Did you know lexicon literally means “book of words”? If you use Accordance to study or read the Hebrew Bible or Greek New Testament, you know how valuable a good lexicon can be. I took my first biblical language class in 1992 and assumed at the time that in a few short years, I’d have both Greek and Hebrew mastered and eventually would never need to consult a lexicon again.
I wish I could tell you that my naive assumptions all those years ago had become a reality by now, but it’s simply not the case. In fact, my initial print lexicons became quite worn until I eventually switched to the electronic lexicons available for Accordance. Now, as I continue to use these tools, I’ve come to appreciate them even more than simply “dictionaries” to look up words that I don’t know off the top of my head.
At some point I realized that learning a biblical language meant more than memorizing the vocabulary lists in the grammar books. Learning a language is not simply learning a word-for-word correspondence with the words of my native tongue. And that’s where lexicons—“books of words”–come in. A good lexicon reveals to us the nuances for how words are used in different situations and contexts. And as I’ve gradually ventured to Greek and Hebrew writings beyond the biblical texts, I’ve learned to appreciate having not just a good lexicon, but having specialized lexicons.
Many Accordance users gravitate to some of the current standard lexicons, such as BDAG for New Testament Studies and BDB or HALOT for the Hebrew Bible. But have you ever taken a look at some of the other lexicons that are available? Here are a couple of examples.
Liddell Scott & Jones Complete (LSJ). Maybe you’re reading in Philo, and you notice that every once in a while, the writer uses a particular word such as μάθημα, which the Instant Details reveals to mean knowledge, teaching, or lesson. This word doesn’t occur in the New Testament (although it does appear in the LXX). BDAG has an entry for the word, but it’s a bit short, so it would be nice to know a bit more. This is where the LSJ comes in handy. The LSJ is described as “the most comprehensive and up-to-date ancient Greek dictionary in the world.” Whereas BDAG’s focus is on New Testament and early Christian literature, the LSJ covers all ancient writing in Greek.
So, yes, there is an entry for μάθημα in BDAG, but it is fairly short, giving the same basic glosses as in the Instant Details window along with a few examples in ancient Greek literature. The LSJ, on the other hand, offers much greater details, examples, and five categories of meaning. If you’re going to study ancient Greek literature beyond the New Testament, the LSJ is a must-have tool.
Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (DCH). What the LSJ is to the wide body of ancient Greek literature, the DCH is to Hebrew writings in the ancient world. Originally filling eight volumes in the print edition, the DCH covers not only words in the Hebrew Bible, but also Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and all the other known Hebrew inscriptions and manuscripts.
The DCH is extremely comprehensive covering every word in all extant Hebrew manuscripts. This kind of coverage goes well beyond Hebrew standards such as HALOT or BDB. This resource is invaluable when trying to work with Dead Sea Scrolls, particularly the non-canonical texts of the Qumran writings. And for translating Hebrew inscriptions, which has a much greater vocabulary range than the Hebrew Bible, the DCH is a must. However, since the DCH also covers all content of the Hebrew Bible, too, it is also very helpful as a lexicon to use in parallel with standard Hebrew resources such as HALOT to give better overall understanding to biblical words, especially in their greater literary context. (Compare, for instance, the entry for the frequently occurring חֶסֶד in both HALOT and the DCH—the latter of which offers significantly greater examples from literature outside the Hebrew Bible).
In addition to these two lexical heavy-hitters, a few other lexicons available for Accordance deserve brief mention.
Mounce’s Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. When I first took Greek, print versions of analytical lexicons were quick and dirty ways to get parsing information for inflected forms of words we couldn’t figure out on our own. Always the educator, William Mounce goes beyond mere word lists to explain the whys of various forms. There’s much to be learned from this volume, even by those who might not ever pick up the traditional analytical lexicon.
Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. In the tradition of classic works such as Vine’s Expository Dictionary, this tool opens the doors of biblical languages to those who have never formally studied them and for those whose Greek and Hebrew skills are a bit rusty. Users can access words of the Bible by looking them up in English, Hebrew or Greek. Mounce incorporates both Strong’s and Goodrick-Kohlenberger numbers so users can use this work with all of the many key-numbered biblical texts in Accordance.
Dictionary of Epigraphic Hebrew. This work by J. P. Kang is a must for anyone involved with Hebrew inscriptions of the Iron Age (ca. 1000–586 B.C.E.).
Brown-Driver-Briggs Complete. Many longtime Accordance users may have the abridged version of this standard Hebrew Bible lexicon; however, it is worth upgrading to the complete edition to receive the biblical Aramaic dictionary as well as example links to Scripture references.
My first exposure to lexicons involved lugging around heavy books—sometimes multivolume sets—and searching page after page to find exactly what I was looking for. Whether using these tools on an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Windows computer, there's never been a better time to have the right lexicon for your particular area of interest or expertise. And having these volumes in Accordance makes tens of thousands of words accessible at a moment’s notice wherever you are.
Consider making these “word books” or any of the many other lexical offerings part of your Accordance library today.
As I mentioned yesterday, I'm teaching my family Greek using Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek grammar. We're now at the point where they're learning to parse first and second declension nouns, and Mounce suggests that we do so by naming the case first, followed by the number, and then the gender. That is different from the default order in Accordance. If you hover over a noun and look at the Instant Details, you'll see the parsing listed by gender, then number, then case.
In order to avoid the confusion that might be caused by these different parsing orders, I decided to have Accordance follow Mounce's suggested order. It will require a bit of adjustment on my part, since I'm used to Accordance's default order, but I figure that's better than making my wife and kids switch between two slightly different methods of parsing.
Thankfully, customizing the parsing in Accordance is easy. Just open the Preferences and choose Arrange Tags in the list of settings. You'll see a list of tags for Greek and for Hebrew.
To rearrange the order in which any given tag is listed, just drag it up or down the list. I want case to appear before gender and number, so I'll drag it up in the list above gender. I also want gender to appear after number, so I'll make that change as well. Since the gender, number, and case of participles is handled separately, I'll rearrange those tags as well. When I'm finished, my new tag order looks like this:
Now I just need to click OK to save my changes, and the new parsing order will be used in the Instant Details.
As I've mentioned in a previous post, I've been teaching my family Greek using Accordance and an Apple TV. We're now learning noun case endings and beginning all those initially bewildering processes like parsing words, identifying their lexical forms, etc. As an illustration, I decided to show how Accordance makes all that stuff easy.
I began by hovering my mouse over a word in the Greek New Testament to show how its lexical form and parsing is automatically displayed in the instant details box. I then triple-clicked a word to show how Accordance automatically searches a default lexicon for the lexical form of the word rather than for the particular inflected form I happened to triple-click.
They were, of course, amazed at these very basic Accordance features, and they seemed for a moment to have a deeper appreciation for what I do for a living. Then my plan backfired. When they saw how easy it was to have Accordance do all these things they are working hard to learn, one of the kids voiced what they all must have been thinking: "So we really don't need to learn this stuff!"
I laughed and explained that they had hit on one of the great dangers of using Accordance: it can give us the false assurance that we know Greek better than we do. I went on to explain that the value of learning Greek is that it enables us to use tools like Accordance more responsibly. I think they bought it.
Then again, it's probably good that I didn't tell them about the Mounce Greek Study System, a bundle of video lectures and Accordance resources designed to teach you how to use more robust language tools without having to take full-blown Greek language courses. If they knew that option was available, I might lose half my students!
My wife and I homeschool four of our five children. (At four, Jo Jo hasn't begun formal schooling yet, although he seems to be learning more than all the rest of us combined.) To satisfy the older kids' high school language requirement, I've been teaching the whole family Greek using Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek. Since I have the textbook on Accordance, I've been viewing it on my laptop and projecting it to our Apple TV using Airplay Mirroring.
My basic set up is a workspace with two zones. One contains Mounce's grammar and the other contains the Greek New Testament. I spend most of my time just showing the grammar, and I make it full screen by choosing Enter Reading Mode from the Gear menu of the Tool tab. Since I want them all to be able to read along with me, I crank the font size up quite a bit using the text size buttons.
Occasionally, I find I want to explain something by typing a little Greek myself. So I've created a user tool named "Greek Class" which I basically just use as a kind of scratch pad. When I want to type some Greek, I display that user tool and then choose Edit User Tool from the Selection menu. In the user tool edit window, I choose the Helena font and a large font size (30 point) and just begin typing what I need. Because Accordance automatically handles the correct placement of accents and final forms, it's relatively easy to show them anything I want to.
For example, when trying to explain that sigma takes a different form at the end of a word, I began typing the word ἀπόστολος. When I typed ἀπός, I pointed out that Accordance inserted the final sigma because it was currently the last letter of the word, but that as soon as I typed another letter, Accordance changed the final sigma to a medial sigma. Seeing that dynamic on the screen helped to solidify in their minds the difference between the two forms.
Several days later, we worked through an exercise in which we were supposed to divide various Greek words into syllables. I typed each of those words ahead of time, and then after we discussed where each word should be divided, I simply inserted a vertical bar (|) into each word to show the syllable divisions. Doing it this way was quick and easy, and it visually reinforced the point of the lesson.
Now we're beginning to learn some vocabulary, and Bill Mounce's included audio pronunciations of each word are proving helpful. I'm not sure why, but somehow hearing Dr. Mounce pronounce the words seems more authoritative to my family than when I do it!
At the end of each lesson, I switch to the Greek New Testament where we've been memorizing the beginning of the Gospel of John. We've got verses 1 and 2 down pretty well now, and we started on verse 3 today. As we recite, I show the verses on the screen and try to drag my cursor over each word as we read it.
Each word is highlighted as I hover over it so it's a bit like one of those follow-the-bouncing-ball sing-along videos for children. Reading and reciting a real Greek passage is helping to solidify their understanding of the Greek alphabet and Greek pronunciation. I've also used this passage to introduce them to the concept of noun case endings, to explain accents and breathing marks, etc. This way, they're getting exposed to the language inductively as well as deductively.
While Jo Jo is generally playing during these lessons, even he is picking up a few things. He can recite John 1:1-2 as well as any of us, and just the other day, I asked him to turn on the φῶς. His only question was which "light" I wanted him to turn on!
Rewind to Fall 2004: I just decided to register for my first Biblical Greek course in college, and while waiting in line to finalize my registration I ended up talking with a student who was actually taking it for the second time. Naturally, I started to get a little paranoid, wondering if this was a good choice. Not to mention, he also warned me that on the first day of class our prof would line us up outside the class and we’d have to light a match and recite the alphabet before it went out! As it turns out you can actually recite it a couple times in that amount of time without burning yourself. This is how my journey into Biblical Greek, along with a love-hate relationship with the grammar Basics of Biblical Greek written by William D. (Bill) Mounce, all started.
In 2008, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Mounce in person at the Annual Meeting of the ETS, and found out he was working on the third edition to his grammar and needed someone to assist him with lexical/statistical research using Accordance. He wanted to eliminate any memorization of forms that didn’t actually occur in the Greek New Testament. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity, and spent the next couple months working through all the statistical counts and verb principal parts listed in the grammar’s vocabulary and dictionary, assisted with other research related items, and even wrote a short Exegetical Insight in chapter 34. Later that year at the 2009 Annual Meetings of the ETS and SBL, the third edition of BBG launched and was an immediate hit. The grammar was re-designed with a new color scheme, The Professor was added for illustrations, the chapter on –μι verbs was split into two, as well as updates to various content throughout.
Before the third edition launched in print, we discussed developing it for Accordance. But, we didn’t want to settle at creating a static version; we wanted to develop it in a way that integrated it with other Accordance resources and would help students in their study of the language. So, after extensive consultation with Dr. Mounce and many hours of hard work, we’re excited to release the Accordance edition of Basics of Biblical Greek.
Along with all the new updates to the third edition, the Accordance version offers extensive interconnectivity with our library of resources, such as the new Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament and even includes short audio clips with Dr. Mounce pronouncing each vocabulary word.
So, after 7 years of working with this grammar in its different forms, you can bet that I’m really excited about this release. To get a more hands-on feel for the new features in our version, check out the following short screen cast.
When I was a sophomore in college, I remember going through a Bible study workbook called Men of Faith. One of the most memorable lessons from this workbook was a chapter on the Apostle Peter. This lesson focused on the exchange between Peter and the resurrected Jesus in John 21. In this chapter, Peter has just denied Jesus three times—after fervently promising that he would stand by Jesus to the bitter end. Now, Jesus gives Peter three chances to reaffirm his love by asking the question “Do you love me?” Each time, Peter responds by saying, “I love you.”
Straightforward enough, right? However, at this point, the author pointed out something that fascinated to me. While most English translations only use one word for “love” here, Jesus actually asks his question using a different Greek word for “love” (agape) than Peter uses in his response (phileo the first two times, agape the third time). Now this is where it gets exegetically tricky. The author argues that agape is a stronger word for love that refers to a committed love and phileo is a weaker form of love that merely implies a friendly love. If true, this would dramatically change the dynamic that is taking place between Jesus and Peter, in which Jesus would be asking “Peter, are you committed to me?” and Peter deflects the question by saying, “Yes Lord, I’m your friend.” However, many scholars say this exegetical comparison of agape and phileo is at best an oversimplification, and at worst completely inaccurate. In fact, my Greek professor in seminary argued there is almost no difference whatsoever between agape and phileo.* Regardless of who is right, the fact remains that without looking at the Greek in this passage, we would never even know to ask the question.
For many of you, this example from John 21 is not breaking news. However, for a college guy who read my English Bible like it dropped out of heaven on a magical golden pillow, this was groundbreaking. It was as if the scales had fallen from my eyes and I suddenly realized for the first time that my English Bible was, in fact, a translation. That is the day I decided that I wanted to learn Biblical Greek.
After three years in seminary, I can tell you that this example from John 21 is only the tip of the iceberg. Being able to do Greek word studies and understand the relationships between Greek words has been invaluable to my study of the New Testament. I owe much of this to Dr. William Mounce, whose textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek, served as my guide through three quarters of seminary Greek. I am not alone—Basics of Biblical Greek has helped over 200,000 students learn Biblical Greek in colleges and seminaries all over the world.
This is why we are so excited to bring you the Mounce Greek Study System: Learn Biblical Greek with Accordance. This amazing set includes over 9 hours of easy-to-follow video lessons from Dr. Mounce, including Accordance screencasts for each lesson. The set also includes the Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament with enhanced phrase tagging and Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Dr. Mounce has added the first video lesson to his website for free viewing, so you can start your first lesson in Biblical Greek today!
*One devastated student responded by throwing his hands in the air and saying, “But they have to be different, I preached on this!”
In my previous post, I explained how I've been teaching my children Greek (or "Grick" when I impersonate the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding). After protesting too much that I'm not really one of those overly ambitious homeschool dads, I described how we're currently learning Mounce's first noun paradigm chart. This chart covers the nominative and accusative singular and plural endings for second declension masculine and neuter nouns, and first declension feminine nouns. The example nouns it uses are λόγος, γραφή, ὥρα, and ἔργον. In order to show them how learning the case endings will enable them to parse and translate Greek words, I decided to find examples of those four words in the nominative and accusative cases. Here's how I did it:
To search for a group of words like this, the easiest thing to do is to select Enter Lexical Forms from the Search menu. A dialog box will appear listing every lexical form in the Greek New Testament. You can begin typing in the Go To box to advance to the corresponding section of the list. Type l-o-g to scroll the list to where you can see the word λόγος. Click the word λόγος to add it to the list of "Words to enter." Next type e-r-g in the Go To box to scroll to where you can click ἔργον. Repeat this process until you've added all four lexical forms to the list of words to enter, then click OK or hit Return to dismiss the dialog.
Your search argument should now look like this: (=λόγος, =ἔργον, =γραφή, =ὥρα). A series of words in parentheses like this will find every occurrence of any of those words, just as if I had inserted an OR command between each of those words. The advantage of the parenthesized list is that it is a single search argument that can be modified further. In this case, I didn't want to find any form of those nouns, but only the nominative and accusative forms.
To do that, select Noun from the Enter Tag submenu of the Search menu. In the dialog box that appears, you can select the tag details you want from any of the pop-up menus. To select more than one detail from a given category, hold down the shift key while selecting the additional criteria. In this case, you would select nominative from the Case pop-up, then shift-select accusative from that same pop-up. Click OK to dismiss the dialog box and insert the proper search syntax into the search entry box. Your search argument should now look like this:
Performing this search gave me plenty of examples which matched the forms my kids are learning. I then went through some of those examples, asking each child to parse a given word. For example, the first hit from this search is ἔργα in Matthew 5:16. So I asked one of them to tell me whether this word is masculine, feminine, or neuter. Then I asked whether it is singular or plural. Finally, I asked whether it was nominative or accusative. When that child guessed one or the other, I asked how they could tell that from the case ending. Since both the nominative and accusative use the same ending, they couldn't determine its case from the ending, so that gave me an opportunity to explain how one would determine the case from the surrounding context.
I found this exercise to be extremely helpful. We worked through numerous examples, and I was able to alert them to a number of potential points of confusion—all using words and forms they are memorizing in their paradigm chart.
As a homeschool dad, I've prided myself on not being one of those fanatical homeschoolers who tries to overdo things: you know, the ones who want their babies to be reading Aristotle, their toddlers to be concert violinists, and their kindergartners to be experts at pre-algebra. I've largely succeeded, but I do have a confession to make: I am trying to teach my children Greek. Yes, it sounds like I'm one of those smart-alecky fathers who wants his kids to know the original languages of the Bible better than their pastor does, but honestly, my reasons for doing it are largely pragmatic. They need to learn a language, and the ones I know best are Greek and Hebrew.
At any rate, now that you're convinced I "doth protest too much" about being an overly ambitious homeschool dad, I want to talk a little about how I'm using Accordance to teach "Grick" to my children. By the way, that's my best impersonation of the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, whose accent I mimic in order to inject a little humor.
The text I've been using is Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek, the second edition of which has long been available in Accordance. (We're working on the third edition, which should be available fairly soon.) I'll read from the text on my screen with my youngest daughter seated beside me. The three older kids sit across from us and share a printed copy. Jo Jo, age 2, is exempted for the time being! We're basically just working our way through the text slowly, and I'm really trying to make sure they understand the concepts behind what they're learning. I figure at the very least, this will help reinforce their English grammar even if they don't go on to become Greek scholars.
At this point, we've just gone over the first set of case endings which Mounce introduces. I had them write out Mounce's paradigm chart and begin memorizing the endings, but I wanted to make sure they understand how to use those endings to parse and translate individual words. Mounce's initial chart covers the nominative and accusative singular and plural endings for second declension masculine and neuter nouns, and first declension feminine nouns (a total of 12 endings). The example nouns he uses are λόγος, γραφή, ὥρα, and ἔργον. So I decided to do a search of the Greek New Testament for any of those words in the nominative or accusative, and then we all looked at various examples together. In an upcoming post, I'll tell you how I constructed the search and how I conducted the exercise. It ended up working pretty well. (Would I be blogging about it if it had bombed?) :-)