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How to Do a Greek “Word Study ”. Based on Neal Windham, New Testament Greek for Preachers and Teachers (Lanham: University Press of America, 1991), chapters 4 and 5. Morphemes Clues within Words. Morpheme—smallest unit of meaning Root morpheme – stands at center of word.

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How to Do a Greek “Word Study ”

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    1. How to Do a Greek “Word Study” Based on Neal Windham, New Testament Greek for Preachers and Teachers (Lanham: University Press of America, 1991), chapters 4 and 5.

    2. MorphemesClues within Words • Morpheme—smallest unit of meaning • Root morpheme – stands at center of word. • Prefix – stands near beginning. • Suffix – stands near end. • Root morphemes can give clues to: • Meanings of words (e. g., dik = words having to do with “pointing out what is right”). • Recurring themes. • Plays on words (cf. Windham, pp. 70-71, 85-86). • Tips for using morphology: • Avoid the “etymological fallacy” (e. g., evkklhsi,a does not mean “the called out ones” but “assembly”). • Avoid technical explanations in preaching/teaching.

    3. Word StudyTools and Rules A. Lexicon • Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD; cf. Windham, p. 101-102, 109-112). • Information on “range of attestation” (i. e., which Greek writers used the word) is given in parentheses near beginning of entry. • Gives the “range of lexical meanings” (definitions are in italics). • The various meanings are usually outlined (1, 2, 3…), often with subheadings (a, b, c…). • Usually examples are cited for each meaning; look for where your text is listed. • * at end of entry means all occurrences in the lit. covered are cited. • ** at end of entry means all occurrences in NT are cited. • Other lexica: Liddell & Scott (classical Greek); Hatch & Redpath (LXX); Moulton & Milligan (papyri)(Windham, p. 111).

    4. Word StudyTools and Rules B. Concordance • Use an exhaustive concordance based on Greek text, such as Moulton and Geden (cf. Windham, p. 99, 105-109). • Find all occurrences of your word in NT. • Note distribution of occurrences. (Which authors use it?) • Is it distinctive of your author? • Study a sufficient number of occurrences using the “principle of immediacy.” • Give most attention to other occurrences in your chapter, in your book, in your author, in your type of literature. • Try to determine the word’s meaning in each context. • Note any recurring “contextual associations” (themes that tend to pop up whenever your word appears). • Specialized concordances allow you to study occurrences in the Septuagint and other literature.

    5. Word StudyTools and Rules C. Theological wordbooks • Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the NT (TDNT; 10 vols.; cf. Windham, pp. 103-104, 114-115). • Brown’s New International Dictionary of NT Theology (NIDNTT; 3 vols.; cf. Windham, pp. 103-104). • Lengthy, technical articles, often focusing on development or changing usage over time. • History of usage in pagan literature, OT, Jewish literature, etc. (Determine what earlier usages may have influenced your author’s meaning.) • Analyzes NT usage according to various authors. (Pay special attention to discussion of your author and compare with others.) • (Represents the traditional diachronic approach to language as opposed to the synchronic approach now more in vogue.)

    6. Word StudyTools and Rules D. Guidelines for word study (cf. Windham, pp. 138-41) • Select for study words that are repeated, unclear, theologically “loaded,” etc. (cf. Windham, pp. 98-99). • Always focus on a particular word (or phrase) in a particular context. • Base study on Greek text (English etymologies prove nothing about Greek words). • Avoid “etymologizing” (the etymological or first meaning is not the “literal” or “real” meaning in every occurrence). • Avoid “overloading” meanings (don’t read every nuance from other contexts into your occurrence). • Don’t “overdo” word study to the neglect of other aspects of exegesis. • Don’t get too technical in using word study in preaching and teaching (unless you’re a college professor!).

    7. Additional Resources Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David Noel Freedman. 6 volumes. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Edited by George Arthur Buttrick. 5 volumes. Nashville: Abingdon, 1962. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Edited by Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 1992. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 1993. Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments. Edited by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 1997. Commentaries often have excursuses on word studies.