Focus on Words that Tie Two Passages Together
There’s an old quip, “Whenever you see the word therefore in the Bible, you need to look to see what it’s there for.” Though we may groan at this clever word play, there’s truth behind it. Therefore is one of four linking words in the Bible.
Whenever we see therefore, it’s a hint that what precedes it connects with what follows it. Since therefore often shows up at the beginning of a verse or even the start of a paragraph, it’s easy to disconnect the preceding passage from the current one.
Don’t do that. The same applies with other linking words. In addition to therefore, these include so, but and even and.
Therefore shows up 442 times in the NIV Bible. Though I’ve not looked at them all, every one I checked was a linking word, connecting what preceded it with what followed. In each case, the former passage informed the later one.
We see an example in Hebrews 3:1 with the instruction to fix our thoughts on Jesus connected to the prior explanation that he understands temptation.
The word so appears much more often in Scripture, at 7,278 times. Though many of its occurrences are not as a linking word, when it shows up at the beginning of a sentence, verse, or passage it serves the same function as therefore.
Consider Hebrews 1:4. This verse says Jesus became superior to the angels—something most Christians readily accept today—but which would have been groundbreaking insight for the letter’s Hebrew audience. The context, which we see in the prior verses, is that Jesus proved this by dying to wash us of our sins and returning to heaven to rule at God’s right hand.
The word but shows up in 3,795 verses. As a linking word, it contrasts two thoughts. By knowing the first idea, we can better comprehend the second contrasting concept.
We see an example in Hebrews 3:6. It says, “But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. The text that precedes but is about Moses. Again, the Hebrew audience would know all about Moses. By contrasting Jesus to Moses with the linking word but, they can understand Jesus even better,
Our final linking word is and, appearing a whopping 19,089 times. Instead of contrasting two concepts like but, we see that and connects them. They are of equal importance. We can’t accept one and ignore the other. And we can use one to better understand the other.
Hebrews 3:10 says “I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’” In this, God explains his frustration with his people through two phrases, thereby amplifying the impact and magnifying our understanding.
Knowing and looking for these four linking words can help us in our Bible study. They aid us in better understanding a passage’s context and not misapplying it.
These four linking words occur throughout the Bible. You may have noticed that each example comes from the book of Hebrews. That’s because I’m currently researching it for an upcoming book.
Read more in Run with Perseverance: A 40-Day Devotional Bible Study on the Book of Hebrews about Faith and Godly Living is book 10 in the Dear Theophilus Bible Study Series.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.