Have you ever played the game Telephone with your friends? The first person has a phrase and they tell the person next to them, then that person passes on what they heard to the next person, and so on. By the end of the game, the phrase the last person heard can be much different than what the first person said.
Some things get lost or mixed up during translation.
You might hear people say that the same thing has happened to the Bible. The Bible was written thousands of years ago, and some verses got mixed up in translation.
Thankfully, the Bible translators spend hours reading, studying, and translating thousands of manuscripts. Most Bible translations took years to complete and a team of well-studied professionals. We also need to recognize that God is careful to preserve His Word. I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. But, I’ll also say that there is value in studying the original languages of the Bible: mainly Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament.
We should study the original language. Not necessarily because the English translation is wrong, but because we can get further insight into the Bible. There isn’t any language in the Earth that perfectly translates to another language. Some words in Greek simply don’t exist in English, and other Greek words could have 5 different English translations that are all correct.
If you’ve come across a verse that you want to study further, looking at the Greek meaning of the word definitely helps.
There are a few different ways you can study Greek words in the Bible. You can use a Bible concordance, which can be found online or a physical book. You can also read different English translations of the verse you want to study to get a better understanding of the words.
I’ll share how to use a concordance, using Matthew 6:24 as an example.
When I want to learn more about a specific Bible verse, the first thing I’ll do is read other translations. Most of them will be very similar, but they might have a few different words, or words in a different order. Sometimes we need to hear the same thing said in a few different ways to fully understand it.
I usually like to look at the NIV, NLT, NKJV, ESV, and AMP versions. If you search for a verse on Google, it’s easy to find all of the English translations in one place. The YouVersion Bible app can also help compare different translations.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Matthew 6:24 NIV
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord].”
Matthew 6:24 AMP
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Matthew 6:24 ESV
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Matthew 6:24 NKJV
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
Matthew 6:24 NLT
You can see that each translation gives the same message, there are just a few words that are different. This happens because there are Greek words that can have multiple English equivalents. Some translations use a thought-for-thought translation, and others use a word-for-word translation. I believe that reading multiple translations gives you a more complete view of the Bible. You’ll also find that some translations are easier for you to read and understand.
A Bible concordance is like a dictionary for the Bible. It has all of the words you’ll find in the Bible, and definitions in the original Hebrew or Greek. You can also quickly find all of the other Bible verses that have that word.
I have a concordance and it’s easily the biggest book on my bookshelf. It’s a King James Version, so every word that’s in the KJV Bible is listed in the concordance alphabetically. Here’s how I looked up the word “serve” in Matthew 6:24.
First, I grabbed my concordance. If you like to read and study a physical Bible having a concordance by your side is helpful. There are online concordances, but using your phone or computer to look up a word can get you distracted.
Next, I went to “S” since I wanted to find the word “Serve”. Under Serve is a list of every KJV verse that has the word “Serve” in it. Serve is a popular term that’s used a lot in the Bible, so there’s a long list of different verses. I wanted to find the verse in Matthew.
Now that I found the verse I’m looking for, I look at the G#### next to that verse. The different G or H numbers mean that there are different Greek and Hebrew words that have been translated into the word “serve”.
I can also see every other verse where the same Greek word is used. The word in Matthew 6:24 is also used in Luke 15:29, Romans 7:6, Galatians 5:13, Colossians 3:24, and more. The concordance can help you find a lot of verses that are similar. For example, if you wanted to learn more about trust, you could quickly find every Bible verse that has the word trust in it.
The last step is to find G1398 because that’s the Greek word that’s used in Matthew 6:24. Here, I’ll find a dictionary-style definition of the Greek word. The definition will usually be easy to understand and give you a few synonyms of the word.
If you don’t want to flip through pages of a physical book searching for a Greek word, you can use the an online concordance instead. I think that a physical concordance book has a lot of helpful info, and if you’re easily distracted, it might be a better choice than searching online.
When I’m researching or writing content and want to learn more about a Greek word, I’ll use an online concordance instead of the physical book. But if I’m reading my physical Bible, I don’t want to get distracted by my phone or computer.
BibleHub is usually the easiest website with an online concordance for me to navigate on my laptop. If you’d rather use your phone, and there’s a free Strong’s Concordance app you can find in the app store.
To find a Greek word, I’ll just type “Matthew 6:24 Greek” into the Google search bar and click on the BibleHub.com.
Here, you’ll find an interlinear Greek translation of the verse. This is a word-by-word translation of the verse. The English is in red, and Greek writing is in black, and the English pronunciation of the Greek word is in blue. You’ll also see that the same number that was in the physical concordance “1398” is above the word “serve”.
When you click on that number, you’ll find some similar information as the physical concordance.
You can see a dictionary definition of the Greek word, a few synonyms, and a list of other Bible verses that have the same word.
Those are the three ways that you can study Greek words in the Bible and get some additional insight into God’s word!