Basic Bible Study Tools: Concordance

November 30, 2018

A great deal of Bible study can be done with a few basic tools. One of the basic tools for Bible study is a concordance. A Bible concordance is a list of words occurring in the text of the Bible with the Bible reference given for where this word occurs. A concordance is the name we apply to a printed work with a Bible word list. In a world where many people are accessing the Bible on a phone, tablet, or computer, the search feature in Bible software corresponds to the print concordance.

A concordance or search is based on a particular translation of the Bible or original text. So, you want to choose a printed concordance by the translation you are using for study. Printed concordances are either abridged or exhaustive. Concordances printed with Bibles are always abridged. An editor has selected important words and their occurrences to be helpful. Abridgment allows for a handy size. The printed exhaustive concordance will have most every word except for things like articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns. A search could give you the answer for any word, although it may not be significant to know how many times the word “and” occurs in the Bible.

In the nineteenth century, James Strong developed Strong’s Numbers for his printed concordance. He gave a number for each Hebrew and Greek word. A Strong’s number occurs beside a verse reference letting the English reader know what Hebrew or Greek word stands behind the English translation. This is accomplished by going to a Hebrew and Chaldee (Aramaic) dictionary and Greek dictionary printed at the back of the concordance and looking at the corresponding number. From this dictionary you learn the usage of the word and how else this particular Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word is translated into English. Goodrich and Kohlenberger developed an update to the numbering system, but you use G-K numbers the same way as Strong’s numbers. Some Bible software will allow you to access and search on Strong’s numbers or G-K numbers giving the English student a little more access to the original languages.

Besides getting back to the original languages, we use a concordance in a number of helpful ways. Sometimes we are thinking of a passage, but we can’t recall where it is. By remembering some key words in the passage, we can search for them or look them up in a concordance to find the passage’s location. We also use the concordance to do topical and word studies. By looking up every occurrence of a word or topic, we gain a better understanding of this word or topic. We may also see patterns in the text from looking at a concordance or search. The word love occurs the most in the New Testament in 1 John, the Gospel of John, and 1 Corinthians. This pattern suggests those books as fruitful places to study the concept of love. A concordance or software search remains a basic Bible study tool.


What Are Strong’s Numbers?

August 15, 2014

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible was first published in 1890. It is a concordance of the King James Version. The concordance was compiled under the direction of Dr. James Strong, but more than 100 colleagues aided in the production of the concordance. Produced in the nineteenth century everything had to be done by hand. It was a very labor intensive project, but it has been useful to Bible students ever since.

The unique feature of this concordance was that it exhaustively cross-referenced every English word of the KJV with the word in the original languages. Each word in Hebrew and each word in Greek were assigned a number. These numbers are known as Strong’s Numbers.

Strong’s numbers allow the English readers to get back to the original language without knowing Hebrew or Greek. If they are curious about a particular word, they can look up the English word in the concordance, locate the verse reference, and then find the Strong’s number. This number tells them what original language word stands behind the English translation. With the number, the word can be looked up in the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries at the back of the concordance. This feature is helpful in digging deeper in a passage, evaluating translations, and doing word studies.

With a Strong’s number a student can do a word study on the original language word. He or she could find every occurrence of the particular Greek or Hebrew word regardless of how it may be translated. Most translations render the same Greek or Hebrew word with some variety due to the range of meaning each word has. But doing a word study on the original language word may help the reader see this range of meaning. It may help the reader see connections within the text that become lost in translation.

For example in John 21:15-17, John uses two different Greek words for love in Jesus’s question and Peter’s reply. Does that have significance or not? Some say that it does. I tend to think it is just a case of synonyms, and the main concern is that the question is asked three times (reminiscent of three denials). By using Strong’s Numbers a reader could look at John’s use of these two words for love in the entire gospel.

Strong’s numbers have been applied to translations beyond the KJV. The numbers have also become searchable in some Bible software packages and apps (e.g., Logos, Accordance, and Olive Tree Bible Study App to name a few). In computer-based searches, the search can be done much more quickly than with Strong’s Concordance and looking up all the references by hand in a Bible.

In addition some dictionaries and word studies use Strong’s numbers, so the reader can find additional information (e.g., Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (by Harris, Archer & Waltke), or The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition.)We are blessed with tools that help us carefully look at the text of the Bible.