How would you like to go on an adventure in studying Scripture, with me? In this case, I’ll be sharing through writing; as opposed to video. All you will need is a Bible, a concordance and your smartphone. I’d have mentioned a commentary; however, you won’t need a physical one.
If you are like me, there is a good chance that you’d like to dig into the Word of God and don’t have a library of books on hand. I’ve read some of the “How to Study the Bible” books. Though they do have some good ideas, their systematic approach never worked for me.
Would you like to know how I approach the study of God’s Word? There is a writer’s maxim that says “Show, Don’t Tell” and that is what I am talking about. Keep reading as I will be focusing on John 3:16-18.
If I am doing a straight reading of the Word of God, I’ll open up my copy of You Version Bible app. This is largely due to my eyesight. A regular physical Bible will be perfect. I do hope you have a couple of different translations, though.
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.John 3:16-18 NASB
Wait a minute! Isn’t there a translation that says “everlasting” life? As a matter of fact, there is a translation that does use “everlasting” and it’s the King James. Before someone dives in, there is something that you should know. The King James isn’t the only one to say “everlasting”; no eternal. Here’s a link to a list of those translations. Do you recall my saying that a concordance would be helpful? Here’s why.
It may come as a surprise for some people; however, the Bible was not written in English. The original language used for the New Testament is ancient Greek. The Old Testament is a combination of Aramaic and Hebrew. It’s great if you natively speak these languages; however, it’s not the case for a large # of people.
Thankfully, we have access to a book called the Strong Concordance. It contains all the original Greek and Hebrew words found in the Scripture and they are paired with their English counterpart. Strong was originally designed to be paired with the King James. Later translations have their own concordance. Though I like the New American Standard Bible ’95, I prefer the Strong Concordance.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to run out and buy a concordance. You can go to sites like the Blue Letter Bible site and discover for yourself, the underlying Greek. Below is a partial image of what I discovered on Blue Letter Bible’s site. The Strong’s # is G166.
Here’s a more direct link to what this site has. If that info isn’t enough then you are in for a treat. I have a copy of Logos Scholar’s Library that I brought in around 2000. I don’t recall the exact date. Here’s what is important. This digital library has a huge collection of Bible reference books and it’s more fun to share it’s information on this site.
There is a Greek Lexicon called the Louw-Nida and it’s a great companion for the Strong’s Concordance because it can go into greater details and provide some interesting insight. Here’s an excerpt from my digital copy and it’s all based on the same word:
67.96 ἀί̈διος, ον; αἰώνιος, ον: pertaining to an unlimited duration of time—‘eternal.’
ἀί̈διος: ἥ τε ἀί̈διος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης ‘his eternal power and divine nature’ Ro 1:20.
αἰώνιος: βληθῆναι εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον ‘be thrown into the eternal fire’ Mt 18:8; τοῦ αἰωνίου θεοῦ ‘of the eternal God’ Ro 16:26.
The most frequent use of αἰώνιος in the NT is with ζωή ‘life,’ for example, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον ‘so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life’ Jn 3:15. In combination with ζωή there is evidently not only a temporal element, but also a qualitative distinction. In such contexts, αἰώνιος evidently carries certain implications associated with αἰώνιος in relationship to divine and supernatural attributes. If one translates ‘eternal life’ as simply ‘never dying,’ there may be serious misunderstandings, since persons may assume that ‘never dying’ refers only to physical existence rather than to ‘spiritual death.’ Accordingly, some translators have rendered ‘eternal life’ as ‘unending real life,’ so as to introduce a qualitative distinction.
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 641.Louw-Nida 67,96
Incredible! Isn’t it? Such is the gift that is given to those who accepted the free gift of salvation. Do you see why it is okay to use either everlasting or eternal? I say this because I have run into one or two people that I did not use the right magic word.
Don’t be discouraged about not having the Louw-Nida Lexicon. Here’s a site that can provide similar info and it is called the Bible Hub. I just paid their site and here is what I learned. If you think that info is interesting than you should see what it says about the Greek word for “loved”, agapaó. My copy of Louw-Nida does provide similar insight.
I don’t know about you; however, I am just getting warmed up! Are you ready to go deeper into the rabbit hole? We didn’t even make it pass John 3:16. How would you like to save a ton of money on Bible commentaries? I’m sure that most of my readers will love that idea. Thankfully, some of the best commentaries are in the Public Domain and are therefore free to the public.
One of my favorite commentary series is the Pulpit Commentaries. It’s an old commentary that provides some rich details into the Scripture that you may be reading. Earlier, I came across mentions of the thoughts of the Church Fathers in the 2nd Century. Here’s the good news for you and it won’t cost a penny.
You can read this commentary for free on the Bible Hub’s site. You can read what the writers of the Pulpit commentary has to say on John3:16-21, here. You will need to scroll down to about the halfway point. Here is a brief excerpt to whet your whistle. Read the whole thing because you’ll be in for a surprise.
Verses 16-21. –Pulpit Commentary – Bible Hub
(3) Divine love and judgment. Verse 16. – For God so loved the world. The Divine love to the whole of humanity in its condition of supreme need, i.e. apart from himself and his grace, has been of such a commanding, exhaustless, immeasurable kind, that it was equal to any emergency, and able to secure for the worst and most degraded, for the outcast, the serpent-bitten and the dying, a means of unlimited deliverance and uplifting. The Divine love is the sublime source of the whole proceeding, and it has been lavished on “the world.” This world cannot be the limited “world” of the Augustinian, Calvinian interpreters – the world of the elect; it is that “whole world” of which St. John speaks in 1 John 2:2. “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). Calvin himself says, “Christ brought life, because the heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.”
Keep reading because the fun doesn’t stop there! You’ll be discovering why I sometimes like the older commentaries. However, I wouldn’t throw all the modern ones out. On the Blue Letter Bible’s site, you will discover commentaries from a wide range of more modern scholars or pastors. Ever heard of David Guzik?
He’s a pastor at Calvary Chapel Church in Santa Barbara. He has provided some very useful insights studying the Old Testament. David has been very helpful in my learning about the Middle Eastern culture and how it plays into our understanding of the text. Here is a link to David Guzik’s Study Guide For John 3.
When it comes to Bible Commentaries, I have found it to be a wise practice to read from commentaries from different authors. These commentaries are largely written by wonderfully flawed human beings. Each one is doing his or her best to share their understanding of a passage in God’s Word. That is why it’s a good practice to read them with a grain of salt.
By now, you should be asking a simple question. Where the heck is the Holy Spirit? Isn’t the Spirit supposed to be our Teacher? Unlike Alice, you don’t have to worry about going down a rabbit hole all by yourself. Before you venture off, it is a good idea to begin your studies by praying.
Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and help in your adventure in studying God’s Word. After all, the Holy Spirit is the author of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit is the one that guided the writings of the different books of the Bible. Since the Holy Spirit was deeply involved in the writing of Scripture then it make sense to ask God.
Don’t be afraid to talk with Jesus about what you are reading and asking for more insights. It may be that he’ll give you a direct revelation or direct you to a helpful source of information. He’s done this for me, a multitude of time and God is no respecter of person.
Any direct revelation should be checked against the written Word of God, God’s character and His revealed will. Why do I say this? Years ago, I met a woman who claimed that Paul was a Roman soldier and she learned this through the Holy Spirit. I don’t think so! You don’t have to be a soldier to have an idea about military life.
A careful reading of the last few chapters of Acts would have debunked this notion. It would have been better to have talked with a pastor or a brief look at available commentaries would have helped. I should also point out the benefit of being in a community of mature believers.
I do hope this article is of value to you and that it proves helpful in learning how to study the Word of God. I’d love to hear your input on this article.