We would like to share with you some basic knowledge of the Bible and how to apply the First Occurrence Principle to interpret the Bible.
As you may know, the Bible contains two parts, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The New Testament was written in Greek. For people who want to know what the Bible says in its original languages, they must need to learn those two languages first.
Or do they? Well, it happened that an American Bible scholar, named James Strong (1822-1894), and a team of nearly 100 others, in an age when there were no computers, came up with a way to assign a number to each and every word in the OT and NT. This number system is called Strong Numbers. Each of the more than 8000 words in the Hebrew OT, and more than 5000 words in the Greek NT are arranged in a systematic manner with a number. The words are arranged in an alphabetical way then associated with a sequential number.
The Old Testament numbers have an H in front. The New Testament numbers start with a “G”. You can imagine these two strands of numbers, one strand for the OT, and one strand for the NT, formed like a DNA double helix.
So, even if you know zero Hebrew and zero Greek, you can read the Bible based on the Strong Numbers. So for any particular Hebrew or Greek word, you can know what is its meaning, is it a verb or a noun, is it singular or plural, and what is its tense, etc.
Strong Numbers were first published with its explanations in English. However, now, it has been translated into many languages, including Chinese. And they are easily accessible through APPs like “WeiDu Bible”.
Here we will introduce the concept of Root Words. Every word has its meaning, but in its original languages, often a word has its own root indicating where that word came from. The root word is like the father. The father has many children, so they are a family with one father over everyone. In other words, the father is the oldest. Even if he has many children and grandchildren, they all come from him. If we have trouble understanding the meaning of a word, we can always go up to find where that word comes from and seek a deeper meaning. Sometimes even if we understand the surface meaning of a word, we may have to dig deeper to its original root word to find a deeper meaning.
That is why we have so many version of the Bible, but not one version that can incorporate the meaning of the root words into it, because the meaning of the root words are on a different level.
Let’s give you an example. In Genesis, it describes God creating the first day. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” From the meaning of the word, “night” is where you cannot see. But “night” or H3915, has a root word, H3883, its meaning is “spiral step”. How can one add this level of meaning “spiral step” into the translation then? So you see, if one wished to incorporate the meaning of the root word into the translation, it is virtually impossible.
This creates a problem. If we truly want to know the meaning of an original word, we must get to its root meaning. However, we often encounter such a difficulty that even when know the meaning of an original word and the meaning of its root word, we cannot connect these two together. This becomes an obstacle for many who are truly serious about the Bible’s original word studies.
To help remove this obstacle, God has now given us a special gift which also brings out an unprecedented breakthrough. That is, instead of using the First Occurrence Principle (FOP) to study words in the English Bible, we apply this same principle to the original Hebrew and Greek words. In other words, through checking the first occurrence of an original word or its root word, we could find the associated verse that helps us perceive the deeper meaning of the original text.
In keyword studies we normally carry out, we tend to pay attention to the context of a particular verse. Once in a while we may on purpose or naturally apply the FOP in order to understand the meaning of a particular word. However, we have not seen anyone trying to apply the First Occurrence Principle to word studies involving the original words including their root words.
Before computers came along and were widely used, someone might have thought about doing it, but he or she might not have had the right tools to use. Perhaps even now it may take a while for many to realize how precious is God’s grace in giving us such a gift.
We call this method of Bible studies the “First Occurrence Original Scripture Studies” (FOOSS). Basically it involves finding the first verse that a particular original word or its root word shows up in the Bible and then make a connection between what we discover and the wholistic concept of the entire Bible. This helps us understand the original word’s meaning in both an objective and a deeper way.
Next, we will use some real examples to demonstrate how FOOSS works.