Using the Works of Philo with BDAG

One thing I like to do when examining Greek word usage is to evaluate how the Greek word is used in similar context outside of the New Testament corpus.

This article will point out an easy way to use the Works of Philo (in English) in conjunction with the BDAG Lexicon. This same method can be used with other Greek corpora for which Logos Bible Software has English translations, such as the Works of Josephus (in English) or the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

The strategy discussed is really a temporary one as we’re currently working on versions of the following corpora in Greek, fully morphologically annotated:


I was recently looking into the second half of 1Ti 4.6, specifically the word translated being trained:

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. (1Ti 4.6 ESV)

The word translated being trained is ????????????, a passive participle of ???????. The word is a hapax legomenon, meaning that it only occurs once in its lexical (or “lemma”) form in the New Testament.

When I look up ??????? from the NA27 text (via right mouse->keylink), I’m brought to the BDAG article on the word. The BDAG article doesn’t just list where the word occurs in the New Testament (1Ti 4.6 is the only NT occurrence) but also lists some citations of other literature that use this word:

(Pla., Leg. 7, 798a; Epict. 4, 4, 48; Philo, Spec. Leg. 1, 314, Leg. ad Gai. 195 ?. ?????? ?????????; Jos., Bell. 6, 102, C. Ap. 1, 269) (BDAG, p. 341)

There are two important areas of that citation. In the Logos Bible Software edition of BDAG, you’ll notice the items I’ve made bold above are red (assuming default keylink settings). There are four citations, two are from the Works of Philo and two are from the Works of Josephus. I’ll only discuss the Philo links here. The hypertext links below will open the references in the LDLS if you have the resources:

The most interesting of these is the second. Here’s the juicy part in case you’re too lazy to click the above links, or if you don’t have the resource available. The translation of ??????? is in italics below:

… But I would reply to such a man, You either have not the genuine feelings of a nobly born man, or else you were not educated like one, and have never been trained in the knowledge of the sacred scriptures; for men who are truly noble are full of hope, and the laws too implant good hopes in all those who do not study them superficially but with all their hearts. (Leg. ad Gaium, 195)

See how ??????? is being used? Now check the usage in 1Ti 4.6 again:

being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

The word is being used similarly in both Philo and in First Timothy. Sure, you can read the definition and say, “yep, it means train in“. But don’t you get a little better taste of the word by examining a few other citations?

Now, a few questions need to be answered. First off, how do I know that ??????? really is what is translated being trained in Yonge’s edition of Philo?
Thankfully, in this instance, BDAG provides some context of the occurrence in Leg. ad Gaium 195. That context means that the highlighted phrase is the most likely suspect. When BDAG doesn’t provide context one can retrovert and make a fairly sure guess as to what is going on in the translation. When the context isn’t clear, then one shouldn’t make any deductions of this sort.

The cool thing to notice is that BDAG has the links to Philo and Josephus already enabled and you can look things up by just clicking on the text. Sometimes (as in this instance) the reference is gold and it helps with the understanding of the term. Other times it isn’t nearly as illuminating as this particular instance. But ‒ you’d never know if you didn’t look it up. And, finally, these things are getting much easier to look up.

When the Greek edition of Philo is ready (no date estimates, but much of the work has already been completed!), it will just slip right in and work from the existing keylinks. And then you’ll be able to really confirm how the Greek was used in Philo, or even perhaps make your own translation of the phrase.

A similar strategy can be pursued when one encounters references to the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Open the book Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (the resource filename is ‘CHASPOT’ [short for "Charles' Pseudepigrapha, OT"], you could type this in the “Go:” box), type in the reference, and see if it exists. If so, give it a read and see if it is applicable to your current study.

Now, I can sense the next question coming from die-hard users of BDAG: “But Rick, the Apostolic Fathers references and OT Pseudepigrapha references aren’t currently enabled in BDAG.” And you’re right, they aren’t. We hope to do work in BDAG to enable these references, but I can make no promises on when that will occur. Hopefully it will be in conjunction with releasing the Greek editions of the Apostolic Fathers or the Greek edition of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (both currently under development). Keep your fingers crossed.