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Monday, September 21, 2015

Blue Letter Bible: My Bible Study Tool of Choice

I am so impressed with a free online Bible study tool, BlueLetterBible.org, which makes it easy to explore the Greek and Hebrew meanings behind the words, to compare multiple versions, and to search with flexibility and power. It's the best tool I've found and I'd like you to know about it. Here's a 5-minute video showing the many features.



There's even an app you can download from the Apple store.

As an example of the things you can find more easily, you can use it as a tool to examine some of the intriguing remarks Matthew Bowen makes about the wordplays in Paul's epistle to Philemon. His article, "You More than Owe Me This Benefit: Onomastic Rhetoric in Philemon," is the most interesting thing I've read about Philemon and one that increases my appreciation for the abundant wordplays in the scriptures (something quite characteristic of the Book of Mormon, by the way). One of the intriguing points he makes is that Paul appears to making an artful pun on the meaning of the word Onesimus ('useful") by using an unrelated Greek root chrestos to describe how the converted slave, Onesimus, is now "useful" in Christ as part of Paul's very diplomatic request to allow Onesimus to continue in the ministry with Paul since all three men are now on an equal plane as servants or slaves to Christ. Further, in light of the normal practice of epistles being read out loud in meetings of Christians, it is valuable to understand that in Paul's day, chrestos would be pronounced nearly identically to the word christos, referring to the Anointed One, Christ, adding further meaning to Paul's words:
But Paul also deliberately plays on the name-title “Christ.” The word χρηστός (chrēstos) in the Greek of Paul’s time also sounded almost exactly [Page 5]the same as Χριστός (Christos, “Christ”).23 Thus Paul is also referencing Onesimus’s conversion to Christ: “in times past he was ‘without Christ’ [i.e., ἄχρηστον ~ achr[i]ston]24 to you, but now he is indeed ‘Well-in-Christ’ [εὔχρηστον ~ euchr[i]ston] both to you and to me” — a clever pun on -χρηστός (-chrēstos).25 This homophonic wordplay adds additional nuance to Paul’s play on “Onesimus.”
Interesting. With Blue Letter Bible, you can verify some aspects of what Bowen has found and explore related issues. For example, it's easy to find other uses of the word chrestos, including Matthew 11:29, which is used to describe the "light" yoke of Christ. Is there a further connection intended to Christ and/or anointing? Of course, since Christ probably spoke those words in Aramaic, the connections in the original language may have been quite different.

In any case, there are many tangents to pursue and so many things to learn that are easier to explore than ever thanks to tools such as this. Kudos to Blue Letter Bible!

2 comments:

James Anglin said...

Thanks for the tip, Jeff. This might be quite interesting. I took a little smattering of New Testament Greek once, but nowhere near enough to do anything without a lot of looking up stuff. This might make it easier.

One thing I did gather from my tiny bit of Greek, though, was that learning the original language was not going to deliver anything like the profound new insights I thought I might get. Astonishingly often, it seemed, the actual Greek text was simply word-for-word the same as the common translations. And the professors that taught my course never seemed to tell me how subtly different and richer the meanings of the original words were, than the English renderings. 'Agape' was just 'love', they said; it meant pretty much what the English word meant, with about the same range of possible meanings.

You can still get some fresh insights from the original languages. I'm just saying, don't expect to get too many big surprises, or anything, from the original language. It's just not that kind of book.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this information.

I don't have the funds right now to buy a Greek Lexicon, Hebrew dictionary, different Bible translations.

This online study tool is a great start.
I read some blogs where Bible verses are shown in Greek and Hebrew to explain the original meaning. It is very interesting. Thanks again