Language is limited. The 26-letter English alphabet attempts to convey all the expression of our hearts and minds. Unfortunately, words carry different meanings to different people.
Add in translation between languages and the communication mess multiplies. Word choices of a translator can carry unintended meanings among different readers.
When studying the English Bible, we are actually reading a version translated from it’s original language. Imagine the clarity if we knew Hebrew or Greek! We would be closer to understanding the original meaning of the writer and be able to more effectively apply the Word to our lives.
A few years ago, I was beyond excited to find tools to make word study possible without a seminary degree. And now these resources exist online free.
To illustrate how to use the tools, let’s walk through a study of the word “peace.” Paul states that believers must allow “the peace Christ (to) rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15). What does it mean to live in peace with others?
1) Observe the Word in Different Translations
Read Colossians 3:15 in several translations. Read in the NIV (translation in the link) then click “NLT” and “ESV” in the navigation bar to switch between versions. You will discover subtle nuances in the different ways editors translated the verse.
2) Explore the Original Meaning
By clicking through to the “Interlinear” option, let’s now explore the original language of the biblical text.
The page includes five lines of text: Strong’s number, transliterated Greek (word in English letters), Greek word, English word, grammatical notation. The specifics for our word “peace” look like:
The Greek word that Paul chose for “peace” is eiréné. It’s reference number in the Strong’s Concordance is 1515. Click the number to see it’s abbreviated definition along with several additional resources. The phonetic spelling even instructs how to pronounce our word in Greek (i-ray’-nay).Scroll down the “1515 eiréné“ page to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. The lexicon gives four definitions for eiréné. Our verse (Colossians 3:15) is listed among the references in the fifth definition. This is where we will now focus.
Grammatical Note: When studying a verb, it’s also important to take know of the tense, voice, and mood of the word. A past tense verb conveys a very different meaning than a present tense verb given in a command mood. Today’s word “peace” is a simple noun.
3) Cross References
Look up other verses listed where the word appears in the same usage (noun, verb, etc). We find several passages in the fifth definition, including John 14:27 and Philippians 4:7, where biblical writers used the word “peace” in the same way that Paul did in Colossians 3:15.
4) List Observations from Your Research
- I learned that Strong’s 1515, as used in Colossians 3:15, describes the state of a person’s relationship with God. It is the stress-free, place of peace with God and his provision and his presence. We are content with each passing day. Unlike Thayer’s definition #1 which has the sense of personal tranquility and lack of external hostilities, the word use in Colossians 3:15 relates more to our relationship with the Lord. It conveys Christ as the very author and promoter of peace (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
- I saw Christ’s giving of eiréné to his disciples following his resurrection. It was the first thing he said to them, “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36). The New Testament writers subsequently use a form of our word in most of the salutations of their letters.
- I would define eiréné as: a contentment resting solely in one’s relationship with God.
#5 Return to the Word-for-Study
How does your new understanding of the word better inform your interpretation of the verse?
The study of eiréné enriched my understanding of God’s presence. When the peace of Christ rules within each of our lives, we are able to also experience a profound unity and harmony among one another.
Posted by Sharon R Hoover