Bible Scholars, Please do your Homework

A picture of the word homework on a chalkboard

(I use the term Bible scholar very generally here to include anyone who studies the Bible.)

A person who studies the Bible eventually gets around to studying its words. In doing so they often leave out a vital step. They don't do the homework.

I hear so many educated and uneducated Christians describing the words of the Bible who have never looked in the Bible to see if their definition even works. It is obvious to the few people who actually read the Bible and meditate on it that their definition (which may be a commonly accepted definition) is wrong. If only they had done their homework.

Simple Homework

The homework that I am suggesting is simple. Here are step-by-step instructions to make it even simpler.

1. Get out a complete concordance (or get a digital Bible, like e-Sword, and find the "Find" button).

2. Look up the word (or type the word in the textbox and click on the "Find" button).

3. Read each of the passages in which the word appears and insert your definition where the word is.

4. Does your definition fit? Be honest with the Bible. Don't force it. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. Go back to the drawing board and find a definition that fits.

If Bible scholars did this simple bit of homework, there would be much less misinformation emenating from our churches.

Today's Replacement for Doing the Homework

Many Bible scholars skip doing the homework and rely on Bible reference books and websites. It is much easier to read what they say and trust that the authors did their homework. They then think about what a good definition would be and voila they have their own homemade definition.

They never even open the Bible to see what the Bible says. How is it that this does not bother anyone? If they don't look in the Bible, how can they be called "Bible" scholars?

I know these Bible scholars are wrong because my nose is frequently in the Bible and has been for over four decades. I have done the above mentioned homework on every word in the New Testament. When I have doubts or questions about the meanings and translations that I have come up with, I go back to the Bible and do the homework again. This is a vital part of doing "Bible" study.

Advanced Homework

There is more homework that a Bible scholar can do to find out what the Bible's words mean. Here is some of the advanced homework that was used in writing the Breakthrough Version.

1. Study the history of the English word to see what it meant in 1395 and 1611. What it meant back then when it was first used in an English translation is more likely what it means in the Bible.

2. Find out which Greek words are used for the English word in the New Testament. Some English words are used for several different Greek words.

3. Do the above described "Simple Homework" on each Greek word.

4. Search for how the Greek word is used in a Greek Old Testament, and in Greek writings before, during, and after the New Testament times to see if that sheds light on the Greek word's meaning (Thayer and TDNT do this for you).

5. Study the etymology of the Greek word and make sure your translation portrays the different parts of the Greek word.

6. Compare all of the Greek words in the New Testament and try to come up with distinct English translations for each one.

7. Try to find an English word that has the same meanings as the Greek word and can be used to translate the Greek word everywhere it appears in the New Testament.

8. Use today's words (common everyday words), not 1395 or 1611 words, to translate the Greek words.

9. Go through the Greek text word-by-word from Matthew to Revelation making a direct translation that uses the results gleaned from the previous steps.

10. Read your translation later and see if it still makes sense. If it doesn't, go back through these steps.

A sad commentary of today's church is that despite all of the Bible studies and lessons going on in it, few preachers, teachers, scholars, and even seminary professors have a good first hand knowledge of the Bible. They know what others say about it, but not what the Bible itself says.

But since no one (not even Bible scholars) is looking in the Bible, no one sees the problem.

The few people who read the Bible and understand it are outcasts. Their voices are silenced by the fake Bible scholars who insist that their traditional views or multiple doctorate degrees qualify them to know the Bible better, but they don't. Their Bible knowledge is a house of cards with no foundation in the actual pages of the Bible.

Anyone who studies the Bible should actually study the Bible. They should do their homework.