Semantic Chaining: Using Louw-Nida References in the Lexham Greek NT Interlinear

The recently-released Lexham Greek-English New Testament Interlinear has, as one of its primary distinguishing features, domain-article references to the Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon (info here, here and here). That’s all well and good, but — beyond keylinking to a specific Louw-Nida article — what can we do with the references?
One thing that you can do (shown in the below-referenced video) is begin to explore using the concept of “semantic chaining” (also known as “semantic chunks” or “semantic clustering”). The idea is to explore how a section of text (a pericope or chapter or book) uses or repeats ideas found in particular domains or domain-subdomain references.
OK, I’ll speak in English this time. You know how repeated words can be important when you’re looking at a passage? Well, Louw-Nida references let you expand that notion to repeated concepts. The theoretical backgound for this concept is well-established in the literature* but as of yet has not really been available in a consumer-level Bible study product.
But you can do it with the Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament if you’ve also got the Louw-Nida lexicon (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains) and are willing to learn how to reference search using the Bible Speed Search dialog.

The video shows you how. Our sample passage is 1Ti 2.1, and our sample concept is prayer.

* Some references include:

  • Reed, Jeffrey T. A Discourse Analysis of Philippians, pp. 296-331. This book will be available in the Studies in New Testament Greek and JSNTS Collection.
  • Porter, Stanley E. and O’Donnell, Matthew Brook. “Semantics and Patterns of Argumentation in Romans: Definitions, Proposals, Data and Experiments”, pp. 154-204 in Stanley E. Porter (ed.), Diglossia and Other Topics in New Testament Linguistics. This book will be available in the Studies in New Testament Greek and JSNTS Collection.
  • Guthrie, George, The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis.
  • Van Neste, Ray, Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles. This book is available in the Library of NT Studies: JSNTS on Paul collection.


  1. It looks like similar technique can be used for the Lexham Syntactic GNT, with the drawback that all of the NT books aren’t done yet. Any idea if/when that might be updated, and if books will be released incrementally as they are finished?
    Thanks for the posts–it’s always neat to see new ways to use the software. mh

  2. Jeff Stephens says

    I watched the video for this, but since I don’t have lexham’s interlinear, and do have the esv reverse interlinear or the interlinear literal translation, can this domain search be carried out with those resources?

  3. Hi Jeff.
    This sort of domain searching requires a text that has the Louw-Nida references encoded at the word level. There are actually three texts available that meet this criteria:
    1. The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament. It has contextually disambiguated semantic domain references for every word in the New Testament.
    2. The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament. This is a syntactically annotated Greek New Testament, but it is at present incomplete, with data available for Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and James-Revelation. For the available data, it has contextually disambiguated semantic domain references for every word in the New Testament.
    3. The Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament. This as well is a syntactically annotated Greek New Testament, and it has data for the whole of the New Testament. However, the semantic domain encoding is *not* disambiguated. That means that every possible semantic domain reference (based on the lemma form) is always encoded. The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear NT only encodes the most probable semantic domain references. So results will be cleaner and less cluttered with the Lexham Interlinear.
    Hope it helps.

  4. Hi Mike.
    Yes, a similar approach can be used on the Lexham SGNT. As you note, the Lexham SGNT is incomplete at present. But it the project is still under way.
    We’ve been releasing the Lexham SGNT in incrementally as larger chunks are completed. The next scheduled chunk includes Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, though I have no firm estimate on when that will be.

  5. Would you mind listing four or five examples where you feel that Semantic Chaining would have the same value as the 1 Timothy 2 example?

  6. Hi Ed.
    One example might be the semantic domain for “Violence, Harm, Kill, Destroy”. If you look for vocabulary in the whole domain (domain 20, search for “LN in 20” in Bible Speed Search), you will immediately see Matthew 23 pop out; you’ll also see Mark 15 pop out too. Interestingly, 2Pe 2&3 also have clusters of words in that domain. If you limit to a particular subdomain (20C, ‘LN in “20.31-20.60″‘) then 2Pe 2&3 have a higher relative portion of these words than anywhere else? Is it meaningful? Perhaps. If you want to find areas of the text where language is used to describe violence, then this is very handy.
    Another example might be the “Follow, Be a Disciple” subdomain (36D, ‘LN in “36.31-36.43″‘). Lots in the gospels, as you would expect, but particularly so in John 20-21. This might come in handy if one were preaching topically on “Being a Disciple”.
    Another example might be domain 55 (“LN in 55”), “Military Activities”. Paul has a perceived fondness for military metaphor (“fight the good fight” type stuff), but a domain search pulls up Acts 23 as having a high relative proportion of military activity terminology, and spots in Revelation (Rev 12-13; 19) with more concentrated usage as well.
    A final example could be “Activities Involving Clothing or Adorning”, domain 49 (“LN in 49”). This brings up a few clusters — 1Co 11; 2Co 5; 1Ti 2; but there are some other clusters sprinkled throughout Revelation (especially Rev 14-19) and Mt 25.
    I’m not sure if that’s the kind of stuff you’re looking for, but that’s the sort of thing that this type of feature can be used to quickly determine.
    Hope it helps!