First, let me address this… There is no wrong or shame in using Bible study tools.
Riplinger-ites and Ruckman-ites are completely opposed to the use of any Bible study helps. Let’s face it – there is NOTHING wrong with having a book that lists the location EVERY word in the Bible is written. Gail Riplinger wrote a massive book a few years ago on the “toxic” effects of using a Strong’s concordance. Why? It’s not the King James Bible. Some attempts were made to smear Strong’s memory by describing him as a Methodist, and the activities of the Methodist denomination TODAY somehow taints the work of a 130 year old concordance.
Unlike Nave’s Topical Bible or a commentary, telling me what verses the word “Avoid” can be found is not retroactively tainted by what the United Methodists today are doing. Strong’s book is fairly good, and I’ve seen no doctrinal bias. Tomorrow, I’ll be writing on what the Strong’s is, how to use it, and more importantly how NOT to use it (I’ll give you a big, big hint – the most common usage of the Strong’s is exactly what you should not be doing).
I’ll mention that back in the hardcover book days, my favorite concordance was not Strong’s, but rather, Young’s. I don’t know if Piplinger tried a smear campaign on that book. Bottom line, a concordance is just a list of words of the Bible and their verse locations. There’s no mortal sin in using one. Could you just read the Bible over and over again and not use one? Yes. Men like Matthew Henry were able to compile their commentaries without access to Concordances, which were few and far between. Can you survive without a Concordance? Let’s test it. Tell me every verse where the words “wot” and “wist” (which are the same word, just different tenses) can be found, from memory.
Similarly the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge. Those who’ve made it their habit to use that book when studying the Bible have had great increases of Bible knowledge. It too is free of doctrinal bias, for the same reason. (I keep meaning to use this book, but alas, I have a habit of forgetting).
Topical Bibles is where you have to use a little discretion. John MacArthur has a Topical Bible for sale. I doubt I would ever buy it for myself, because I’m sure that, while it would be good, it would be heavily biased towards 4 1/2 point Calvinism.
Topical Bibles are lists of topics, and where you can find all the verses (supposedly) on that subject. First, the most popular one is Orville Nave’s Topical Bible. It’s fairly good. BUT – I can honestly tell you that he is missing many, many verses on the topics he has chosen to list. He also is a denier of Hell, and he has copious editorial notes showing his bias against it. Nave was something of a modernist, and some care must be taken when using his.
Ruben Archer Torrey, best known as “Torrey” because most people can’t remember what the R. A. stand for, also has a Topical Bible. His is not as biased, but it has even less verses on the topics. If one compares the two against each other and uses a little discernment… one can get the information one is looking for.
Commentaries require a lot more discernment than does a Topical Bible. The reason is, where there is some area where one can use doctrinal or denominational bias in a topical Bible, there is AMPLE opportunity to place doctrinal or denominational bias in a commentary. Adam Clarke is one of the best commentators, but be aware he is a modernist in areas like women preachers, and writes his strongly opinionated bias in those verses that specifically forbid women preachers. In other words, he tries to argue with God. Our commentaries should be free of such issues, but alas, they are not.
Matthew Henry is the old standby, but be advised – while his commentaries are EXTREMELY good, he wrote only the sections on the Old Testament and the Gospels, and parts of the New Testament. Several of the New Testament books were written by some of his students. The Exhaustive commentaries sometimes list in the introduction the names of these students. Where Henry seems to be Pre-Tribulationalist in some of his comments, his later students all were Historic Preterist, and so you see comments about the sixth trumpet being fulfilled in the twelfth century, etc.
Commentaries for me are “take it or leave it”. I can read a commentary and say to myself, “nope, not even close”. Why? Because Biblically, we are all told we have an unction to understand the Bible, and nowhere in the Bible do we see any reference to a Pope or a Universal Church who determines the correct, authoritative interpretation of the bible for us. My readers sometimes spot errors in my writings, and let me know the corrections. Why? They have the same unction I have, and often, my brain may have been tired and theirs was not. Every Christian has the same ability to know the Bible that I do.
There is also no shame in knowing Greek or Hebrew. I am sometimes stupified to hear other Christians angrily comment we should confine ourselves to the English. Well, yes, we can all understand the English King James Bible. If you read the above paragraph, I made that clear.
Here’s a question… does the Bible ever use the same word as “sons of God”, referring to Christians, as it does to Jesus Christ as the “son of God?” Answer – no. Uios in Greek is for son, and Tekton is children. Two different words. 1 John 3:1 is Tekton, and John 1:18 is Uios. There’s a HUGE difference. Both are translated Son and sons. The translators of the King James utilyzed the use of capitol letters to distinguish between the two words! The facts are – English does not have as many words as Koine Greek does. Koine Greek also has participles that English does not have. It’s staggering how completely precise Koine Greek is.
Do you need Koine Greek to understand the Bible? By no means. Many, many people have read just the King James and have profited IMMENSELY by that. However, if you are going to be a teacher, and instruct in Bible doctrine, I strongly recommend it.
I also strongly recommend a study of Hebrew, and if you’re going to make emphatic pronouncements on Jewish culture, a one semester course in the Jewish Lifestyle would be strongly recommended – alas, I don’t know of any seminaries that offer one. I grow sick of hearing of the village elder and all the people living in the village gathering on the outskirts to greet a dignitary. Um, no. Only if it was a life and death matter like, war. We’re not at war with God, so we wouldn’t all meet on the outskirts of the Earth to greet Jesus Christ. Although come to think of it, the Preterists may well be at war with God, so yes… they will be gathering at Har Meggido to attack Jerusalem at Armageddon!
Bible tools. tomorrow, I’ll start teaching how to use them.