Monday, October 19, 2009

Greek-English Lexical Resources Ratings Survey RESULTS

The survey on Greek-English Lexical Resources has been online for a week, and there are enough responses to make some observations about the results. (47 total responses as of 2009.10.19)

  • For exegetical work in biblical studies, Bauer, Danker, Arndt & Gingrich's Greek-English Lexicon (BDAG) is the clear favorite. There really is nothing as comprehensive, and it should, therefore, be at the top of the list of resources to be obtained for work in biblical and early Christian Greek texts. As noted in my post on lexicons available in Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos, BDAG is an extra purchase of $150 for each.
  • There is basically a tie for 2nd place between Louw-Nida's Greek-English Lexicon of the NT based on Semantic Domains (LN) and Liddell-Scott's unabridged Greek Lexicon (LSJ). These have very different backgrounds and intents, but I would concur about the importance of both.
    • I commend LN to my students because it oftentimes provides an insightful perspective on how a word or concept might be heard in a different culture and thereby challenges assumptions we make about it. I also use it somewhat like a thesaurus to see what other Greek words might be used to express a concept and then to compare and better understand the nuance of a particular word. Fortunately, LN is standard with nearly all the Bible software packages, but note that it is strictly a NT lexicon.
    • The unabridged LSJ is a classical Greek lexicon, but it is indispensable for understanding the background of non-Christian and Koine usage of a term. The abridged version is of limited help and mainly indicates whether one should consult the full version. (The abridged version is standard in BW8 and most Logos libraries and an extra cost addon in Accordance.) The unabridged version runs about $135, but one can always go to (or link to from BW8 or Logos) the free, online Perseus resource. It is also available as part of the free, standalone Diogenes program.
  • The next three spots received similar scores and include Balz and Schneider's Exegetical Dictionary of the NT (EDNT); Kittel, Friedrich, and Bromiley's Theological Dictionary of NT (TDNT); and Lust, Eynikel, and Hauspie's Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (LEH). As noted in some of the comments, I should have included Muraoka’s Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (GELS), and I suspect it would have rated with this group as well.
    • I have used the EDNT, and it basically is a timesaver in collecting references to a given word, providing some context for their usage, and making some observations. This is the kind of work I would typically do when conducting a quick word study of my own. (The EDNT is available as an extra cost addon for BW8 and Logos.)
    • The TDNT has its drawbacks, but any exhaustive word study probably needs to consult it. I find that I don't check it that often, because I don't have time to read through the oftentimes very lengthy entries! OTOH, for getting a grasp of the background of significant words from a classical, LXX, Judaic, and variety of NT perspectives, this is a great resource. (Only Logos offers the full version and amazingly includes it as part of most of their libraries. The abridged version comes with BW8 and is available for purchase for Accordance.)
    • LEH and GELS are addressing a specific niche providing lexical support for the LXX (as compared to a focus on the NT). Given the importance of the LXX for NT and early Christian authors, these are indeed significant resources. I have used the LEH, and it is useful for a quick comparison to the range of meanings for a word usually given in its NT context. I have not used GELS, but it appears to more of a lexicon than simply a dictionary as LEH is. (For comments on and comparisons of LEH and GELS, see here, here, here, and here. LEH is included with some of the Logos libraries and is available for purchase for Accordance and BW8. I am unaware of any digital edition of GELS.)
  • Spicq's Theological Lexicon of the NT garnered some votes and has received some positive reviews, so its low rating may simply be due to the fact that it is not well known. A similar resource that I included in the second half of the survey should probably also be included here: The New International Dictionary of NT Theology (NIDNTT). I do not have personal experience with either of these, but NIDNTT appears to be a more concise TDNT, and that can be a good thing. (Both Spicq's and the NIDNTT are available for Accordance and Logos.)
  • Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the NT had previously received low, if not negative, reviews, so it's low rating here is no surprise. I suspect the low ratings for Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon are partly due its lack of easy availability and its focus on patristic literature.
I will try to comment on the other resources rated in my survey another time, but there are a few things I think are achieved by this survey:
  1. For students doing exegetical work in biblical studies, getting BDAG should be a high priority.
  2. Though I didn't include shorter or condensed lexicons in the survey, I would suggest that one should be available for quick reference prior to checking BDAG. Of the ones most commonly available (Barclay/Newman's UBS, NAS Greek, Gingrich/Danker's Shorter Lexicon of the GNT...), I recommend Friberg's Analytical Lexicon which is included in BW and available for Logos.
  3. The next resources to consult are Louw-Nida or Liddell-Scott. These are either included in the Bible software programs or available free online, so there is no excuse not to consult them.
  4. I would hope that the folks at Accordance, BibleWorks, Logos, and other Bible software creators take note of such a survey and focus their efforts on making the top resources accessible (in terms of how entries are linked to the text), attractive (how clear and readable the entries are, and affordable. (I will also be interested to see the forthcoming Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the NT by Danker and hope to see it in the software programs.)


  1. Pretty much agreed. BDAG is definitely first. I prefer LSJM to LN, and I've found TDNT useful.

    Most important, I'd say, is not only BDAG, but also following up on the references it cites.

  2. The "problem," of course, is that they all have different strengths and weaknesses. LN is invaluable for its unique semantic arrangement, for instance, but I wouldn't want it to be my only lexicon for that reason. BDAG won't help me much if I'm reading outside of the "Christian" field, but it's far more useful than LSJM for reading the Apostolic Fathers. The TDNT and EDNT I'd kind of put in a different category altogether. Again they are valuable, but they're a different beast altogether. Even though these are all called lexicon, it's a bit deceptive as no two are exactly alike.

  3. You are exactly right, Michael, and that's why I tried to specify lexicons for doing "exegetical work in biblical studies." That still covers a pretty big range (from the LXX to NT to early Apostolic Fathers), so I do think the results are fairly accurate. BDAG > LN and LSJM > then one of the more specialized lexicons.

  4. In the link of "drawbacks", I think one of the book "The Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament" is by Friberg, and Mounce actually wrote "The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament", which differs from 1 alphabets only