Per my last post, I want to share some online tools you can easily use to dig deeper into Bible verses to help your understanding. A couple preliminaries first.
In the last post, I took the position that Jesus was minimizing any derogatory comments to the Canaanite woman by referring to her as a household pet and not a stray dog. I believe that to be true, as do some commentators, but others think Jesus was derogatory.
When comparing the thoughts of others and researching as best you can into the language, culture, geography, etc. it is important to do so from a position of humility. When I share my opinion with you, it is based on my best understanding of what I have studied. When anyone forms an opinion, a fundamental assumption must be that the position is wrong.
I will leave it there. Let’s get on with the Blue Letter Bible.
In your browser, navigate to blueletterbible.org. (If you are using a tablet or phone, you can download the BLB app. Navigation within the app is different. The “interlinear” and other tabs we will look at below can be found by tapping on the righthand side of the verse you are interested in.) First of all, you may be familiar with the Red Letter Bibles where the words of Jesus are printed in red letters. According to a search by Bing’s AI Chat:
The Blue Letter Bible is so called because of the blue color of the hyperlinks. The name “Blue Letter Bible” also contrasts with the term “red letter Bible”, which is a common form of printed Bible with key words, such as the words of Jesus, highlighted in red1.
According to the Blue Letter Bible website, the name Blue Letter Bible was chosen because of the blue color of the hyperlinks. With hundreds of thousands of links that were all blue, they decided to call it the Blue Letter Bible as a play on the more commonly referenced red-letter editions of Scripture2.bing.com/chat
(I will be discussing the use of AI in an upcoming post. Spoiler alert… I am finding it most useful.)
The Blue Letter Bible site offers many useful tools for your Bible studies. The top banner provides detailed information on the many sections and tools within the Blue Letter Bible (BLB) site.
Click on SEARCH in the top banner. The drop-down provides a quick method of locating a verse. Let’s go to Matt 15:21 where we studied in the last post. Input the information into the search bar as shown below. I selected the ESV Bible translation from the grid. (There will be a quick tutorial to demonstrate how the grid works when you access it the first time.) Then click the arrow.
You are taken to verse 21 in chapter 15, but if you scroll up, you will see that the entire chapter is provided. As you scroll up, notice the section header The Faith of a Canaanite Woman, and the verses Mar 7:24-30 referenced beneath. Hover over the verse reference and the verse will pop up. Click on the reference and you will be taken there. Use the browser’s back arrow to return to Matthew.
As you explore the banner at the top of the page you will find navigation buttons, copy, format, and even a Red Letter button so Jesus’s words are highlighted. You can explore as desired but for now, scroll down to verse 26.
Please notice the copy icon between TOOLS and the verse reference. When you click on it, a checkmark appears. Use this to select verses you wish to copy. Then use the COPY and COPY OPTIONS buttons in the top banner to copy these verses onto your clipboard. Copy options will pre-format the look of the quote.
Now click on the verse reference (or the Tools button). A popup with colored tabs (and an X to close it) will appear below the verse. The first tab is INTERLINEAR. This is where we can dig into the original language.
Notice first that the verse is shown in Greek at the top. This is from the source manuscript used in the translation of this (ESV) Bible. (Don’t fret, there are only two primary texts translators use. Lord willing we will cover this in a future post.)
There are two ways to look at the Greek in the section below: Forward and Reverse. Forward takes the Greek as written and provides the translation. Reverse takes the English translation and provides the Greek. Usually, the Reverse method will work best for you IMHO.
You may also notice that the translation down the left is not 100% as you expect. To find out why, click on the [?] next to “English (NASB)” above the column. It gets technical.
Working left to right, if you click on the word (such as “dogs”) or the “PHRASE” button, you will get a list of everywhere the word or phrase is used in the translation you started in (such as the ESV here) in the Old and New Testaments. This is a great tool to look for similar word usage in a “word study”.
The next column is labeled “Strong’s”. In 1890, James Strong published a book containing a list of every word in the King James Version Bible (KJV). He referenced the translated word to the original Hebrew or Greek word and assigned a number to each original word. Making this a bit confusing, only root words have numbers assigned. So if a Greek word has a prefix that renders it a negative, only the root is given.
Look at each of the words in the “Inflected, Root & Transliteration” column. You will see in each of these three cases that the Inflected (as written in the manuscript) word is different than the Root word. If you know a foreign language it is common for a word to be modified. For example, verbs are commonly modified to represent past and future tense. In English, the verb walk uses the suffix “ed” to indicate past tense. If James Strong was citing the word “walked”, he would reference it under the root “walk”.
Finally, Hebrew words are cited as H… and Greek words are cited as G… In each case, a reference number is given.
Click on G2952. The resulting page has more information than you will initially need. Looking at the highlights, we have a Transliteration that is essential if you are taking notes or sharing with a friend. You also have the Pronunciation so you can say the word with reasonable accuracy. Audio of the pronunciation is available just to the right of this.
The next line tells us this is a neuter noun. (Language still only provides three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.) Then, to the right, is the word root. Most words come from a root that helps us understand the fundamental concept. It is helpful, especially in this study, to click on the G2965.
But first… let’s finish this entry. If you are deep into Greek grammar, the next line shows you variations of the word. Clicking on each word shows you in which verses they appear.
Each section of this page can take you deeper down the rabbit hole. But what we primarily want is a definition. Just a little further down we find definitions from several sources. Here we find “a little dog” and “puppy”. In the Strong’s Definitions box, we see G2965 again and can click here to get to that page also.
The same sections appear and after reviewing them we can draw the following conclusions. Notice first, this is a masculine noun where G2952 was neuter. This alone helps me envision the difference between a wild and aggressive animal versus a household pet.
In the definition section, there are no qualifiers that might soften the meaning. This is a dog (“hound”).
Note also that in come usage, the word is used in a very derogatory manner. Using this information and the information derived from Matt 15, I hope you can clearly see how I formed my conclusion that Jesus was not demeaning the woman but referring to her as part of the family.
There are so many paths I can take you down. Do you have a specific area of interest? What types of questions do you have about the Bible and how to understand it more clearly? Please leave a comment below or e-mail me confidentially at info@JDRockel.com.