Re: Misuse of Strong's?

From: Andrew Bromage (
Date: Mon Mar 02 1998 - 03:51:35 EST

[Oops, I accidentally sent a copy of this to owner-b-greek-list. Sorry
about that if you're on that email address. Let's see if this works...]

G'day all.

"Theodore H. Mann" <> wrote:

> I have many friends and acquaintances who do the following: They
> come across a term that interests them in their favorite English
> translation, locate that term in Strong's Hebrew or Greek lexicon/s,
> notice several other possible translations of the term, and replace the
> word in their translation with a synonym from Strong's that better
> supports their theological position, or that they think provides an
> insight of greater depth. Am I in error when I tell them that "that
> ain't the way it works"? I tell them that although a given Hebrew or
> Greek term may often be translated in a variety of ways, the exact
> translation in any given instance depends on a variety of
> factors--grammatical, syntactical, contextual, etc. Is my response
> responsible?

In short: that sounds responsible, though I'm not a Bible scholar.

In long: There is one issue that I have with what you've written here,
in that you seem to assume that there does exist "the exact translation".
You probably didn't mean that; it's just the way that it came across.

As we all know, there isn't really such a thing as an "exact" or "literal"
translation of Bible into English simply because any translation into
English will by its nature be "lossy" (as opposed to "lossless"). Even
at the vocabulary level, for example, there is no English word which will
translate LOGOS and carries across all of the nuances that this word had
for the first century Hellensied world.

This is, after all, the reason that most of us are B-GREEKs. :-)

I should also point out that the flawed process of exegesis which you
described above is at the mercy of the translation and lexicon you're
using. Strong's was written for the KJV a couple of hundred years ago,
and is a product of its time. You (and by "you" I'm referring to hOI
POLLOI, not Ted) will most likely be better off with a more modern one
or, if you don't actually read Greek or Hebrew, a good modern Bible
dictionary will go a good distance to help you understand how context
can affect the meaning of a word. Sadly, very few lexicons or
concordances come with an instruction manual.

I should put in a plug here for a book called "Hermeneutics: Principles
and Processes of Biblical Interpretation" by Dr. Henry A. Virkler. It's
an excellent introductory book which, while it only supports a couple of
theological positions which may not match those of the audience that you
wish to teach, is sufficient to give anyone a basic understanding about
what's involved in the science of exegesis, and why it's harder than
just grabbing a lexicon and playing.

Andrew Bromage

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