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Question

What is a lexicon?

what is a lexicon
Answer


A lexicon is a linguistic resource much like a dictionary in that it contains an alphabetical listing of words in a language, usually with a definition. A Bible lexicon will provide the meanings of original-language words used in Scripture. A Hebrew-Aramaic lexicon covers the words of the Old Testament. A Greek lexicon contains the words of the New Testament. A lexicon is helpful in studying the Bible and carrying out a word study from a passage.

Bible lexicons help the student of Scripture to understand the etymology and original meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word. They can also assist one in exploring the context and culture behind the word. Nuances and connotations of the original words are not always easy to convey in English. For example, the Greek word Logos, translated as “the Word” in John 1:1, has a much deeper meaning than what we normally think of as a “word.” A lexicon can help us unravel the complexity.

Several different Bible lexicons are available in print, and there are also Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic lexicons to be found online. Websites such as Bible Study Tools and Study Light offer free access to searchable Bible lexicons. Some examples of Greek and Hebrew lexicons are A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by Walter Bauer, William Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, & Frederick Danker; Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon by H. G. Liddell and R. Scott; The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon by Francis Brown, C. Briggs, and S.R. Driver; and The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by Ludwig Kohler, Walter Baumgartner, and Johann Stamm.

A lexicon can be beneficial and insightful to Christians as they study God’s Word. A good way to utilize a Greek or Hebrew lexicon is to use it alongside other resources such as a concordance, dictionary, or commentary. Notably, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance includes a Greek and Hebrew lexicon in one volume with the concordance.

As a basic example of how a Greek lexicon can be helpful, we can turn to Revelation 1:8: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” Using a lexicon, we find that alpha (A) is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and omega (Ω) is the last letter. So we have a description of God’s nature: He is the beginning and ending of all things. He is from eternity with no one before Him, and He lasts into eternity with none after Him (cf. Revelation 22:13).

Lexicons can help the student of the Bible understand the origin and meaning of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words in their original contexts. Of course, we can understand the Bible in our own language, and we have several good translations that do justice to the original text. But when we want to delve more deeply, a Bible lexicon is a useful tool.

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This page last updated: May 13, 2021