The Bible is its Own Best Dictionary

This originally appeared as an email delivered on
Saturday, February 15th, 2014.

Dictionaries record the meaning of words. They are useful in Bible study.

However, the meanings of words in your Bible can change over time as less people use the Bible. For this reason, modern dictionaries sometimes can define Bible words incorrectly.

How can you guard against this? One way is to consult an older dictionary. A good popular recommendation is the Noah Webster’s Dictionary from 1828. It can be used or purchased online.

From two centuries ago, this dictionary will contain definitions closer to those used in your King James Bible.

Some skeptics of your Bible will complain that the first English dictionaries were not produced until long after the King James Bible was translated. They are right.

So, how did people know what words meant without a dictionary? Answer: their usage in the context. The Bible is a big enough book that it can supply a definition to many words by comparing all the verses using the word.

To find the meaning (or meanings) of the word “oracle” we can collect all the verses that contain it and compare. We can find helpful meanings in verses such as 1 Kings 6:16, Acts 7:38, Rom 3:2.

Modern dictionaries are better than none for Bible study. Older dictionaries are better at giving historical meanings, but the best dictionary is when the Bible defines its own terms.

For His glory,

Justin “definitive” Johnson

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