Strong’s Concordance, compiled by one James Strong, has become a very widely circulated Bible study aid. I do not pretend to be any expert in the field of Bible study tools and aids but as a Christian with a mind that seeks to enquire diligently into The Word of God I have made a good deal of use of this particular work. The following notes are ways in which I make use of this concordance. I hope you will find them to be clear and useful to you.
1. Finding A Passage Of Scripture
You know that somewhere in the Bible there’s a verse that says something about “God loving a cheerful giver” You think it might be in the New Testament (?) but beyond that you really don’t know where to look. So, this is what to do:
Pick a word in that sentence, one you are quite sure is used in the verse you are looking for. The trick is, choose the most obscure word of that sentence, the one you think is used least of all in the rest of Scripture. If you choose ‘God’ let’s say, or ‘a’, as you might imagine when you find that word listed in Strong’s (words are listed in alphabetical order just like a dictionary) there are hundreds, even thousands of references listed that include these words. You’ll have to spend ages reading all those part sentences (each word is shown in its context) in an attempt to find the one you are looking for. It is far easier if you look up ‘cheerful’ or maybe ‘giver’, these words do not occur so often and so you should be able to quickly find the particular verse of Scripture you are looking for. I just looked up ‘cheerful’, that word is used only four times in the whole of the Authorized Version of the Bible (Strong’s works best with the A.V. but also caters for the Revised Version too). It didn’t take me more than a couple of seconds to find the verse we want. ‘Cheerful’ is used in Pr. 15:13, Zec 8:19, Zec 9:17 & finally the one we wanted 2Co 9:7 – “for God loveth a cheerful giver.” So there it is, I now know where to turn to in my Bible to see this verse in its fuller context (it’s always a good idea to read the Bible in context!).
2. Greek & Hebrew Dictionaries
When one language is translated into another the translators hopefully (!) have a good idea of the full meaning of the word or phrase they are translating. Often they may have several choices of words into which they may translate one word from the original tongue. William Tyndale (who gave his life for the work of translating the Bible) explained to his critics that English is an exceedingly rich language; we may translate, on occasions, several different English words all into the one same Greek word. Then why not do vice-versa and translate a single word in Greek into a variety of acceptable English equivalents. After all, we endeavour to use variety in our normal everyday speech. We use an array of synonyms (words with essentially the same meaning) in order to give more diversity, expression and interest to our speech. I just did exactly this in these last two sentences – ‘variety’, ‘array’, and ‘diversity’. On the other hand, several different Greek words may all translate into the same one English word. All languages have their own special richness, depth and associations with similar words. The dictionary in Strong’s will give added meaning and insight into Bible words whether they are Hebrew, Greek or Chaldean (a small number of words and passages in the Old Testament were written in this Babylonian tongue).
Let’s look at a word. I’ve looked up the word ‘division’. I can see that this word is used six times in the whole of Scripture. Two references are in the O.T. and four are in the N.T. The numbers at the end of each line refer to the Greek and Hebrew dictionary. If it’s the O.T. it will be the Hebrew (occasionally Chaldean), if it’s the N.T. it will be Greek. The two O.T. references both have different numbers next to them; therefore we know that it refers to two different Hebrew words. Of the four N.T. references, one is of one number and three are all the same. So we know that there are two different Greek words that have both been translated as ‘division’. Let’s go with the three references that are all the same used in John. The number is 4978. Now you must turn to the Greek part of the dictionary because this is from the New Testament.
Here we are shown four things:
1.The Greek word – SCHISMA.
2.The etymology (root) from which this word was formed – (‘from’ followed by another Strong’s number).
3.The meaning of this word (i.e. SCHISMA).
4.After you see this symbol :- there follows a list of all the other words into which SCHISMA has been translated.
Any, or all of this information may be helpful in giving more clarity to what may be meant by the word ‘division’. But do be careful! This does not make you a language expert in any degree. A little knowledge can sometimes be more dangerous than none!
3. Simple Thematic Study
First of all here it is important to note a serious limitation in this. You cannot study an entire theme solely by looking up every occurrence of a particular word. For example we may wish to look at the theme of ‘judgement’. We could read every verse of the Bible where ‘judgement’ is specifically mentioned but there may be many instances where this is undoubtedly a theme but the precise word ‘judgement’ may not have been used. However, accepting this limitation, if we did want to conduct a study on this topic we could certainly see at a glance all of the Scriptures that do use this specific word. Depending on the subject in hand you could get a fair way by ‘following through’ a given topic by this means.
4. Advanced Thematic Study
We can now take this use of thematic study a stage further. We said earlier that one Greek word can often be translated into several different English words (and phrases) and it frequently is. Let’s look up ‘monsters’! Yes, that word is used in our Authorized Version (La 4:3). We’ll use this example because it only occurs once so we do not have a variety of other Hebrew or Greek words to choose from which have also been translated as ‘monster’. The number next to it is: 8577. So, we turn to the back of Strong’s and make sure we’re in the Hebrew dictionary as this reference is from the O.T. Looking at 8577 we can see that the original Hebrew word is TANNIYN. We read some definition and then we come to this sign I mentioned earlier :- All of the words after this are other words in the A.V. into which TANNIYN has been translated. As well as being translated as ‘sea-monster’, we see that TANNYIN has also been translated as: ‘dragon’, ‘serpent’ and ‘whale’.
Now by looking up all the references not only to ‘monsters’ but also ‘dragon’, ‘serpent’ and ‘whale’ you are doing a study of the original Hebrew word. You are not studying solely ‘monsters’ but now you are looking at all references to TANNYIN. You are able to pursue your topic in the original tongue without knowing a word of Greek or Hebrew :^)
With Strong’s being so widely circulated and recognized it is frequently referenced in many Bible studies and articles. You may come across the Strong’s numeric reference in both printed and online material. You can obtain Strong’s in electronic form as part of the ‘Online Bible’ package (available on disc or some parts free for download) and there are web sites that offer Strong’s for use online. If you want to know some more about Strong’s, in book format, and maybe purchase one (there are all kinds of editions) read my book review of it on this site: bookreviews/strongsconcordance.
I hope this all helps a little. May God guide you in your studies.
Related Reading ~ Book Reviews: Strong’s Concordance ~ James Strong