Level 1 Word Study: Borrowing from Others

Every Greek word has multiple meanings.
But every Greek word has one meaning in a particular context.

That’s why a Greek word study involves two steps:

(1) Discovering all the possible shades of meaning

(2) Discerning the meaning used in a specific verse

Stage one surveys the whole range of meaning for a particular word.  You can slog through the whole process yourself, scrutinizing every place where a word is used.  But most of us find it hard to find time for such a thorough study, and you may not feel confident about your abilities.

No problem!  You can borrow a word study from someone else.  Find a Greek lexicon (dictionary) or some other word study book and look at the results of research that has already been done.

Sources in Print

Here are some of the standard reference books that give information about Greek words, starting with the simplest and moving to the more advanced:

  • Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament
  • Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich & Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
    and Other Early
    Christian Writings
  • Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (abridged in one volume)
  • Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (3 volumes plus index)


A typical entry in Vine’s might fill two or three inches in a column.  The same entry in Brown’s work might receive five pages of detail!

A number of electronic sources are also available.

hints & tips

1.  Remember that your goal in this stage is the longest possible list of meanings.
2.  Pay attention to the difference between common meanings and rare meanings.
3.  Notice that many words have a literal meaning which then serves as a springboard for figurative meanings.

Once you have completed this step, you have two options:  you can go even deeper [n Stage One by studying the actual passages where the word is used, or you can move directly to Stage Two:  focusing your microscope on a specific verse.


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