Question: I am presently interested in knowing definitions of words in the Bible, in both Greek and Hebrew. I found just last weekend in a Christian bookstore a couple of books on this subject, but for about $75! I'm hoping to find assistance via the Internet instead of having to go to such expense. I'm not interested in an intense study, but to be able to, when I'm reading my Bible, be able to look up a word with reference to the verse(s) that I'm reading them, to get the complete meaning of the verse. (Does any of this make sense?) Thanks for any help!
Response: Yes this makes sense - but it's not necessarily as simple as that. Translation is an art that is acquired through years of study and preparation. For the Bible, it requires a precise knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek - and also importantly the theology behind the words. Put it this way, if you knew French and wanted to translate a book on Calculus into French, not knowing Calculus would render your effort questionable, because you wouldn't understand the meaning, even if you understood the words. There is also the issue of being schooled in the historical and cultural milieu of the ancient world.
That's why there are so many different translations and so many variations between them. In the ICHTHYS.COM studies, I generally translate the verses I quote, and on the site there is an index of all the original translations available here. There is also an index of the topics and subjects covered.
There are many, many commentaries available (some on-line) that will give information about specific verses, but to really know what is meant in the original inevitably requires the skills mentioned above – or access to Bible teaching that makes such things clear. For the vast majority of Christians, a good Bible translation with which they are comfortable and the commitment to reading it daily are essentials which need to be supplemented by Bible teaching that is based upon the original languages, orthodox theology, and historical perspective. Add believing the truth once learned, persistent, consistent prayer, a walk that responds to what is being learned from God's Word, and faithful service via the gift one has been given, and you have the whole formula for spiritual growth.
There are resources that can help along the lines of what you mentioned. There are concordances to the Bible that key the English words to the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic words (e.g., Strong's for the KJV, Exhaustive [ed. Thomas] for the NASB), and there is also such a thing as an "interlinear" New Testament (where the English words are superimposed over the Greek words. Also, the various commentaries I mentioned (of wide variance in theology and usefulness) will often relate their observations to the original text (some more so than others). But using these sorts of things without knowing the languages is a little like giving yours truly a tool kit and having me put the electrics and plumbing into a new house (such things are not my forte - serious mistakes would be inevitable).
For internet resources, please see the links at the Ichthys links system:
Bible Study Links
I hope this e-mail is some help with your question. You might also find the following links of some use:
Bible Interpretation: Interlinears, Academics, Versions et al.
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III
Bible translation and John 8:58
Are New Bible Translations Part of a Conspiracy?
Use and Origin of Bible Translations at Ichthys
Yours in Christ,