What a time to be alive!
Part 1: Bible Study / Sunday School teaching
There has never been a better time to be a Christian than today. The tools we have to Study the Bible, worship, reach people, connect with people, keep up with people and do all the things that the Great Commission calls upon us to do are unprecedented in human history. Let me show you what I mean. Let’s start with Bible Study. I’d like to show you a tool I use every week in preparing Sunday School lessons.
Below is a picture of the Logos Bible Software screen. Notice I am working in an English translation–in this case the NIV2011. This will work in any of a half dozen or so translations. I right click on the word “carpenter” and the little box you see here shows up.
Note: if you would like to see this article with slightly larger graphics, see the version outside of WordPress here.
From there, you could do a number of things. Notice that one of them is pronounce. If you click on this, it will pronounce the underlying Greek word, Tekton. You will hear a human pronounce the word through your computer’s speakers. If you could hear it, it wouldn’t take you long to realize we get our word technology from this word. Jesus was a technology guy. Who knew?
What I am interested in is the Bible Word Study. To show you how powerful this tool is, let me jump to another passage, one I often use in my Sunday School training seminars: Romans 12.13. I right click the word “practice,” hit Bible Word Study and the following graph shows up on the left:
What this graph is displaying is how the underlying Greek word is translated by the NIV. You might notice the number 45 above the chart. This means the word is used 45 times in the Greek New Testament. About 2/3s of the time it is translated “persecute.” Yeah, you read that right. The word that is translated here as “practice” is usually translated “persecute.” If it were translated here as it is usually translated, we would have the phrase, “persecute hospitality.” Hmmm. You know you have an interesting word study percolating when the way a word is usually translated doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Before we crack open a dictionary, look at some of the other ways it is translated. I draw your attention to the phrase “press on.” That sounds familiar. Let’s click on that and see what happens.
Ha! just as I thought. This is the same word used in Philippians 3 where Paul says:
Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV) Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Big idea: we are to press on to practice hospitality as Paul pressed on toward the mark.
Interesting. Let’s look at a dictionary. We are only one click away. See the box above the graph? That is a list of dictionaries. Let me hit “more” to show all the dictionaries. This will push the graph down where you can’t see much of it. Then I will click on one of the dictionaries. Here is what the screen looks like now:
You can see the definition from the Greek dictionary, Louw-Nida. You can also see I have access to a dozen others–all a click away. The sense of the word is to chase down and is used in a secondary sense of persecuting. The importance of this passage is that this is a strong word. Hunt down hospitality. Pursue it. Make it your ambition to show hospitality. It is not a light and fluffy idea of having tea and cookies when you get to it. We are it pursue it in the same was Paul pressed on toward the mark.
One more insight. Let’s look at the second word in this sentence: hospitality. We go through the same steps, but this time, I have the mouse hovering over the Greek word Xenos:
Now let’s hover over the word Philos:
You may be familiar with this word. The city Philadelphia gets its name from this word. In the case of Philadelphia it means brotherly love. Philo means to love as a friend. “Adelphia” comes from the word for brother; thus, “brotherly-love.” Xenos means stranger. Put them together: to love strangers. Interesting.
Notice the graph on the left. Let me push the dictionaries out of the way and click on the maroon part of the graph:
In Hebrews 13.2 this same word is translated “hospitality to strangers.” They translate it that way because that is quite literally what the word means. Biblically, it is not hospitality if you just have your friends over. For it to be biblical hospitality, you have to have some strangers there. Happily, lots of churches qualify. 😉
They taught us how to do this kind of stuff in Greek class back in the day. This was before the days of computers. It took all afternoon to study one word. (I never learned the Greek alphabet all that well so it always took me a while to look words up when they were alphabetized in Greek.) I remember thinking at the time, “Who has time for this?”
Today, you can do it with a few clicks of the mouse and with no knowledge of Greek. You can do the same thing with Hebrew. What a time to be alive!
There has never been a better time to be a Sunday School teacher or Small group Bible study teacher. I use the tools every week as I write my Sunday School Lessons, Good Questions Have Groups Talking.
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