Welcome to another installment of Teaching Tip Thursday!
Today’s Tip: Define Terms
As I have said in multiple posts, my children have blessed me with both humility and enlightenment. We read together daily, and my children don’t hesitate to ask, “what does ‘exasperated’ mean?” (haha!) Even though I consider myself to have an extensive vocabulary, I’m not always sure how to verbally explain certain concepts. Sometimes I will look up the word or nab a picture off the internet.
In teaching (or studying) the scriptures, consider defining terms from time to time. Although I had heard spiritual terms (e.g. sin, justification, righteousness, and grace) for years, I did not apprehend their full meaning until various teachers took a few extra minutes to define them.
It’s all Greek (or Hebrew) to me…
Our current Bible is comprised of ancient manuscripts composed long before the advent of the English Language. The Old Testament was recorded (primarily) in Hebrew. The Septuagint (a later copy of the Old Testament scriptures) was written in Greek. The original language of the New Testament manuscripts was Koine (common) Greek. Take care when searching for definitions to take the original language into consideration!
The Bible Study Tools website offers free access to multiple tools, including Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Strong’s provides the Greek or Hebrew Word found in a particular passage along with a brief definition. Bible Gateway provides free access to Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
For example: In the Greek Language, there are multiple ways to convey the word “love.” In English, we only have that single word. Agape is a benevolent love, Phileo is brotherly love, and Eros is romantic love (and there are even more than those three!). In 1 Corinthians 13, the word “love” used there is derived from the greek, “Agape.” In 1 John 2, when he writes, “do not love the world.” The term is Agapao, meaning, “to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing.” A few verses later he writes, “the love of the Father is not in him.” That word love is agape (benevolent) love.
A plain old dictionary is helpful too…
As I was reading Romans this week, I noticed in verse four that Paul used the words “forbearance” and “patience” together: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience…” As I have always associated forbearance with patience, I thought it odd that He would use both those words in the same sentence. It seemed redundant! Puzzled, I pulled out my well-worn college dictionary. While the word “forbearance” does infer “patience” it is also defined as, “a refraining from the enforcement of something (as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due.”
Oh wow. That helps! God has every right to exact judgment upon us, and yet He gives us the opportunity to repent!
Of course, there are free dictionaries available on the internet. So if you don’t have one in your home, you can type it into Google and access Merriam-Websters and more.
Take care not to overdo it.
I recall a period of time in which one of the preachers I knew had slipped into the habit of defining a greek word at the beginning of nearly every sermon. While it did not disturb me much, I noticed many of my friend’s eyes glazing over before we even got through the introduction. Defining terms is useful, but can be overdone. Take care! Sprinkle your lessons with definitions like you would lightly salt your food; do not drench it as you would a pancake in syrup.
If you have missed previous “Teaching Tip Thursday’s” here is a short list of what we’ve touched on previously:
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