As a Christian writer, it’s important to be immersed in scripture and interpret biblical passages well. You will often refer your readers to Bible truths, so you want to get hold of those truths for yourself before you write.
While you will discover many spiritual practices that can help (prayer, worship, Bible Study, lectio divina, reliable commentaries, and more), another helpful practice is being able to look up key words in the original language (Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament).
Hebrew and Greek words contain a wealth of meaning and context that often cannot be translated fully into English. Bible translators have a challenging task, and they make the best decisions they can. But there are choices involved, and this is why many of us aren’t satisfied until we study a passage from multiple translations. When we do that, we are seeking the richness of meaning in English from the original Hebrew or Greek words.
As a Christian writer, when you take the next step in your Bible Study and learn how to look up original words and meaning, you will open up a whole treasure chest for your readers in the pieces you write. And you will love the way the Holy Spirit meets you in that exploration and draws you deeper into God’s Word.
Looking up biblical words in their original language doesn’t need to be difficult or intimidating. You don’t need to become a Biblical language scholar to understand a key word in an Old or New Testament passage. All you need are the basics.
Start with Prayer
First, you will want to pray everytime you work with the original language — and pray everytime you work with scripture even in English. You want to invite the Holy Spirit to shine His light into the biblical text and be your teacher and your companion in this process.
Do a Word Study
Then prayerfully, you can do a word study using a concordance and corresponding word study books. Those can really open up the meaning of a Bible passage for you. And it’s all laid out for you in a way that’s easy to follow. Those books have always been a great help to me in preparing for a sermon, giving a talk, or in writing or teaching about a Bible passage.
Look up Words in an Online Resource
If you want to go deeper, you can prayerfully look up a Bible verse and individual words in Hebrew or Greek by using Bible Hub’s free interlinear resource online.
Those steps don’t require you to know any Hebrew or Greek, and you still get the benefit of working with the meanings of words from the original language.
I use the Bible Hub online resource frequently when I want to dig deeper into a Bible verse or understand the fuller meaning and context of a key word.
Even though you don’t need to know Hebrew or Greek to use this resource, you will get to see the Hebrew and Greek words. So it’s a good way to start easing in if you would eventually like to learn a little of the language.
Learn the Alphabet
If you want to explore even more deeply, you can prayerfully learn the basics of Hebrew or Greek and learn how to look up words directly in a Hebrew or Greek lexicon.
The key to looking up a word directly in a lexicon is to learn the Hebrew or Greek alphabet. And you will also want to understand the basics of how words are listed in a lexicon. (The Bible Hub resource listed above can help you learn this, and it contains its own built-in lexicon.) You don’t have to learn the whole language or a lot of vocabulary or grammar to look up words in a lexicon. Just the basics.
After you get a taste for the richness of Hebrew and Greek words, you may want to dive in and learn more vocabulary and even some basic grammar. But you don’t need to swim to the deep part of the lake to look up the meaning of biblical words to use and grow in your Christian writing. You will find plenty of biblical treasure near the shore using one of the steps just described.
Start with Just One Word
Whichever step you choose to take first, I recommend starting simply. Focus on one language to start — Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament). While Greek is often easier to work with (the alphabet and vocabulary are more familiar to English speakers), don’t be afraid to try Hebrew. It is a beautiful language filled with the breath of God, and if you start with the basics, you really can learn the alphabet and key words in Hebrew.
When you have decided which language to start with, then take your next step by simply looking up one word. Perhaps think about a Bible passage you’ve always loved or been drawn to. Is there one word you have always wondered about — what does that word mean in its original context? Start there. Learn how to look up that word by whichever of the above steps you choose.
Or maybe start with a Bible verse you know really well and look up a word that’s easy to understand in context. That’s a simple way to start learning the process with a word you already know well.
Keep it simple to start. If you begin to feel overwhelmed at any point, stop and go back to the basics. And be sure to bathe the entire process in prayer and talk with the Holy Spirit as you grow in looking up Hebrew or Greek words.
Most of all, enjoy this time with God. Be blessed as you adventure with God into the beautiful words and meanings from the Hebrew or Greek Bible.
Interested in getting a taste of biblical Hebrew? There’s more to discover on my biblical Hebrew blog.
Copyright © 2020 by Janet Eriksson
Janet Eriksson is an intercessor, writer, and teacher in Dahlonega, Georgia. She loves conversation with friends, front porch swings, sweet tea, and spending time on lakes and rivers. The author of nine books and editor of many more, Janet blogs and teaches at Adventures with God. She enjoys volunteering with Transformations. Janet received her M. Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary.