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Day 7: Important Words

 

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Learn to Study the Bible with Logos: Part 2

Part 2 Overview

Congratulations! You’ve finished the first section of this course.

We now have a better understanding of how to accomplish the first step in Bible study, observation. We’ve taken the time to listen to the text by reading it multiple times, identifying important themes, comparing translations, and exploring the different kinds of contexts. While we can do all of these steps without Logos, I hope you see the value of this powerful software for the efficiency and in the insight it provides.

Bible students are often tempted to jump from brief observation to application; from what the text says to what the text means to us. We need to fight this urge and think about what the text actually means. Why did God include the passage we are studying in Scripture? What did the human writers of Scripture have in mind when they wrote it? What did the passage mean to the original audience? Interpretation answers these crucial questions.

In the next set of videos, we’ll delve further into Matthew 4 and the steps involved in interpretation. I’ll show you how to look up and study important words and phrases in the passage and then compare them to other passages in Scripture. We’ll also interpret the text by looking at its structure and then check our interpretation with respected voices in biblical scholarship. This last step is important. God has blessed us with fellow Christians, both ancient and modern, that can help us understand the text if we are struggling. These guides can also let us know about different interpretive options and can caution us if our interpretation of the text isn’t what it should be. This is exciting work.

Remember, if you need further help, additional training videos are located at Logos.com/Logos-Pro and you can always contact the Logos Pro team at LogosPro@Faithlife.com.

Let’s get started!

Step 6: Look for and Study Important Words and Phrases and Connect Them to the Rest of Scripture

Interpretation, you’ll remember, answers the question, “What does this passage mean?” If we want to know what Matthew 4 means, we need to spend a good deal of time on the actual words Matthew used.

All of us, to one degree or another, intentionally choose the words we do when we communicate. Some of us, especially writers and public speakers, spend extra time choosing the words we do in order to ensure the meaning we intend to convey actually is conveyed. We have a number of words and a number of ways to arrange those words to choose from.

The biblical writers were purposeful in the words they chose and how they arranged them. They often used words to indicate structure, show emphasis, and connect their writings to the other books of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.

How do we find these important links? We’ve already seen the benefit of the theology sections of our commentaries and of books dedicated to biblical theology. Resources like these discuss the important themes and words of particular writers and books of the Bible. These resources are a great place to start.

But what if we want to find important themes on our own? Nothing is as effective as familiarity. If we want to discover the important themes of Matthew, we need to spend ample time with the book. When we read the book in one sitting on multiple occasions, important themes will become evident. We will see important words, and themes will begin to pop out at us.

At this point, I want to add a word of caution. While words convey meaning and studying them is essential, there is a lot of danger involved. We are always tempted to see in the text what we want to see there, not necessarily what is there. Many interpreters have used words to say things about passages that aren’t there. We must realize that words are part of a larger context. We can’t isolate them and impute them with whatever meaning we want. That’s why familiarity with the larger text can’t be replaced. I’ll recommend two works that will help you avoid common mistakes in biblical interpretation. Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson and Biblical Words and Their Meaning by Moisés Silva are essential reads for every serious student of the Bible. Put them on your “read next” list.

One shortcoming of reading for familiarity is that most of us can’t read the Bible in its original languages. Repeated words are easily lost in translation. Logos’ Interesting Words section and Concordance tool can help.

Interesting Words Section

The Interesting Words section in the Passage Guide is a graphical representation of the words in a section of Scripture arranged by frequency. The larger the word, the more times it is used in the passage. We can toggle between English and the original language of the passage.

This is helpful for the passage we are looking at, but let’s expand our results to the broader section of Matthew that the passage we’re studying falls into. We can do this by looking at the way commentaries outline the book. The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible is a great, single-volume commentary that puts our passage in the section on Jesus’ “Preparation for Ministry (3:1–4:16).” Let’s change our reference range to Matthew 3:1–4:16. Now, we can see the words Matthew repeated for emphasis in this section.

Concordance Tool

The Concordance tool, available in a Logos Now or Cloud subscription, gives us even more flexibility. While we can’t get to the Concordance tool from the context menu, it is not difficult to access. Let’s go to the Tools menu and choose Concordance.

We’ll choose to create a concordance of our preferred version of the Bible. It may take some time for Logos to index it because it is combing through every word in the Bible and then organizing them by word frequency. Once it is done, we have a list of every word in the Bible. We can organize the results alphabetically or by frequency by using the “Heading” and “Count” options in the upper right. Now, we could keep our results in English, but we want to find the words most used in the Greek, so let’s choose “Root” from the second drop down menu. This organizes our concordance by the words that have common roots in Greek. Because we are interested in finding repeated words in Matthew, we could limit our concordance by clicking on “All Passages,” typing “mat” in the reference range, and pressing enter, but let’s limit our concordance to the section of Matthew we used earlier.

When we analyze our results, we find that Matthew uses the word for “wilderness” three times. Jesus goes out to the wilderness to be baptized, John prepares the way for Him in the wilderness, and the Spirit leads Him further into the wilderness for the temptation. This further strengthens the connection between Jesus and the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings we’ve seen before.

In fact, this is one of the sub-themes in Frank Thielman’s Theology of the New Testament. According to Thielman, one of the three central themes of Matthew is “Jesus’ Fulfillment of Jewish Biblical Tradition” and one of the sub-themes is “Jesus as the Personification of Israel.” He says, “Israel did not pass the test but instead grumbled about their lack of food (Ex. 16:1–36), and themselves put God to the test by insisting that their lack of water in the desert called into question whether the Lord was among them (Deut. 6:16; cf. Ex. 17:1–7). They also committed idolatry.” The temptations Jesus experienced were not random. Matthew was communicating something. Thielman continues, “For Matthew, Jesus recapitulated the history of Israel, but at the points in Israel’s story where the nation failed to obey God, Jesus succeeded.” When we ask, “What does Matthew 4:1–11 mean?” this theme is a major part of it. Matthew included this account in his gospel to show us that Jesus is the fulfillment of everything Israel should have been. If you want a contemporary treatment of the theology of the New Testament, Thielman’s work is among the best.

Let’s add this insight to our Clippings file by right-clicking and clicking “Add a clipping to ‘Quotations for Matthew 4.’”

Another interesting recurring word is “angels.” We see that angels ministered to Jesus after the devil leaves him. Interestingly, just earlier, the devil tempted Jesus to do something that would force the angels to minister to him. This helps us understand something about the meaning of temptation—that the things Jesus was tempted to do were not necessarily sinful in and of themselves. As He says in Matthew 26:53, He could call twelve legions of angels if needed to. What is sin is not relying on God for His provision and timing for those things. We’ll add this insight to a Note file connected to Matthew 4:6.

Let’s also create a shortcut to the Concordance tool by going to the Tools menu and clicking and dragging it to the shortcut bar. If we can’t remember what the icon means, we can right-click on the shortcut we just created and check “Show label.” Let’s do the same thing for the other tools we’ve used in this course: the Factbook, Psalms Explorer, Atlas, and Biblical Events Navigator.

Assignments

For our assignments, let’s focus on gaining more familiarity with the words and themes of Matthew:

  • Read Matthew in one sitting at least once, highlight repeated words and themes, and record any of your insights
  • If you have access to it, limit the Concordance tool to the book of Matthew and find at least 5 different words that could indicate an important theme in the book and add your results to your Note file

Tomorrow we’ll continue to spend time exploring the meaning of the temptation narrative by looking at the words of the passage.