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” Based on Neal Windham, New Testament Greek for Preachers and Teachers (Lanham: University Press of America, 1991), chapters 4 and 5.
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.
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).
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.
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.)
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!).
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.