Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Word Study Method of Bible Study

Redeemed. Gospel. Saved. Grace. I like to call these “churchy words.” They are words that we use so often at church that we sometimes forget exactly what we are saying. They are in the Bible, but rarely used out in the world. We also forget that to those “uninitiated,” these terms sound like jargon at best, babble at worst.  We need to be able to explain these church words to our lost friends who may be studying the Bible or going to church with us, but to do that, we need to know what they mean first. That’s what the Word Study method of Bible study is all about.  

As you begin this study, remember that a single word in the original language (i.e. Hebrew, Greek) may be translated by many different words or phrases when translated into English.  If you don’t have an Exhaustive Concordance, an online Bible study tool will be invaluable here.  I’ll be showing examples from, but you may use any you are most comfortable with.  Here are the steps for the word study method of Bible study:

1. Choose a word to study.  It doesnt have to be a churchy word, although I find this study to be very helpful for words like sanctification and meek.

2. Find the English definition in an English dictionary.  (I like because it gives Websters 1913 definition, but works fine too.)

3. Compare translations of the word in various Bibles. (i.e. KJV vs. NASB, etc) For this step, use a concordance (or online search tool) to find several verses that have the word you are studying.  Then read the verses in several different translations and list how the word is translated.

4. Note the definition of the original word.  Starting at this step, Strongs Numbers become important. (“Strong’s Numbers are an index of every word in the original biblical texts. Each Strong's Number links the root meaning of the words of the Bible back to the original meanings in the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts from which they were translated.”  Heres a rundown of how to find the definition of Greek and Hebrew words using Strongs Numbers and the Lexicons on
a.   Once you have a verse displayed, make sure you are showing the KJV or the NASB.

b. Click the settings tab (the little cogwheel on the right just above the verse) and check Strongs Numbers.

c. Now most of the words in your verse should be highlighted blue.  Click on the word that you have chosen to study, and you should have a page that looks something like this:

This page will have information for steps 4-7, so keep that window open! 

As you can see above, the definition for the original Greek word is listed on this page.  Youll have to do this step a second time for the Hebrew word if you are choosing to study both Old and New Testament usages of your word.

5. Discover just where the word is used in the Bible.  This information is also on the above page.  See on the right where it says NAS verse count? If you are studying a word in both the Old and New Testament, youll need to see both the Greek and Hebrew word pages to answer these questions:
a.   How often does it occur?
b.   In which books is it found?
c.   In which book is it used most?
d.   Where does the word first appear?
e.   Where does it first appear in the book you are studying (if you are doing a book study)?
f.    Which writers used the word?

6. Find the origin and root meaning of the word.  This information is also above on your Greek word screen where it says word origin. Click the blue number, and it will take you to the Greek root word of the word you are studying.  Also in this step, if you can, find out how the word was used in the secular culture of the day.  This can be a little trickier to do online.  Ive found the best way to do it is to use my old friend Google. You can google the transliterated word (in the example above, pisteuo), or you can go to, type the English version, and the Greek letters will show up in a box for you. Copy and paste that into Google and search. I will warn you that depending on the word, you might get a lot of hits from Greek websites. Using these two google it methods, you may be able to find a page or two of information on the how the Greek or Hebrew word was used outside the Bible at the time.

7. Determine how the word was used in the Bible.  Once again, the lexicon page above will show the different ways the word was used, but it is toward the bottom of the page:

Here you can see that pisteuo was most often used to mean “believe,” but sometimes was used to mean “entrust.”

8. After diving deep into the original meaning and usage of your churchy word, you should be able to write a personal application.  For instance, I found when I studied the word repent that there is a strong mental component to the word.  More than just turning away from our sins, repentance involves thinking differently about our sins. God doesnt want me to dwell on past sins, but I should have a healthy level of disgust for any sin currently lurking in my life. Another way to apply what you have learned is to teach it to someone else.  Write a short lesson about the word you picked aimed at an elementary school aged child.  That way you can share it with your children, and it also wont go over the heads of any unchurched friends you may have.

I hope this Bible study method has been helpful for you.  I’ve attached a brief word study I did of the word “gospel” as an example to you.  Happy studying!

All methods of Bible study presented in this series come courtesy of Bill and Beverly Watkins, who teach the class at the Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies.  It is shared by their permission with many thanks.


  1. I love how you taught us today to use the word method. I have visited many blogs that do this but none that explained the process. Glad to be your neighbor at Messy Marriage today.

  2. Good article, it is helpful to me also to use more than one type of lexicon. Thayer's Lexicon is online and very useful. The best lexicon that goes the deepest with roots and etymology of a word is BDAG. Bauers and Dankers Greek lexicon. If you google BDAG lexicon it will come right up. I thought anyone interested in this type of study might find these books very useful also. The Greek teacher at Nashville School of Preaching also agrees that the BDAG is the best. Bill Mounce has also written a very good Greek Lexicon if the BDAG stretches your pocket too thin.

    Be blessed

    1. Thanks for the information! I had looked up Mounce, but for the purposes of the blog, I was trying to include things people could find for free. I'll probably be expanding my "real" library for Bible study, though, so having names is wonderful! Thanks!

  3. Great, practical information! It's so important that we know how to dig deeper into God's Word! Visiting from Tai's linkup. Blessings!

  4. This is a great explanation. I'm sharing with my readers - encouraging not only parents to get into the Word this way, but also to teach our kids to know how to for themselves. Thanks for putting this together.

  5. This is awesome! I love love love word studies! For me researching the word in Greek and Hebrew brings it to life and brings clarity. Thank you for sharing how you break down the word. Blessings always. Misty.

  6. This is wonderful! I had no idea this was available at Bible Study Tools! I look forward to using it in the near future! Thank you, Helene!