The usefulness of Bible exegesis

This is the second blogpost in my current series on Bible exegesis for beginners.

You may want to begin at the beginning.

The first blogpost was to help you load an essential Bible tool on to your computer, which you can consult at anytime even when you are not on the internet.

I plan to help you with Bible exegesis, but rather than rush head with new tools I think it will be helpful for you to see the usefulness of Bible exegesis.

So let us look at a simple example using the tools you already have on your computer.

The first of the beatitudes is:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Lord Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:3.

I am not going to develop a sermon from this. I am showing you some Bible exegesis. However, you have possibly heard many a sermon on this text. These preachers probably preached a message from this text but did any of them explain what the word ‘poor’ means? If not, why not? If not, how do you know that their message arose from the text and not from the preacher’s own opinion? If you do not know the answer to this question, then you have been short-changed by all these preachers. Surely one of them had the wit to explain it to you! You can apply this test to the next sermon you hear on any text of Scripture. Preachers are to give themselves to the Word of God and prayer Act 6:4. Jesus trained His apostles for three years.

Synonyms

There are many words in every language that have similar meanings and these are called synonyms. In this immediate context we will simply notice that a beggar and a pauper are both poor, but not in the same way. The beggar is so poor that he needs to beg, while the pauper is a poor man who makes ends meet. Indeed, the pauper may be too proud to beg or to accept charity from other people, but not necessarily so. So, which word is used here? Only the Greek language will tell you, unless you have a commentary to consult that might tell you the answer. There are many books on synonyms, such as Synonyms of the New Testament, Richard C. Trench, which deals with this very question in paragraph 36. However, he does not deal with every synonym in the New Testament, which is why we need a Greek dictionary such as Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, which you have already downloaded to your e-Sword programme or can do so now.

Similarly, there is Synonyms of the Old Testament, Robert B. Girdlestone, which I bought on 2/8/1982 for £2.40, which rapidly followed Trench bought on 9/7/1982 for the same price. They were a wonderful investment and I cannot say which has been more useful. As I think of the person who directed me to this pair of books, I have begun another series of blogposts to be posted after this short series finishes, to be called Christian Books and my Christian Friends.

However, you do not need to buy these books because the internet provides you with enormous resources at no cost. So let us continue.

Poverty

There are several Greek words for ‘poor’ in the New Testament. Let us use the e-Sword programme to see this. Open your e-Sword programme and then open the Bible search window, which you can do in two different ways – 1. clicking on the Bible menu at the top opens a dropdown menu and then click on the word Search; 2. the dropdown menu also shows you a shortcut to do this quickly by pressing the Control and the letter S on your keyboard at the same time.

This opens the Bible search window, which you can resize and reposition by hovering over the edge or corner and dragging it, just the same as any other window on your computer.

Now type the word “poor” into the blank field as shown below, and select the KJV+ version (which has the Strong’s Numbers that we will use). In the next field select ‘Search for all of the words’ (in some searches you will have more than one word) and the New Testament in the next field. You are now ready to search.

Hit the binoculars at the right-hand side and it will search the passages. The first result is Mat 5:3.

Search result: 35 occurrences in 35 verses. Sometimes there may more matches than verses because the word occurs more than once in a verse.

You can see that the Strong Number G4434 occurs beside each one. Now type G4434 into the empty Exclude field and search again. This time only four verses are found.

You can see 1. that there is another Greek word translated poor that is coded G3998; 2. that ‘the poor’ in 1Cor 13:3 is in italics, meaning that it does not translate a Greek word but has been added by the translators, one of the advantages of the King James Version; 3. in 2Cor 8:9 G4433 is used, which your new skills will soon show you is the verb associated with the adjective G4434; and 4. in 2Cor 9:9 G3993 is an adjective closely related to G3998, another adjective.

With this window still open, you can hover your mouse over the numbers and a small pop-up window will give you a preview of the meaning of that word. This is simply a quick look at these.

Remove the Bible search window and let us now go back to Mat 5:3. This time click on the KJV+ tab and all the Strong’s Numbers appear in the whole chapter. You can see that the word we want to study has G4434 beside it. You can hover over it but the pop-up gives only a short amount of information, sometimes all you need, but it is better to look at it properly.

Sometimes, double-clicking on the G4434 will open the Greek dictionaries for you. If not, after you have double-clicked on it, click on the Windows tab and select Dictionary Maximised, with the shortcut key being Control+F4 on your keyboard.

Strong’s tab shows the entry for Strong’s Number G4434

This opens your Dictionaries. You have downloaded BDB, Strong and Thayers; I have many more. The “i” icon tells you that there is information under the Strong and Thayer tabs, because these are coded to Strong’s Number, but BDB is Hebrew and will only show “i” in the Old Testament.

The column on the righthand side is very useful for looking at neighbouring words but you need to toggle it on or off with the little open book icon under the row of Dictionaries.

Click on either Strong or Thayer and you will see that it is open at the Strong’s Number and even if you cannot read the Greek yet you can read the English. There are slight differences between the two; for example, Thayer tells you it is an adjective but Strong does not. To be fair to Strong, his Exhaustive Concordance was for looking up Bible verses, which computers now do much better and faster, but he included a short dictionary at the end of his Concordance and its utility is that this has been used by almost all computer programmes to the present day to codify every Hebrew and Greek word in the Bible. You will see that Thayer gives you more information because it is a full Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, although even all of it is not in this e-Sword programme. However, there is enough for the beginner to do basic Bible exegesis. Not only does it tell you that this word is an adjective but it shows you that the word here is spiritual beggary.

What difference does this make?

It is not enough for preachers to say that we are poor and need Christ’s riches, which is true but not the meaning of the text, and even worse to say that this text means that God is on the side of the poor. This is not its teaching. Jesus says that they are a blessed people who are so poor in their spirit that they are spiritual beggars who must rely upon God to keep them spiritually alive. How many poor people and impoverished beggars are poor in this sense? Are they spiritual beggars?

Jesus sets the tone for the rest of these Beatitudes by beginning with spiritual beggary. However, I said that this blogpost was not a sermon. If you want a sermon there is one here.

Where to from here?

You can see that it takes quite a long time to explain even a few points with regard to using the computer programme, and then the exegesis of a mere word far less the passage. Further, there are many other free tools that you can use. I plan to help you to download these tools and I will list the pros and cons of each one in future blogposts.

But to use these Bible programmes you will need to experiment with them. However, there is another way, and that is for you to watch me doing my own Bible exegesis.

Daily Bible exegesis

I exegete Scripture every day for my ongoing Bible commentary and so it is my plan to do so on Zoom and to share my screen with those who wish to join me. The aims from your point of view are 1. to see how I use these free programmes; 2. to ask questions that can receive an immediate answer, which may become blogposts in due course; and 3. as the tools open up the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words, then you can watch and question me how I arrive at the actual exegesis of the text. Someone did so recently and I answered his question here but in future you will be able to watch me exegeting Scripture in real time.

You may be in a different Time Zone but that will not matter as I work at all times of the day and night. Simply click here and if I am online you can get through to me. If I am not online Zoom will say that I will let you in when I am available. If you do not find me on one occasion then just try another occasion. You can try on a hit-and-miss basis until you find me online. Just keep pressing the button until one day you make contact. At some point you will get through. When you join me, I can then share my screen with you and I can show you what I’m doing in my current Bible exegesis. You will be able to ask me specific questions, such as, how did I do that? or why did you do that or conclude that? Hopefully, you will learn some of the skills of biblical exegesis that are the basis for preaching the Word of God accurately and intelligently. You can learn not only how to use these computer programmes but also how to interpret Scripture at the same time. God bless you in your prayerful study of His infallible Word.

Links:

1 Jan 2022: 1st post: Bible Exegesis for Beginners.

8 Jan 2022: 2nd post: The usefulness of Bible exegesis. Online real-time mentoring: try it out.

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