Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not All Greek-English Lexicons Are Equal

     Greek lexicons are indispensable for New Testament research. Nevertheless the
student must use lexicons with the same discretion as he would use commentaries,
grammars and other uninspired resources. Some lexicons contain doctrinal and
technical errors. These errors are often due to sectarian prejudices and lack of
thoroughness in examining and reporting the facts contained in the source materials
that are cited. A person must be very cautious in citing definitions from a lexicon in
an effort to determine word meaning.

     Alexander Souter's Pocket Lexicon To The Greek New Testament was
published in 1916. It was republished by Hendrickson Publishers, and revised and
edited by Mark A. House in 2008, under the title Compact Greek-English Lexicon 
of The New Testament. It contains some inexcusable errors that affect the
interpretation of the New Testament. It remains a useful reference work if  it is used
in conjunction with more recent scholarly lexicons. Let us note a couple of fundamental
examples where the lexicon misses the mark.

     On page 46 of the original lexicon and page 37 of the revision, baptizo is defined
as, "lit. I dip, submerge, but specifically of ceremonial dipping (whether immersion
or affusion)..." The revision says parenthetically (whether immersion or pouring). First,
no original source material is cited that indicates baptizo is used of a ceremonial
dipping (whether by immersion or pouring). Second, no biblical text is cited that
illustrates such meaning. Third, his explanation of baptizo (whether immersion or
pouring) is self contradictory. Baptizo cannot be by immersion or pouring! As he
stated, the verb baptizo means "I dip, submerge." Actually, it is more than a mere
contradiction; he is wrong. (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12)

     On page 286 of his original lexicon and 189 of the revision, psallo is defined as,
"I play on the harp (or other stringed instrument). The problem is the same. No
original source material is cited to sustain the definition, and no biblical evidence is
cited that illustrates the alleged meaning. He is relying on the connotation of psallo
as it is sometimes used in the Septuagint. But, his work is titled A Pocket Lexicon 
To The New Testament. Therefore, he should have given evidence from the literature
contemporary with the New Testament. He failed to do this and renders his lexicon
unsatisfactory at this place.

     Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek lexicons are are not inerrant. Their authors and
compilers are not guided by the Holy Spirit, therefore they must be used with caution.
The student of the sacred scriptures should always use more than one lexicon, and
he should be as familiar as possible with original sources. Most of all he should be
intimately familiar with the word of God! Study God's word lexically and contextually.

                                                                                                                      R. Daly

Copyright 2011