A good interpretation rests on a solid understanding of the words used in the passage. Along with a concordance, a lexicon and/or a dictionary is your best bet for understanding the original language. Frequently they reveal ideas that were ‘lost in translation.’ Many dictionaries are now available in electronic form either included with or as an add-on to your bible study software.
- A Lexicon is a systematized concordance, that includes the linguistic factors and discussion of the different forms or conjugations of a word.
- A Dictionary is an alphabetical listing of the Hebrew or Greek words, giving their basic meanings, usually in less detail than a lexicon.
Exploring a new dictionary frequently tempts us to stuff every nuance we learn about a word into the verse at hand. Words have more than one meaning and context determines which meaning the author intended. Our task as bible students is to decipher which of the possible meanings for a word the author had in mind in this particular verse.
For example, when Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), He did not intend for us to conclude that everything we know to be true about salt must also be true about us. Our goal in bible is study is to learn which of the 100 facts we know to be true about salt Jesus had in mind. Context is the only way to answer that.
Beware falling into the trap of “I learned a new fact about a word and I must use it.”
- Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament ed. Harris, Archer & Waltke. [Correlated to Strong’s numbering system and uses transliteration of the Hebrew letters.]
- Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. Brown, Driver, Briggs. [Correlated to Strongs. Words are arranged under their Hebrew roots which may be difficult for English-only readers.]
- A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Bauer, Gingrich & Danker.
- The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. C Brown. (3 Vols)
- Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1 volume), ed. Kittel & Bromley. [Known as “Little Kittel” this is a an abridged version of the 10 volume set of the same name edited by Kittel & Friedrich.]