Biblical Word Study Research Paper

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Turning Wisdom into Wine: Semiotic Analysis of Counseling Words in the Bible

A Biblical Word Study provides counselors with a deeper understanding of the concepts, tools, and techniques of counseling. This understanding promotes spiritual and psychological wholeness, providing a framework for the client to achieve his or her goals. A Word Study is an engaging and thoughtful process requiring both critical and creative thinking. Taking words commonly used in counseling settings, we search for those words using helpful online databases like the Blue Letter Bible's. The following Word Study examines two sets of words: those related to counseling in general; and those related to addiction in particular. The Word Study will describe both Old and New Testament usage for the words. The counseling-related words include "counsel," "wisdom," and "help." The addition related words include "wine," "desire," and "restraint." The Biblical Word Study is a semiotic exercise that strengthens the counselor's lexicon.

Biblical Words Related to Counseling

Using the Blue Letter Bible website, I input the six words (three counseling and three addition words) into the database. The counseling-related words include "counsel," "wisdom," and "help." Because of the challenges that translation pose, abstract words like "counsel," "wisdom," and "help" can be difficult to grapple with when performing the Word Study. Their contextual cues in the Bible must be examined, analyzed, and understood. Themes from the Old and New Testament differ, while retaining a core semiotic and semantic thread.


According to the Blue Letter Bible (2012) search results for "counsel," the term counsel occurs 74 times in 72 verses in the NASB. A general theme that becomes immediately apparent is that counsel refers to advice. Sometimes, counsel connotes advice that is verbal in nature.

Old Testament Usage.

Strong's lexicon highlights the Hebrew word ? (ya'ats). The word ya'ats is translated to counsel in Exodus 18:19. Another Hebrew word, (dabar) refers to counsel in Numbers 31:16. Dabar refers specifically to verbal speech, as in the speech used in a business or formal context. Thus, the word "advice" denotes verbal advice in the Old Testament.

New Testament Usage

The term, regardless of translation, appears more frequently in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. New Testament uses of the word include ? In Ephesians 1:11. Here, counsel is advice but also "purpose," according to the Blue Letter Bible and Strongs. The Blue Letter Bible does not locate any other New Testament instances of a Greek word for counsel, and the Bible Gateway search only reveals one more Christian reference: in Romans11:34. Here, the word is not "counsel" but "counselor," (Bible Gateway, n.d.). Blue Letter Bible only reveals counselor as a separate and distinct entry from "counsel."


Wisdom occurs 216 times in 203 verses in the NASB, according to the Blue Letter Bible. Unlike the term "counsel," wisdom occurs throughout both the Old and New Testaments. In both the Hebrew and Christian bible, the term wisdom is linked textually and semantically with God.

Old Testament Usage

The plethora of occurrences of the word wisdom yields a surprisingly narrow translation; that is, one Hebrew word is in accordance with the English use of "wisdom." That Hebrew word is (chokmah). The word chokmah occurs in Exodus, Deuteronomy, 1 Kings, and 2 Chronicles. Wisdom is defined in human terms, as in war skills, administrative skills, and ethical skills (Blue Letter Bible, 2012).

New Testament Usage

The Greek word ? (Sophia) is the one most commonly used in the New Testament. There are two meanings for Sophia, however, according to the Strong's G4678 entry. The first definition applies to human wisdom; the second definition refers to the wisdom of God. Therefore, interpreting each passage of the New Testament requires close attention to contextual cues. The implication is that both man and God can possess wisdom.


According to the Blue Letter Bible, the word "help" occurs 147 times out of 140 verses in the NASB. In the Old Testament, help has a rather monolithic meaning as succor. New Testament occurrences of "help" refer to several different but interrelated Greek words.

Old Testament Usage

In Hebrew, the word translated into help is ? ('azar). Help means offering support and assistance. It occurs in passages as varied as Genesis 4:1 and 2 Samuel 22:36. Help comes in the form of human and divine assistance, generally implying an act of service or charity on the part of the helper and a sense of gratitude on the part of the person or people being helped.

New Testament Usage

The Greek word for help may be (opheleo), implying profit, as in Matthew 16:26. The term (boetheo) is more closely related to the Hebrew ? ('azar), or succor. This usage appears in Matthew 15:23 (Blue Letter Bible, 2012). Yet a third Greek word has been associated with the English word help: (peristemi), which has a different connotation as "standing beside," in the sense of standing by for support (Blue Letter Bible, 2012).

Biblical Words Related to Addiction


Wine occurs 262 times in 237 verses in the Old and New Testaments combined. Unlike abstract terminology, wine has a concrete and unequivocal connotation throughout the Bible. However, the Hebrew words for wine do differentiate between newly pressed must and actual fermented wine.

Old Testament Usage

The term (tiyrowsh) is used on a few occasions, such as Genesis 27:28; and Dueteronomy 11:14, and is used inconjunction with the word for "new," because tiyrowsh is new wine/wine must. Usage context includes references to the abundance of God, as in Deuteronomy 7:13. The Hebrew word ? (yayin) refers more squarely to banquet wine, or the wine used for ceremonial functions. Thus, in passages like Genesis 14:18, yayin is used in conjunction with the priesthood role.

New Testament Usage

Strong's entry G3631 for wine is for the word ? (oinos), and is used relatively commonly in the New Testament such as in Matthew 27:34. Contextual cues suggest a symbolic relationship between wine and humanity and wine and God; wine representing the blood of Christ because of the miracles He performed. The symbolism, rather than concrete meaning, of wine is especially apparent in Revelations. A historical reference to (oxos) refers to wine vinegar, which Strong's suggests was drank by Roman soldiers during the occupation (Blue Letter Bible, 2012).


Desire occurs 111 times in 110 verses in Old and New Testament, according to the Blue Letter Bible (2012). As a complex and multifaceted word, desire can mean anything from sexual desire to an earnest wish.

Old Testament Usage

There are more than half a dozen different Hebrew words for "desire" in the Old Testament, signifying the limitations of the English language when conveying the various aspects of this term. Sexual desire and animal desire are linked in the Hebrew word? (t-shuwqah), occurring in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. Desire as "request" is the Blue Letter Bible/Strong's concordance number H1245: the Hebrew word is (baqash), occurring throughout the Old Testament. A more ephemeral and spiritual type of desire is encompassed by the Hebrew word (nephesh), referring to the passions of the soul (Blue Letter Bible, 2012). The type of desire most relevant in the addiction context is ? (avah), which refers directly to the craving of food and drink (Blue Letter Bible, 2012). This usage occurs frequently throughout the Old Testament. The word (avvah) is related (Blue Letter Bible, 2012).

New Testament Usage

Greek words for "desire" include (thel?) or to wish; (epithymia), or lust, and its similar word (epithyme?). The latter two uses for desire (as lust) have the most direct application to the addiction counseling setting. However, a person may have the desire to be liberated from desire.


The Blue Letter Bible and Bible Gateway both list only four instances of the English word "restraint" in both the Old and the New Testament.

Old Testament Usage

Restraint occurs as two Hebrew words: (para), meaning to be loose or show little restraint; and as (maziyach), or girdle. The first term refers directly to addiction as a lack of restraint; whereas the term for girdle connotes the tools by which addiction can be overcome. Strong's Lexicon includes the Greek word (brochos) as a 1 Chronicles reference, and the meaning of that word is similar to girdle because it means fastener.

New Testament Usage

Appropriate for the counseling setting, the Greek word (s-phrosyn?) means sanity, self-control, and sobriety (Blue Letter Bible, 2012). It occurs three times in the New Testament: Acts 26:25, 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Timothy 2:15.

Core Biblical Themes Related to Counseling and Addiction

The three counseling related words (counsel, wisdom and help) and the three addiction words (wine, desire, and restraint) occur at different times in the Old and New Testament. Different meanings of these words can be incorporated into the counseling setting, to help patients navigate through their crises with an experienced guide. The Bible shows that addiction counseling involves the counselor as aide, providing verbal assistance to the client. Help and succor have both practical and spiritual connotations, and both are linked to…

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