TEACH HIM HOW TO FISH
T. PIERCE BROWN
If you give a hungry man a fish, you may help him for the hour, but if you teach him how to fish, you may help him for life. So when I teach a person in a home Bible study, I almost always teach him how to study the Bible for himself, introducing him, among other things, to Young’s Concordance. The Bible excepted, I consider it about the most valuable tool I have, and think we do a great disservice if we do not teach its proper use. I have been amazed at the number of teachers and preachers who do not rally know how to use it properly. However, I should not be, for in none of the six schools I attended at undergraduate or graduate level was I taught how to use a concordance. I suppose it was assumed that anyone with enough sense to use a dictionary would not need instruction about how to find a word. And that may be true, but there is far more to the use of a good concordance than merely looking up a word.
For example, a person might get quite a shock if he had not learned something about Young’s and turned to “baptize” and discovered in italics, “To consecrate (by pouring out on, or putting into).” Of course this is not the Bible meaning of the term, but one need not be disturbed at all if he understands that it is perfectly legitimate to have a “dictionary definition” of a word, as long as one knows that it is not necessarily a Bible definition. One might assume, however, that a concordance of the Bible would only include a Bible definition if someone did not teach him otherwise.
If one looks under the word “melody” (psallo), he may find “To play on a stringed instrument.” Then he would find the reference in Eph. 5:19, “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” He would have great difficulty seeing how he could play on a stringed instrument in the heart. Under the word “sing” (psallo), he may find “To sing praise with a musical instrument.” Under the word “psalms” (psallo), he may find, “To sing songs of praise.” Now, it would be evident that if a word in the New Testament (or any other place) means, “to play on a stringed instrument,” if he did it he would have to play on a stringed instrument! Surely it takes no scholar, Greek or otherwise, to see that “to sing a song of praise” is not the same as “to play on a stringed instrument.” My little 3-year-old grand daughter knows if I tell her to sing a song, she does something different than if I tell her to play! A person not familiar with the purpose and use of a concordance might assume that psallo actually means, “to sing praises with or without a mechanical instrument with strings.” It does not.
Let us use an illustration to help clarify the point we are making here. Suppose we look under the word “milk” from the Greek gala. Young might have defined it, “Milk, with or without cornbread.” I would have little argument with the statement, Gala means milk, with or without cornbread. That means, “It simply means `milk’.” But the truth of the matter is, gala does not mean “milk, with cornbread”, or “milk, without cornbread.” It just means “milk.” Students, as well as scholars, need to learn the significance of punctuation marks. There is a great deal of difference between the statement, “Woman! Without her, man would be a beast!” and “Woman without her man would be a beast.” There is also a great deal of difference in saying that gala means milk, with or without cornbread, and that gala means “milk, with or without cornbread.” The last statement means that “with or without cornbread” is inherent in the meaning of the term “gala” and that simply is not so. Certainly one may drink milk with or without cornbread. But if God said, “Drink milk with cornbread,” that does not authorize us to drink milk without cornbread. And vice versa.
It is true that one may psallo AND play on a stringed instrument, and one may psallo and NOT have a mechanical musical instrument. But the word psallo cannot mean “to play” and “not play” at the same time. One could psallo and ride a horse, or psallo and carry in firewood. But that does not indicate that psallo MEANS “sing and ride a horse” or “sing and carry in wood.”
But my purpose in this article is not to deal with the original meaning of psallo, or even its New Testament meaning. Nor is it my purpose to address the very important issue of whether one may do without sin what he is not authorized to do. Nor does it deal with how one gets authority, either generic or specific. We have here only tried to emphasize the care one needs to use as attempts to properly evaluate what he finds in some very valuable Bible aids, and how he needs to teach others how to use those aids properly.