I was conversing with some friends yesterday, somehow or another we got to talking (read: complaining) about word studies. I just want to share some thoughts.
Growing up as a good evangelical, I led Bible studies from time to time in high school, and as the occasion arose, I would engage in word studies. What this generally meant was that I would open up E-Sword on my computer and use my trusty dusty KJV with Strong’s Concordance to look up the meanings of basic words in the Greek and Hebrew. I would take a word, look at all of its meanings in Strong’s, and then pick the one I thought fit best. Or, what was worse, I might try to fit them all in at once- that produced some interesting theology.
But just as in English, one word can have a variety of meanings which aren’t synonymous. Take the word well, for instance. What does well mean? That depends. Consider the following statement:
Well, I went to the well, and when I got there I felt so well that my eyes began to well.
Four uses of the word well with four different meanings. And consider that though the meaning of well in the phrase “Well, well, well” is related to the first usage in the sentence above, it has an almost entirely different meaning colloquially. And this is a word with a relatively small semantic range- just try looking up “what” in a good dictionary sometime.
So one word can have a number of different meanings, that’s clear. Coming back to word studies, the question to ask is not just “What can this word mean?” but rather “What does this word mean, in this context?”
Not that I intend to answer that question- at least, not today. But it is a question which ought to be asked.