Being a Good Berean – Studying For Yourself

One of the wonderful things about the modern age is that with the internet we have so much access to a broad array of Bible knowledge. I have a terrible time memorizing chapter and verse references. However, I often remember phrases, so what I will do is type a Bible phrase into Google and let it do the work. I want to walk you through some practical ways you can use the internet to deepen your understanding of Scripture. I want to encourage you like Paul encouraged believers in the book of Acts to be good Bereans.

I went to Google and typed in “Be a good Berean” and in .35 seconds I had 877,000 results. Now how many of those might be useful to me I have no clue. I have better things to do than to try to figure that out. The very first result came up with my favorite online Bible study site – Bible Hub: https://biblehub.com/acts/17-11.htm

I am going to walk you through this page to give you better understanding of what all is available to use in your study of Scripture. There is so much information available by clicking on the various links on the above page. I do not even grasp all that is available, but I will point out some of my favorite features.

I love having so many translations listed. The Bible has been translated so many different times over the centuries by different groups of translators who had different theological backgrounds. Various nuances in the English language have shifted over time. Various translations are written with slightly different goals. Some are written with the goal to be as close to word-to-word as possible to the original Greek and Hebrew. Some are written to be as accurate as possible in the thought-by-thought translation. Some with the goal to be most easily understood by the average person in the time when the translation was made.

What I like to do is to look down the list of translations for key words or phrasing. I figure if the same word or phrase pops up consistently in most translations then there is a high probability that the scholars over the centuries have agreed upon the correct translation and most likely have translated it correctly without bias. For instance, the first translation that pops up is the New International has this phrase, “examined the Scriptures every day”.

As I glance through the translations, I constantly see various combinations of the words examined, Scriptures and day in the list. Now some may use the exact same phrase and some may use a word such as “studied” rather than “examined” or “daily” instead of “day”. So there seems be a consensus throughout all of the translations that the Greek was communicating that these people were examining the Scriptures daily and they were being commended for that devotion to Scripture.

Sometimes I will focus in on a key word and see how close the translations agree. At times I hear sermons on a verse or I read a book or blog post on a verse and the person preaching or writing will use a slightly different word which has a slightly different emphasis than what other preachers or writers have used. Sometimes they will make a major point about why they are using a slightly different word.

Sometimes if the word used is slightly different than I am used to hearing in that verse – the preacher/writer may very well bring out a nuance of that word that I have not heard before – it helps me to have a deeper understanding. Other times, I suspect that he may be pushing his own theological agenda by using a slightly different English word that might be one possible translation, but not a commonly accepted translation by scholars.
Many times the speaker/write will use a more rare (to me) English version of a word. It’s just like different parts of the country can debate whether dinner means the noon meal or the evening meal, or if Coke means the brand Coca-Cola or it means any type of soft drink. I want to “be a good Berean” and see for myself what English word seems to be the best fit for the context.

For an example of studying a very short word or phrase let’s look down through the translations to see how the phrase “noble character” is translated. I see “noble minded”, “noble”, “open minded”, “receptive”, “nicer”, “nobler”, “receptive disposition”, and a few other words or phrases. In this case I don’t think any of them change the basic concept but just give a slightly different emphasis. Sort of like each time you turn a diamond you see it in a slightly different way.

If you look at the right hand side of the page you can see various study Bible notes, cross references and a treasury of Scripture knowledge. If you keep paging down you get to the lexicon with word-by-word links to Strong’s Concordance. In layman’s terms a lexicon is a dictionary that shows what Greek words mean in another language (in my case English). It also shows whether the word is a noun, verb, masculine, feminine, etc. It also shows the Strong’s Concordance number. Each different word in the Bible has been assigned a number by Strong’s, so with a little research you can see all the other places in the Bible that a word was used and how it was used.

At the bottom of the page, there is more commentary.

If you go back to the top right under the words “Bible Hub”, you will see initials for the various translations in a row that starts with NIV, NLT, ESV etc. If you hover over the various initials you can see what translation each set of letter means and you can click to go to that translation.

If you go one line down to where it says “Parallel, Sermons, etc.” you can click on all sorts of links as you go across. One of my favorites is the interlinear.

https://biblehub.com/interlinear/acts/17-11.htm. The center line is the actual Greek. The red line below the Greek is what the Greek says in English. The bottom line is the various parts of speech of the Greek words. The line above the Greek is apparently the Greek words spelled out in our English alphabet, and the top line is the Strong’s numbers that I mentioned before.

Going back to the original page where we began https://biblehub.com/acts/17-11.htm, the third line that starts with “PAR, TSK, etc.” has lots of other information that you can click on.

Another really important feature to me is to click on the version name from the original page https://biblehub.com/acts/17-11.htm to get the whole chapter rather than just the verse. I really like reading a whole chapter and sometimes into the prior chapter or the succeeding chapter to get the context of the passage.

Right under the Chapter and Verse headings there are even more letters, “SUM, PIC, etc.” that link to even more information.

Another Bible Study website I like is Bible Gateway: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+17%3A11&version=NIV

If you search around, you will find many similar features to Bible Hub, but a couple I really like are available if you click on the cog icon next to the printer icon. On the cog icon you can turn on and off footnotes, cross references, verse numbers, headings and red letters for the words of Jesus. I like to turn off everything except the red letters. I have found the best way to get great context and perspective of what the Scripture is saying is to turn all of those other things off.

Sometimes I believe our thinking about Scripture can get so clouded by where someone many years ago chose to make a verse break or a chapter break or a heading that they chose to put in that we can lose perspective or get distracted about what Scripture was really saying. All of those things are helpful in their own way and at certain times of study, but sometimes it is nice to see Scripture with the extra features turned off. (Imagine that your spouse might lose the meaning you were trying to convey if you wrote them a several page love letter with chapters, verses, and headings, and footnotes to commentary about what you just said.)

Another source of great bible information is The Blue Letter Bible. https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/act/17/11/s_1035011

I believe that all three of these websites have apps for smartphones and tablets. You can search for “You Version” on your phone or tablet also. I believe it was specifically designed for mobile devices.

It is amazing the amount of Bible information that you can have at your fingertips for free. In the past a lot of this was only available to people in seminary or people with the money to purchase a lot of expensive books.

Using these tools alone will not make me a Greek or Hebrew scholar but when I hear a sermon or read a blog post by different speakers/authors and they disagree with what the proper translation from Greek to Hebrew is, I can look for myself at many resources from the experts and make my own decision about what seems the best translation.
I know I have presented a lot of information. If you have a printer it might be helpful to print this post off and then have it handy as you click on the various links above or if you can split screen your computer or have two monitors it maybe helpful to be reading some of the links in one screen and my notes in the other. I hope you have found this helpful as you study the Scriptures “like a good Berean”.

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