The Words In The Word
Hello and God bless you.
a child, when my mother found me in the middle of one of my
shenanigans, my mother used to exclaim: “My Word!” When I
words I knew I was in trouble.
The Bible is a book of words!
One of the basic principles of “rightly dividing the Word of truth” is
to understand the individual words.
Read with me starting in verse 15:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman
not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the
word of truth.
16 But shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will
increase unto more
I would like to talk about the words in the Word.
word is a combination of specific sounds that represent a specific
though or mind picture. The specific sounds of a word are
by symbols that we call letters, formed together in order to
communicate a thought. A written word then, is a
sent out to transport a specific thought or mind picture to whoever
reads the word. The original thought that was attached to the
associated with the author’s culture, historical period, geographic
location, and personal
experiences. In a manner of speaking,
every word is a figure of speech because the word is a symbol or
representation of a thought, concept or mind picture.
understands words based on their cultural and personal experience,
historical period and geographic location. We
should be aware that
our mind picture and thoughts about a word may not be the same as the
writer’s. Even within the same language group, the meaning of
develop and change over time.
For instance the word “boot:”
In Roman times a boot was an open sandal, tied securely on the
A boot became a leather shoe that covered the whole foot and
England a boot is what Americans call the trunk of a car.
past 20 years we have come to know about cold boot and warm boot in
relation to computers in addition to a vast array of footwear referred
to as boots. And then there are idiomatic uses of “boot:” To
someone the boot" means to remove someone either literally or
figuratively. And of course the flexible rubber covering at
of the gear shift in your car is called a boot. So if I say
boot, what did I mean and what did you understand? It all
our personal perspective unless there are more words strung together
with boot to explain the context of the word.
To understand a
biblical word we must figure out what the author understood the word to
mean and how he expected for it to be understood. The author
specific mind picture or thought, packaged in each word to transport a
singularly specific message.
The meaning of words change over
time and from culture to culture. The
words of the Bible have been
studied and classified more than any other words in the
are multiple concordances, lexicons and word study libraries.
cultures of Bible times have been studied, recorded, cataloged and
confirmed by archeology. The computer age with the internet
produced a vast array of information accessible to anyone with access
to a computer. The original languages of the bible are
available to any who care to
discover the real Bible. The
real Bible is the words that were originally written to launch the
mind-pictures and intents of God for us. It is more available
to us to
understand the packets of thought being communicated by the
the bible than any other time since they were written.
words can be a challenge to understand. If you are reading
James or one of the versions based on it, you must take into account
the culture, understanding and language of the King James translators
in addition to the culture and language of the
writer. Never assume
that any given word in the bible means the same thing to us as it did
to the KJ translators. Since the NIV and related translations
versions are not word-for-word translations the words may or may not
carry the author’s intent. Every word in the bible provokes a
word-study if we desire to rightly divide the word of truth.
individual word represents an opportunity to misunderstand.
group of words are strung together in a sentence the opportunity of
misunderstanding is increased
expedientialy. It is similar to a
mathematical formula. To illustrate mathematically:
word represents a value. When another word is placed in the
the value of both words are modified to produce a result. The
structure of the sentence determines whether the individual words
should be multiplied, divided, added or subtracted to get the intended
result. If the structure and order of words are changed, the
changes and we may subtract where we should have multiplied.
words in the formula the more complex the modification of the result;
and the more likely an error will occur.
We tend to perceive
things as we have been taught to see them. We bring
our belief system
into play when we read or hear a word, sentence or
Misunderstandings and disagreements happen between people of the same
culture who speak the same language because of differing understanding
of what a word means.
For instance in our modern American
culture the word “gay” has taken on a very different meaning than it
historically has had. In the King James Version in James
verse three, “gay clothing” is mentioned. If we were to read
modern American TV cultural understanding of the word “gay” into the
verse we would become a bit confused. This usage has a
over the past few years. We have to be ever mindful
that our personal
cultural understanding is not the same as the authors of the Bible.
me illustrate what I mean in a different way. In
the mid 70’s I was a
Project Superintendent building a large condo project in
The pressure was “on” and we needed to build
quickly. The foundations
were complete for six buildings, so I brought in three separate
Carpenter crews. Each crew was working on a separate
building. I had
one set of blue prints and each morning the three foremen would meet
with me to get the plan for the day. There was one set of
detailed drawings and they all heard the very same instructions and
specifications in our meeting. I was shocked to find there
understandings for what I had said. I spent most of my time
the private interpretations of the carpenters and re-explaining the
architect’s design. One crew was from California, one from
and one from Texas. They each had a
different understanding of the
same words. Each knew how to build a wall corner but the
different for each. I found out that the simplest
of terms had to be
re-defined and agreed upon so that all three buildings were built the
Which of the crews were right? All of them, and none
of them. They were all correct in the context of their past
and learned procedure. None were correct
until they learned the
meaning and intent of the architect and writer of the
specifications. God has given us His plan
and specifications in the
Bible. He has instructed us to study and rightly divide it.
are very sloppy with modern English. We hang participles,
and ignore grammar. However, the languages of the
extremely precise and specific. The authors connected their
together in a particular order or syntax to create what we call
sentences. Another of the basic
principles of rightly dividing the
Word of truth is to understand the “close context. The close
begins with the sentence.
Sentences are made up of words. A
misunderstanding of a single word within a sentence changes the meaning
of the sentence. The misunderstanding of two words in a
compounds the error. Before a sentence can be
understood, each word
must be understood.
Syntax is the study of sentence
structure and describes the rules of grammar in a particular language.
The structure of English for example has a subject-verb-object sentence
order: “Biff hit the ball.” Alteration of the word order
emphasis: “The ball was hit by Biff.” In these two
emphasis was changed along with the subject of the sentence.
hit the ball,” Biff is the subject and the sentence is about
did to the ball. In the second example: “The ball
was hit by Biff,”
the subject is the ball and the sentence is about what happed to the
English sentence structure rules are different than
Greek and Hebrew rules. The translation process
rearrangement of the word order to comply with English syntax.
blithely declare we believe the Bible is the word of God, but, which
Bible are we talking about? There are hundreds of
different than the next, hundreds of versions, texts, commentaries and
concordances. Are any of them totally
accurate? One of the major
reasons for the existence over 22,000 known
religious denominations is they each have their own interpretations for
the words of the Bible. Yet in II Peter 1:20-21 the Bible
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy
men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.
find ourselves surrounded by an endless number of conflicting religious
doctrines, beliefs and organizations eagerly desiring to consume the
uninformed Bible reader. Each organization has
their own version of
the truth. They are convinced that they are right and all
wrong. Where can we turn for accurate answers?
We have to be
always willing to unlearn what we thought we knew to learn what the
words in the Word mean. We are a product
of our culture, society and
personal experiences. We bring our preconceived
understanding to the words we read. We must search and study
our understanding and believing into line with the original intent of
We assume we understand the words in the Bible but
whose words are they? For instance many believe
some of the books in
the New Testament were originally written in
Aramaic. The words of
that book were written with the cultural associations of the Jewish
culture of the first century with Aramaic idioms and
Let’s say that this same book was then translated into Greek in the
second century by a scribe in Constantinople with the understanding and
idiomatic usage of mixed Roman/Pagan culture. In the third century it
was translated into Latin in Rome by a Catholic
Monk. In the 15th
and 16th century it was translated from the Latin back into the Greek
then into English, with the understanding, culture and idioms of Middle
aged England and Europe.
Which of these translations can be
relied upon to give us the intent of the writer?
Which of these
translations are reliable enough to base doctrines, wars and the life
and death question of salvation on?
To some it is a shock to
discover that the Bible is not an American Book or even an English
book. Although it is likely that the bible you are
published in America it is not an American book. We read the
the Bible just like we read the words in the news paper or a novel but
they are not the same at all. The words may be
spelled the same and
sound the same but they carry a meaning far removed from our cultural
understanding. English words developed in an
culture. When we as an English speaking people
cultural associations attached to English words. This is true
people of every language and culture.
We have all heard the
same set of bible words used to teach differing theologies.
has only one correct interpretation. The correct
meaning is the
meaning that the author intended as the words were penned.
else is private interpretation and is worthless for understanding God’s
One of the most popular modern bible study methods
is to get together and read a passage and then everyone talks about
what the passage means to them. Using this method a passage
may get 10
different interpretations if there are ten people at the get
The truth of any given passage is what it meant
to the writer at the time it was written in the cultural understanding
of the writer. I’m going to repeat that: The truth
of any given
passage is what it meant to the writer at the time it was written in
the cultural understanding of the writer. If we are
to get the truth
of the Word we must find out what the words meant in the culture at the
time it was written.
The Bible is a book of words! Two of
the basic principles of “rightly dividing the Word of truth” is to
understand the individual words and to understand the close
Only then will the larger context of God’s overarching will for mankind
Understanding God’s word as a whole begins
with one word, then another and then another. It is not a
pursuit but it is a truly rewarding one. When you have
studied out the
truth and God has energized it within you, no one can take it away from
you because you will know that you know that you know it that you know
Workmen! That needeth not to be ashamed ……
God bless you.