Yale Divinity Library:

English Concordances

The purpose of English concordances

Which concordance should you use?

An example word study in Morrison's Concordance

An example word study in Whitaker's Concordance

Using BibleWorks Software for Old Testament concordance work


Why would you use an English concordance?

To locate passages:
You can use an English concordance to find the location of a passage for which you remember only a few leading words. For example, you could use the concordance to find out the location in the New Testament of the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery if you remember that the words "stone" and "throw" were used.

To pursue a topic throughout the Bible:
You can use a concordance to see how a topic or issue is treated throughout the Bible. For example, you could trace the use of the words "blind" and "blindness", or find the locations of a significant phrase, such as "be fruitful and multiply", which appears both in the first creation story in Genesis and is repeated, among other places, at the end of the flood story. This repetition of a distinctive phrase establishes a connection or association between these two passages in Genesis.

To discover nuances of meaning:
Probably the most important use of a concordance is to study the nuances of meaning of a particular word by examining the various contexts in which it is used. The contexts in which the word occurs show the range of meaning and the possible nuances of meanings. A comparison of these contexts will help you decide which nuance of meaning best fits the passage you are studying and will also show if the word is being used in an unexpected way. For example, where does the word "righteousness" appear in the Bible? Does Matthew use the word "righteousness" in the same way as Paul uses it?

The concordances most useful for serious Biblical study are those that allow you to begin with an English translation and get back to the original Hebrew or Greek words underlying the translation. This is important because there is not a one-to-one correspondence between the English words used for translation and the Hebrew or Greek words of the original text. If you want to compare the usage of words or phrases in various passages, you need to be sure that these words or phrases were the same in the original language.

The concordances that allow you to trace words back to the original text have two main sections: the concordance proper and the index-lexicon. The concordance proper is a listing of the English words used in the translation on which the concordance based, along with citations for the verses in which a given word is found. The index-lexicon usually contains Hebrew and Greek sections, which list the original language words, followed by the English words used to translate each Hebrew or Greek word.

To find similar stories for comparison:
Being able to trace back to the original languages allows you to find similar stories for comparison. In Form Criticism, determination of genre is based on finding passages with the same structure, common language or expression, and a common Sitz im Leben or setting in life. You can use the concordance to locate passages that have common expressions, in order to compare these passages.


Which concordance should you use?

For some purposes any of the English concordances in the Divinity Trowbridge Reading Room will suffice, but for more serious Biblical study you will want to use one of the concordances that allows you to get back to the original languages. The four English concordances listed below all allow you to find all the occurrences of any given original language word, but they differ in the way that this is done. A detailed example of how to do a word study is provided for the Morrison and Whitaker concordances.

 

Morrison, Clinton. An Analytical Concordance to the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1979. Call number: BS2305 M67
This concordance lists the English words or phrases used in the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament in dictionary form, as headings of entries. Under each English word are one or more subheadings, which give the definition of a Greek word that has been translated by the English word of the entry, the Greek word itself, and a transliteration of the Greek word. In addition there may be grammatical references in parentheses. Under the subheadings, citations for the Bible verses in which the word occurs are listed. In the index-lexicon at the end of the book, the transliterated Greek words are listed with all English translations of them found in the RSV. To find all the occurrences of a Greek word in the NT, go back to the concordance, look up each of the English words listed under the Greek word in the index-lexicon, and then look for your Greek word as a subheading under the English words.
See the Signs and Symbols list on page xx-xxi of this concordance for explanation of the various symbols that appears throughout the book.
Click here to see an example of a word study using Morrison's Concordance.

 

Young, Robert. Analytical Concordance to the Bible. New York, Funk & Wagnalls, 1955. Call number: BS425 Y7 1972
This concordance lists the English words or phrases used in the King James Version of the Bible in dictionary form, as headings of entries. Under each English word are subheadings that give the definition of a Hebrew or Greek word that has been translated by the English word of the entry, the word in Hebrew or Greek characters, and a transliteration of the Hebrew or Greek word. Under each of the Hebrew and Greek words are listed the citations for verses in which that word appears. To find all of the occurrences of a Hebrew or Greek word in the Bible, look up the original language word under its transliterated form in the index-lexicon of the Old Testament, or of the New Testament, in the back of the book. Under the transliterated Hebrew or Greek words are listed the other English words that have been used to translate the original language word. (The numbers following the English words in the index indicate the number of times the Hebrew or Greek word has been translated by that particular English word, and the total is the number of times the Hebrew or Greek word occurs in the Bible.) To find the verse citations of the other occurrences, go back to the concordance, look up the additional English words and look for the appropriate subheading of the transliterated Hebrew or Greek word under the English word.
Note that the Hebrew or Greek word might not be under the precise word listed in the index, e.g. za'am the Hebrew word meaning "to abhor," is listed as being translated twice by the English word "abhor," but in the concordance is found one time under "Abhor, to--" and one time under "Abhorred, to be--." Za'am is listed as occurring one time as "Niph. be angry", but it is not found in the concordance under the heading "Angry, to be--" but rather under "Angry--." Note also that there is a list of additional words in the front of the concordance which might contain a citation of a given word, e.g. za'am is in that list one time under "Angry, to be--." Also, a word may occur twice in the same verse without the second occurrence showing in the citation, e.g. za'am is listed as occurring three times translated as ‘defy.' Under "Defy, to--" there are only two citations but the word occurs twice in one of the verses.

 

Strong, James. The New Strong's exhaustive concordance of the Bible. New York: Eaton and Mains, 1990. Call number: BS425 S86 1990
This concordance lists in dictionary form the English words used in the King James Version. Under each English word is a list of citations for verses in which the word appears. Each citation has a number to the right of it that refers to the original Hebrew or Greek word translated by the English word in that verse. Citations that have same number have used the English word as a translation for the same Hebrew or Greek word. (The numbers for Greek words are in italics while the numbers for Hebrew words are in plain font.) These Strong's numbers are useful because other resources such as some interlinear Bibles and some lexicons make use of them. The Hebrew or Greek words are listed by number in the index-lexicons in the back of the book. (Warning: these lexicons have some inaccuracies in the definitions given). In the index-lexicons, following the number, is the word in Hebrew or Greek characters, a transliteration, a pronunciation guide, and a definition. After the definition (after the colon) is a list of English words that have been used to translate the Hebrew or Greek word. To find citations for other occurrences of the Hebrew or Greek word, go back to the concordance, look up these English words, and then look for citations followed by the same Strong's number.
In Strong's concordance you need to look under words related to the English words listed in the lexicon to be sure to find all occurrences of a Hebrew or Greek word. For example, za'am, the Hebrew word meaning "to abhor", is listed in the concordance not only under "abhor" but also under "abhorred," not only under "defy" but also under "defied."

 

Whitaker, Richard E. The Analytical Concordance to the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI : William B. Eerdmans Publishing; New York: Oxford UP, 2000.
Locations: DIVINITY, Trowbridge RR, Call number BS2305 W45 2000;
SML, Starr Main RR, Call number BS2305 W45X 2000 (LC)
An exhaustive index to every occurrence of every significant word in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) New Testament. Designed to be both comprehensive and easy to use, the concordance is an valuable resource for everyone who reads the New Testament in the New Revised Standard Version. Not only will it serve as a study tool for scholars, pastors, and Bible students, but it is useful for those who do not know Greek or who do not read from a Greek New Testament. The “analytical” feature of the concordance is that it provides information about what word in the original Greek is being translated in each context. With this resource, readers of the New Testament can see which of the various English words the NRSV translators chose for the original Greek term. Similarly, readers are able to see how a particular English word is used to express a variety of Greek words.
Click here to see an example of a word study using Whitaker's Concordance.
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Last updated 8/25/09