Where Does a Word Not Appear?
Apr 21, 2010 David Lang

Where Does a Word Not Appear?

Accordance makes it easy to find where words appear, but sometimes it's more interesting to see where a word does not appear. Someone on our forums recently asked how to do just that:

While studying yesterday I discovered that the word "mercy" is not mentioned in the book of Revelation. This piqued my interest to see what other books that mercy is not mentioned in.

He got several answers, all of which revolved around doing a simple search for "mercy."

MercyTableSince Accordance defaults to showing only those verses which contain your search hits, one quick way to see where hits do not appear is to click the pop-up menu to the left of the Go To box. This pop-up lists all the books currently displayed, so a quick scan can show you any books which are conspicuous by their absence.

A better way to see books that do not contain your search term is to click the Details button to open the Details Workspace. Then click the Table button to open the table of hits.

The Table has been around since Accordance 1.0 and gives you a book by book breakdown of the number of hits and word frequency. Just look for the zeros under Total Hits to find the books which do not contain your search term. The word "mercy" is conspicuously absent from Judges through 1 Samuel, both books of Kings, etc.

Another way to see where hits are generally absent is to look at the Hits graph. Here's a Hits graph of the Greek word αγαπαω. (Please indulge the abrupt transition to a completely different search!)

 

AgapawHitsGraph

 

As you can see, the book of Acts is conspicuously void of hits. A quick check of the table confirms that there are no occurrences of αγαπαω in the book of Acts. Neither is "love" used in the books of Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, or Philemon!

The absence of words can raise interesting questions. For example, why is αγαπαω never used in the book devoted to chronicling the growth of the early church? If the concepts of divine love and brotherly love were so important to the primitive church, why no mention of them in Acts? It also seems odd that "love" is not used in some of Paul's most personal letters. For example, why would Paul not use the concept of love to urge Philemon to show kindness to his runaway slave?

To answer those kinds of questions, it's important to make sure you've included all the words related to a given concept. For example, αγαπαω is the verb "to love," but it might be absent from a book which includes the noun αγαπη or the adjective αγαπητος. One easy way to search for a group of related words like this is to search by their root form. I'll talk about how to do that in my next post.

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Archived Comments

Anthony Smith

April 22, 2010 8:53 AM

An important tool for "making sure you've included all the related words" is the Louw and Nida lexicon. I'm afraid this is one of the most significant yet underused tools in NT studies. I'm glad you offer it. 




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