translations differ in how they translate a particular Hebrew or Greek word, you will want a concordance that is based on the translation that you use. For example, the well-known Strong’s Concordance has editions for the King James Version as well as for the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version. Tools for correlating the English with the Hebrew or Greek are often included.
Online Bible programs make it much easier. Whatever version you are using, you can simply type in a word and it will return all the relevant verses. Some programs let you choose very specifically (“speak”) and/or broaden the range (so you get all verses containing “speak,” “speaker,” “speaking,” etc.)
A helpful online resource is at biblestudytools.com/concordances.
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich has been on staff since 1978. He has served at several Jews for Jesus branches and was a pianist and songwriter with their music team, the Liberated Wailing Wall. He is now at the San Francisco headquarters, where he conducts research, writes and edits as the senior researcher. He is author of the books Christ in the Sabbath and The Day Jesus Did Tikkun Olam: Jewish Values and the New Testament, and co-author of Christ in the Feast of Pentecost. Rich received his M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1978 and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies and Hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.