Pick up that two-inch thick book and riffle through the pages. Looks like a dictionary, but what are all those numbers? Why all the fragments of sentences and weird headings? Lots of squiggly non-English letters in some sections. Way too many obscure abbreviations. And the print is tiny! Quick, put it back on the shelf.
No, don’t do that. Come on, open it back up. It’s really a useful tool that anyone interested in digging more deeply into God’s incredible gift to us, His Word (that’s LOGOS, word 3056), can learn to use. You just have to set aside a few minutes to figure out how the thing works. It’s easier than your DVD remote control, I promise.
The Concordance is organized into four sections. The first is the Main Concordance. These 1500 or so pages list every word in the Bible (KJV), and every occurrence of each word. The words are arranged alphabetically, and the occurrences are listed in order of their appearance in Scripture, Old Testament and then New Testament.
The second section is the “Appendix of articles, conjunctions, preposition, etc.” If the word you’re looking for isn’t in the Main Concordance, it’s in this section. I don’t use this part much, but if you really need to know all the places the word AND is used in the Bible, you can look them up in this section.
The third and fourth sections are the meat of the book. Section three is the “Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament.” You may recall that a couple of small sections of the OT are written in Aramaic, and the rest in Hebrew. Section four is the “Greek Dictionary of the New Testament.”
In these Dictionary sections, the Greek and Hebrew words are listed in alphabetical order, but are also numbered. That’s handy if, like me, you aren’t real familiar with the Greek and Hebrew alphabets! In each entry the word is written in its Greek or Hebrew letters, then an English letter equivalent, then broken down to show you how to pronounce it. The origin of the word is explained, along with technical stuff about what part of speech it is, and then the definition(s). Lastly, the various ways that particular Greek or Hebrew word have been translated into English are listed.
For example: the word LOVE is used 307 times in the KJV Bible. In the Main Concordance, under the heading LOVE, the verses in which this word appears are listed in order, starting with Genesis 27:4, and ending with Revelation 3:19. A few key words of each verse are included, with just an ”l” for LOVE (to save space). So if you’re looking for that verse about “love your enemies,” you can scan down the list of verse fragments until you find this: “L your enemies, bless them that….” Stay on that line, scoot your finger over and you’ll see the reference, Mt 5:44.( That’s Matthew, and all the abbreviations for the books are listed on a page up front for you.)
There’s one more column in the listing, and it’s the key to really digging in. It’s the Strong’s number. In the example above, the number is 25. Turn back to the Greek Dictionary pages, and look up word 25. You’ll find it’s “agapao.” Then there’s the word origin and grammar details, then the definition: to love in a social or moral sense. The word is also translated ‘beloved’. And a final sentence in the entry encourages you to compare 25 with 5368, which is “phileo,” another Greek word translated into English as LOVE.
That brings me to the final cool thing I want to bring to your attention. Back in the Main Concordance, under the heading LOVE, the Strong’s numbers indicate that eight different Hebrew/Aramaic words, and nine Greek words are all translated into English as LOVE. Many of these are just variations in tense or part of speech, but sometimes they are entirely different words. Agapao and phileo are quite different in meaning, and knowing this sheds new light on passages like John 21, wherein Jesus keeps asking Peter if he loves him. Look it up and you’ll see what I mean.
Newer editions of Strong’s have added alternate spellings of some words, to make it easier to use the concordance with versions other than KJV. However, if you read a paraphrase, such as the Living Bible or the Message, you’re not going to find Strong’s much help. It works better with word for word translations such as the NKJV and NASB.
Many editions of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance are on the market. There are even large print editions available, for which I’m increasingly grateful as the birthdays roll by. Browse the different editions until you find one that suits you. Then use it in your Bible study. You’ll reap much benefit as you easily locate any verses you want, and explore the shades of meaning in the Hebrew and Greek words used by the original writers under inspiration of God, who is the Word—that’s LOGOS—see John 1:1 .