One of the greatest comedy sequences in a contemporary movie has to be the kidnap and escape scene from The Princess Bride. Inigo, Fezzik, and Vizzini, a band of mostly-good bad guys, kidnap Princess Buttercup, taking her across the sea and up the cliffs of insanity. They are pursued, however, by the mysterious man in black. When he is first seen and is gaining on the outlaws, Vizzini responds, “Inconceivable!!” Then when the giant Fezzik hauls the other two kidnappers and the princess up the cliffs of insanity by a rope, Vizzini says, “Only Fezzik is strong enough to go up this way!” Then Inigo points out that the man in black is climbing the rope, to which Vizzini responds, “Inconceivable!!” Finally they reach the top of the cliff, cutting the rope, thinking the man in black will plunge to his death. When he doesn’t and continues to climb the cliff with his bare hands, Vizzini shouts in exasperation, “Inconceivable!!!!” To which Inigo replies, “That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Words are strange and wonderful things. They make communication possible, from mundane, day-to-day fact sharing, to the richest literature. Yet, at the same time, the flexibility of words can make us struggle with discerning the exact meaning of a passage of Scripture. Consequently, words demand attention, challenging us to probe their secrets.
In this post I want to make a case for learning the basics of doing word studies, whether we are pulling out the shovel of deeper Bible study or the trowel of basic Bible reading. Here are 4 motivations.
1. Words matter. Words are the threads woven together to make up the fabric of Scripture and thus are foundational to any faith that claims to be biblically based. In a 2010 blog post, Justin Taylor, co-author with John Piper on The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, wrote the following on the importance of words for Christianity:
“What do words have to do with Christianity? Almost everything. At every stage in redemptive history—from the time before time, to God’s creation, to man’s fall, to Christ’s redemption, and to the coming consummation —“God is there and he is not silent” [Francis Schaeffer].”