Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 21 Number 8 August 2019
Page 11

Lexicons and Defining Words

David R. Kenney

David R. KenneyDictionaries have been around for a long time, some sources state as far back as 2300 B.C. So, the concept of a dictionary that defines a word has proven itself in the crucible of time! A dictionary is a collection of words that are generally arranged in alphabetical order. The treatment of the word may vary from dictionary to dictionary. However, it is common to find a phonetic spelling, some history of the word’s meaning (called etymology) and a description of how the term is used.

What is the difference between a dictionary and a lexicon? First of all, one should keep in mind that a Bible Dictionary does not function in the same way as a Greek or Hebrew Lexicon. Bible Dictionaries tend to define people, places and things in the Bible, but lexicons deal more with linguistics. So, what is a lexicon? Some may answer this question differently. A lexicon is similar to a dictionary but involves two languages with an effort to bridge a gap in the user’s understanding. The words are listed in alphabetical order by the language being defined. Then, the phonetics, definitions, etc. are provided in the other language in order to learn the meaning of the referent term in the other language. For example, a Greek Lexicon will have Greek terms listed in order of the Greek alphabet, then have information relating to the term’s meaning in English. Some lexicons provide more information about the term’s form, meaning and usage in the New Testament. A note of caution—be careful about accepting without verifying a lexicon’s definition relating to the New Testament. Just because a person is writing about linguistics does not exempt him from theological bias! Greek lexicons have been around for a long time too. One source states that the first Greek lexicon, Clavis Novi Testament by Eilhard Lubin, was printed in 1614.

Defining a word can be a real challenge. First, one should have a clear understanding of the word’s form, how it is written and how it is pronounced. The meaning of the word is generally what people have in mind when consulting a dictionary, and to help accomplish this, the term’s usage in various contexts is supplied. Words have different meanings in different contexts, including cultural contexts. Just because a word’s form may be in the same language does not mean its meaning and usage are identical across cultures. For example, the word “casket” has the same form in both the United States and England, but in England, it has the meaning of a jewelry box. (I don’t recommend telling your wife you bought her a casket for Christmas.) While Koine Greek may not change, English continues to change, which is why newer translations are readily accepted.

The amount of work that goes into creating an excellent dictionary is mind boggling and even more work goes into making a lexicon! Scholars have poured hours or even lifetimes into making available such information at our fingertips. It is a shame that more people do not take advantage of these great tools for the benefit of themselves and others.

Works Consulted

Danker, Frederick W. Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study. Rev. ed. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003.

Overton, Basil. Gems From Greek. Abilene: Quality Publications, 1991.


A Father Raises His Children…
But a Nation Rebels (Isaiah 1)

Aaron Cozort

A father raises his children. He invests in their upbringing. He encourages their education. He provides structure, a home, food on the table and hope for the future. He watches over them while they sleep and teaches them when they are awake. He wants them to grow up and be strong. He wants them to have a great future free from strife and anguish, sorrow and misery. He gives them stability. He encourages them to work and to improve themselves—to flourish under his protection and guidance.

Then one day, a child declares, “I’m not your child. Look what I have done for myself, how great I am, how strong I am and how prosperous I am. I do not have to obey you, and I will not recognize you as my father.” How many times this type of situation has played out in families throughout time, but few more are tragic than in God’s family. Isaiah wrote, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me; The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider” (Isaiah 1:2-3).

Some parents will not admit the truth about their children’s condition. They will hide from reality. They will say things like, “They’re good kids; they just got in with the wrong crowd.” God is more honest than that. God said of His children, “Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, They have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward” (Isaiah 1:4).

The people of Israel, the nation of God, the descendants of Abraham, had become a brood of corrupters. The root meaning of this word is “to decay.” Their influence was rust to metal and disease to a body.

Israel had become an influence for moral and spiritual decay in their world. They were supposed to be the light of the world. They were supposed to be the salt of the earth. However, they had become “good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13).

What kind of child of God are you today? How do you live, and what is your relationship to the Father in Heaven? What would He say about your life and your relationship with Him? God called Israel to reason with Him and to cleanse themselves, but He also sent them a warning, “If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 1:19-20).


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