Every student of the Word of God can attest to the value of word study. The Spirit of God has not only inspired the truths of the Bible, but its very words. Valuable lessons and insights are given us in the series of articles which our brother has written.
Jeremiah said, “Thy words were found and I did eat them and Thy words were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (15:16)’ What a statement of the prophet’s diligence, for he says, “Thy words were found!” Thus it was the result of a persistent search, of his personal love for the Scriptures and of the joy he experienced as he ate the words! He ate them? What can he mean? Was he not like Bishop Westcott who wrote as a young man that since it had pleased God to reveal His mind to men through the medium of words, he would devote his life to their study?
Can we also study words? Can we feed upon them? Are there riches contained within the language of the Greek and Hebrew texts that cannot be fully conveyed in English but which are part of the intent of the Spirit of God? “All Scripture is God breathed” (2 Tim 3:16), and “Every word of God is purified” (Prov 30:5, Newberry margin), so we can expect a precision in the words, a study of which will richly repay us.
Let us journey from the rejoicing within the well nourished soul of the weeping prophet to a New Testament character from Romans 16:15 by the name of Philologus.
He is only mentioned once in Scripture yet there are fruitful lessons to be found in his name. It is made up f “phileo”– to love, and “logos” — word. Thus we have Philologus, a lover of words. He is a New Testament counterpart of Jeremiah.
Now what does it mean to be a Philologus, a lover of words? There are two main ways that one can study a book of the Bible. In the telescopic approach, we stand back and get a survey of the book to determine its structure, outline, central teaching and themes. This is perhaps the first approach which should be taken. The believer should read the book through, at a single setting, once a day for a month.
In this telescopic approach, however, he will notice that as he views the forest, there will be a number of words that he wants to study in more detail. Now he is going to shift and to bring out the microscope. He will study not only the trees, but the individual leaves.
Let’s take an example. You have read through the Philippian Epistle a number of times and have a sense of the character of this portion of Scripture. But you have noticed in the first two verses the words “servants, bishops, deacons.” What does each of the words mean? Let’s reach for the microscope and look in detail, as Philologus would, at these three “leaves” to see if we can exclaim as Jeremiah did, “Thy words were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
The first word, “servants” is a translation of the Greek word“doulos ” which represents a permanent relationship of servitude to another, a servitude in which the servant’s will is totally swallowed up in the will of another. He has no will of his own, is in the most abject form of slavery and is like the Hebrew servant who says, as his ear is about to be bored through with an aul, “I will not go out free” (Exod 21:1-6). The hole in the ear will for all his days mark him as one totally attentive to the voice of his master. He is a true bondslave.
The word translated “deacons” is “diakonos ” from the same root as the verb “to hasten after, to pursue, to run.” It represents not a servant in relation to his master as does “doulos” but a servant in relation to his sphere of service.
Both words were used by the Lord. In Mark 10:45, the key verse which unlocks this gospel, we read, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.” The word “minister” is the verbal form of “diakonos”. But in Phil 2:7 we read, “Having taken the form of a servant(doulos),” and so we contemplate Him who has gone from sovereignty to the lowly place of the bondservant with His will totally subject to that of the Father. Of men and of God He wasthe “diakonos”. But only by God could He be called the “doulos”, for only to God could His will be subjected as the great antitype of the servant who said, “I love my master … I will not go out free.”
Of course, our study of these two words will not be complete until we have looked at all the New Testament occurrences of the noun, verb and adjectival forms of each of the words. Only then can we put down the microscope.
An examination of the word “bishops” will lead us to see that it is from the word “episkopos” which means to inspect, to oversee, to care for, to look upon and to look after. As a noun, it is found in Acts 20:28, Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:7 and 1 Pet 2:25. A related noun is used in Luke 19:44, Acts 1:20, 1 Tim 3:1, 1 Peter 2:12. Its verbal forms are found in Hebrews 12:15 and 1 Peter 5:2. In combination with other words, we see it in 1 Peter 4:15 where “busybody” is really “an overseer of the concerns of others”. This gives us a total of four overseers in 1 Peter. Can you find them all?
So now we have taken the microscopic approach, and this in an incomplete manner, to only two verses of the epistle. Have we been fed? Have we rejoiced as Jeremiah?
Returning to Philologus, he would have used a microscopic approach in his meditations. If the Julia mentioned in the verse was indeed his wife, then how great would have been her privilege as Philologus would say, “Let me show you what words I have found within the Word today”
What tools will you need in order to become a Philologus? Get a Vine’s Dictionary first and a Strong’s Concordance. You will also need the latest edition of the Englishman’s Greek Concordance which is tied to the Strong’s numbering system. This will get you started. Many things can be added later. Mr. F.W.Grant said, “It is the character of the Word of God to leave something to be the reward of diligence.”