It is a common idea that doing Bible word studies is the method for digging deep into the Bible.
A common enough idea, but a myth. One propagated by some popular “expository” preachers, in fact, who take a somewhat useful tool and use it on all the wrong jobs.
To illustrate: if you were to do a Word Search Game on the Bible, the vast majority of words would be things like “is, are, the, a, an, some, of, this, that, to,” etc.
Here’s how the frequency list begins in the KJV, for example, and the same principle applies in the Hebrew and Greek –
it’s not just the words used the counts,
it’s the way they’re arranged.
Added note: a method that seeks to interpret the Bible by such breaking down of the text into its tiniest components is said to be “atomistic.”
“Bible word studies!!” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica
I, too, have heard expository preachers (talkers who “expose” us to… something) cite the number of uses of a word, either in Scripture in general, or by a Bible book’s author, or in a section or passage, or even across parallel passages as if the abundance itself was a “sign”.
It would be unfair, and potentially inaccurate, to discount such word reuse as unimportant, but word or root repetition is certainly not enough cause to eisegete a spurious doctrine!
At age 60, I just started to take French! My hope is to regain what I once had…35 years ago! Reason I mention this is for the following illustration.
As we study language, our first, second, third, or even fourth, we need to develop a “feel” for what someone means by what they say.
Granted, in the Bible, we do not have the dimension of inflection or audible emphases, though I admit guilt in imagining even Jesus having a wry look when using a pun (e.g., “Peter” & “rock”).
But we study words, whether in French or in the Bible, to get a “feel” for their meaning. We seek and hope to come to an understanding of a writer’s usage’s INTENT, so that we may have an accurate translation and interpretation of whatever that writer was saying.
Basic philosophy and linguistic principles require that we “be on the same page” when discussing topics, and topics are made up of words.
So I would offer that word studies are necessary, but their goal, manner, and limitations, etc. need to meet the criteria of “rightly understanding the word of truth”.
Thanks Chris, many blessings! Your development is much more careful and nuanced than mine, but that is often the nature of a blog post: show up, speak up, sign off. 🙂 Gary