Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Using for Study, Part Three - Guest Post by Brendan Ian Kennedy

In our last installment we discussed how to use for more advanced studies that use the biblical languages. is a great tool, especially since it is free. Its advanced functions have some limitations, just as you would expect any free resource to have. We will discuss what these are, and how to work around them. Finally, we will look at some commentaries that are available on the site.

The first shortcoming pertains to Old Testament study. No text-critical information is provided along with the Hebrew text. This is a problem because sometimes we have to determine what exactly the original text said in a certain place (the discipline of textual criticism) before we can interpret it for a sermon. This is not insurmountable for preachers and teachers, however. One can work around it by comparing several English versions with the Hebrew in order to catch differences in the text. This is made easier by using a good study Bible with footnotes that give variant readings. When you read them side-by-side, look for differences that appear to be more significant than a different word choice for the same concept, or a different English word order. As you do this, bear in mind that none of the differences you may find affect any major points of doctrine. Greater certainty of the text and its interpretation lead to greater confidence in the pulpit, however, so it is still important to be as sure as possible of the text.

The Greek New Testaments available on have their limitations as well. The Scrivener, Stephanus, and Westcott-Hort, all older editions, were mentioned in the last post. The modern edition of the Greek New Testament that is used by most biblical scholars, the Nestle-Aland 28th Edition/United Bible Societies 4th Edition (NA-28/UBS-4) is not available. The modern edition that does have is the SBL Greek New Testament (SBLGNT). This is a scholarly alternative that differs in more than 500 places from the NA-28/UBS-4. As in all textual variants of the New Testament, none of the differences affect any core theological issues. One may use the same comparison technique described above to investigate any passage where the reading is debatable.

The concordance feature can be employed while using the Greek versions, but it is a little more complicated than using it in English. First, set up your screen so that the only version displayed is in Greek. Second, enter a verse address in English in the search box. This will bring up the verse in Greek. Then you can highlight, copy, and paste a word or phrase from that verse into the search box, click “search,” and the results will be all the occurrences of that word or phrase in the Greek New Testament that you are currently using. searches complete words and words plus suffixes, just like in its English concordance function. If you paste only a portion of a Greek word into the search box, the concordance will search for all words in the Greek New Testament that start with that portion, no matter how they end.

The concordance feature does not work in Hebrew. This is an unfortunate oversight that we hope will be corrected someday.

There are several commentaries available on Hover over the “Study” link at the top of the homepage. This will reveal a two-column drop-down menu. At the bottom of the right-hand column is a link to “more resources.” Click this, and you will arrive at a screen full of links, one of which is for “commentaries.” Click here, and you will have the choice of an abridged version of Matthew Henry’s Commentary, the Reformation Bible Commentary, the Asbury Bible Commentary, the IVP New Testament Commentary, and a series of sermons on the Gospel of Mark entitled “A Ransom for Many.” These represent a variety of theological positions within conservative Protestantism (Reformed, Wesleyan, Baptist, and inter-denominational). All are good for sermon preparation and general study, even though some are limited in scope (the IVP commentary only covers the New Testament).

Those who have the money and time to invest in expensive study aids should by all means do so, for will not meet all the needs of an advanced Bible student. For most users and most purposes, however, these concordance, parallel, biblical language, and commentary tools work very well, and the price is right: free! Keep studying and preaching, and may the Lord bring the harvest!

Brendan Ian Kennedy

Ph. D. (cand.), Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

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