BIBLE INVESTIGATION METHOD
Pestilences; Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2); Christ's Return
(Investigator 193, 2020 July)
In the article "Jesus, Plagues and Covid-19" I wrote
"In the Old Testament
... the Hebrew word "dehver" (pestilences), which occurs 49 times,
appears 16 times together with the word "famine" as in the phrase
"famine and pestilence". (#192)
How did I find that out and how can you check whether it's correct?
RESEARCH IS IMPORTANT
Religious and political systems that cannot defend their ideology or
doctrines in open debate, cope by restricting people's access to
information. Prime examples are Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union,
North Korea and many religious cults.
One feature of cults is that they tell people what to believe — not how to do research and check their beliefs.
Some cults even command their members to read nothing religious except
the cult's own publications, arguing that all other religions are
deceptive. They tell converts to rely exclusively on books written by
the cult leaders and call such one-sided, restricted reading "research"
and "education". But it's actually indoctrination. Members who preach
to the public and claim they have "proved it" are merely parroting
My interest is to investigate the Bible. I check the Bible statement
after statement, whatever seems testable, by consulting the scientific
It is important, however, to understand the parts of the Bible that I
test or check. If I misunderstand something in the Bible and science
refutes what I misunderstand, then the biblical statement in question
will appear wrong when it’s I who am wrong.
An example where people misunderstand the Bible and even call their
misunderstanding "scientific truth" is the belief that the Universe is
only 6000 years old. To defend this belief the believers have to oppose
every scientific discovery that refutes it. They have to conduct a full
scale attack on science, thus attacking the method needed to establish
the facts. This is similar to dismissing arithmetic as worthless and
wrong while also claiming to be able to add and subtract accurately.
Therefore, follow with me as I explain one of my methods for finding
out what the Bible says. Most Bible translations can be read like any
other book and the understanding we get will be adequate. But sometimes
more than mere reading is needed. So bear with me.
There are books known as "concordances" that list alphabetically the
words located in the Bible and all the verses where each word occurs.
Some common words such as "I", "you", "in", "and", "a", "the" and a few
others may be omitted.
Young's Concordance and Strong's Concordance list the English words that appear in the King James Bible and every verse in which each English word occurs.
Other concordances list the original Hebrew or Greek words
alphabetically, along with a list of King James Bible verses where the
English equivalent of the word occurs.
To make this plainer consider page 334 in The Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance reproduced with this article.
Notice the word dehver and the list of verses in the Old Testament where dehver occurs (and its translation in the King James Bible). We see that dehver
is translated fairly consistently as "pestilence". If we want to know
how dehver is translated in other English Bibles we would have to look
up the verses in the other translation.
Was I right that dehver occurs 49 times including "16 times together
with the word 'famine'"? Page 334 is the place to check this out.
Counting from the list confirms 49 occurrences of dehver.
To count its conjunctions with "famine" it's not enough to count these
in the Concordance because the concordance-list reduces the Bible verse
to a phrase in which "famine" might be omitted although it appears in
the full verse. Therefore we need to check all the 49 listed verses in
the Bible. The two words occur together in Jeremiah 14:12; 21:9; 27:8,
13; 29:17, 18; 32:24, 36; 38:2; 42:17, 22; 44:13 and Ezekiel 5:12, 17;
6:11; 6:12; 7:15 twice; 12:16; 14:21.
That's 20 times not 16; my previous count was wrong. You might be a raw
beginner but you have just done research in Hebrew and corrected an
erroneous claim! Pat yourself on the head.
Study of this sort is often called "word studies". It may appear
tedious and boring to you. Therefore I repeat, for the most part it's
unnecessary. Most Bible translations are accurate enough, as is the
King James in translating dehver as "pestilence".
I'm not aware of any doctrinal disputes between religious cults that require a study of the word dehver to settle them.
On rare occasions, however, a word study may turn up a result that exposes nearly everyone as wrong.
Consider the Hebrew word ruach pronounced "roo'agh". Ruach occurs over 370 times in the Old Testament and is most often translated "spirit" and sometimes as "wind" and "breath".
In Genesis 1:2 the majority of Bible translations have "And the Spirit of God
moved upon the face of the deep". The majority of Christian
denominations interpret "Spirit" here as the third member of the
"Triune God". Others who don't believe in the Trinity interpret
"Spirit" here as a supernatural power or force emanating from God.
However, elsewhere in the Old Testament where the words ruach
and "God" come together the phrase is translated "wind of God". The
phrase "wind of God" is a figure of speech which refers to a powerful
wind. We can confirm this by looking up ruach
in the Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance and we'll find the following
verses where "wind" and "God" occur together —
Genesis 8:1; Exodus
10:13; 15:10; Numbers 11:31; Job 26:13; Psalm 107:24-25; 135:7; 147:18;
Isaiah 17:13; Jeremiah 10:13; 49:36; 51:1; Hosea 13:15; Jonah 1:4; 4:8.
Hence ruach in Genesis 1:2
should also refer to wind. The NRSV Bible is the only translation of
dozens that I checked which here has "wind" instead of "spirit" and
says: "a wind from God swept over the face of the waters."
I noted these things in the late 1970s and came up with an amazing conclusion:
Genesis 1:2ff describes Earth, before God created, as covered in water,
without light, windswept, and without plants or animals. This
description, I concluded, matches what the impact of a giant asteroid
into an ocean would do. Such an impact is something science could, if
it took place, potentially confirm. I discussed these points the first
time in Investigator 38.
I call it "amazing" because some scientists now, in the 21st century,
postulate that asteroid impacts of such gigantic proportions as to
flood the planet did occur.
Bontemps (2013) reports on the work of geologist Grant Young. Dr Young
postulates that a large asteroid impacted an ocean 570 million years
ago and changed Earth's tilt from 54o to the present 23½o:
"The impact could have blown a large portion of the ocean into the atmosphere" and "temporarily flooded the continents..."
Sumner (2015) citing the work of geologists D.R. Lowe and G.R. Byerly writes:
Evidence from ancient
rocks suggests that asteroids slammed into our planet around 3.3
billion years ago. The impacts would have released ... so much energy
that this heat baked the skies and boiled the oceans....
Following the impacts, air temperatures for weeks would
have exceeded 500° Celsius (932° Fahrenheit). The ocean surface
would have boiled for more than a year. Global sea levels might have
plummeted by as much as 100 meters (333 feet)...
Lowe estimates that the massive rocks measured 50 to 100 kilometers (up to 62 miles) across...
Word studies with concordances sometimes produce exciting ideas that anticipate future science!
What about doctrine? Can we with word studies settle doctrinal disputes or at least come to an informed conclusion?
A complicated doctrine is that of Christ's second coming. We would in this case use not the Englishman's Hebrew Concordance but the Englishman's Greek Concordance. The phrase "second coming" is not applied to Jesus in the Bible but words we can look up include:
• Apokalupsis: revelation / revealing
• Erkomai: come / coming
• Heeko: shall come; will come
• Parousia: presence / coming
We would look up the English words in the English Index section of the
Greek Concordance to get the Greek word and the Concordance-page on
which all of its occurrences in the New Testament are listed. For the
four words above the pages in my copy are 70, 301, 344 and 596. A quick
count shows that Apokalupsis occurs 18 times in the New Testament, Erkomai hundreds of times, Heeko 27 times, and Parousia 24 times.
The next part of our study of Christ's return would be to look up in an
English Bible all passages in which the four words are used of Jesus in
The Hebrew and Greek concordances are expensive. Young's Concordance is cheaper and also more likely to be available in a church library.
With Young's Concordance we
could miss out on seeing whether a word is translated uniformly. For
example if we look up "coming" we find it on page 188 together with the
word Greek word "parousia" and a list of 22 occasions where the King
James Bible translates "parousia" as "coming". We would not know from
this that there's another list on page 770 consisting of two
occurrences where "parousia" is translated "presence". The Greek Concordance, however, has all 24 instances in one list.
We could, however, go to the Index-Lexicon section near the back of Young's Concordance
and look up "parousia". Here we find out that it's translated 22 times
"coming" and twice as "presence". Having found this out we can look up
both English words in the main part of the Concordance and get all 24
verses that have "parousia".
Young's Concordance can thus save us from miscounting the total
occurrences of Hebrew or Greek words, because the Index-Lexicon gives
us the total. Parousia, we have just confirmed without doing any
counting, occurs 24 times. The Hebrew word dehver, Young's Index-Lexicon says, occurs 49 times, which confirms my count (and your count if you did it). Ruach,
which I claimed above occurs over 370 times, Young's Index-Lexicon says
occurs 374 times, and tells us that it is translated in the King James
Bible as: air 1, anger 1, blast 4, breath 28, cool 1, courage 1, mind
5, quarters 1, side 6, spirit 232, tempest 1, wind 90, vain 2,
Erkomai, which I mentioned above under "Doctrine", occurs 638 times.
Propagandists tell you what to believe, not how to do research to
refute it if it's wrong. As regards the Bible I have shared with you
how I do research to check matters out and improve my understanding.
However, in most of my Investigator articles I'm not concerned merely to understand what the Bible says, but more-so with whether what it says is correct.
To determine the Bible's correctness is a different sort of study and
involves checking the Bible against the scientific literature — as we
did with Genesis 1:2.
Bontemps, J. October 14, 2013
Lowe, D.R. and Byerly, G.R. Geologic record of partial ocean
evaporation triggered by giant asteroid impacts, 3.29–3.23 billion
years ago. Geology, June 2015, 43 (6), 535-538. Published online May 7, 2015.
Sumner, T. May 26, 2015
Wigram, G.V. 1903 The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament, Ninth Edition, Samuel Bagster and Sons, London
Wigram, G.V. The Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament, Fifth Edition, Samuel Bagster and Sons, London
Young, R. 1939 Analytical Concordance To The Holy Bible, Eighth Edition Revised (Reprint 1967), Lutterworth Press