In college I had this amazing friend.
He was stupendous at Bible study because he had this really cool system. He had taken two copies of Strong’s Concordance and sliced up the pages so that every entry was its own slip of paper (he needed two copies of Strong’s so he could have entries from the front and back sides of pages). He had carefully arranged all these slips on the university gym floor, and he had marked up every single slip: “S” for when the word was used as a subject in that context, “O” for when it was used as an object. Words of Christ were highlighted in red, plural words in purple, singular in chartreuse.
Any time someone writing a theology paper needed to know which plural words Jesus used as objects in his sentences, my amazing friend was their man. He’d disappear into the gym and come back in a few hours with a bunch of slips—and he threatened them within an inch of their life if they didn’t return them all.
Ok, that’s not true. He wasn’t really my friend. (He certainly wasn’t the basketball team’s friend; he took up the whole gym.)
No, seriously, none of this is true.
But as a parable, it’s nothing but true.
Hear, then, The Parable of the Two Defaced Strong’s Concordances. A traditional Bible concordance (Strong’s, Young’s, Cruden’s) arranged the data of scriptural word usage on just two axes: root word in English and root word in Hebrew/Greek. That arrangement is important and useful. Strong’s Concordance, in particular, is probably on more Christian bookshelves than almost any other book outside the Bible—precisely because it has proven its utility as a tool for Bible study.
But Strong’s can be something of a blunt instrument. It can tell you all the places where forms of the word love get used in the Bible. Those entries (love, loved, lovingkindness, loving, etc.) amount to 562 lines over three huge, tightly spaced pages.
What are you going to do with all that information?
Has anyone in Strong’s history ever looked up every one of those references?
But that’s not the point of Strong’s. Its point is to be exhaustive—to help you find that biblical phrase you remember but can’t find.
The Concordance Tool
One of the tools Logos Now subscribers have been most excited about is the Concordance tool. Truth in advertising: I wasn’t so excited when I first heard about it. I have never owned a paper concordance, and I always secretly considered them ante-diluvian. (Little did I know that at least one early concordance used the most advanced technology of its time!)
I thought computers obviated concordances.
No. They make them better, because a computer can sort and refine the data in so many ways. And that brings me back to my parable: what if you had an amazing friend who could help you filter, winnow, and sift all the data in a concordance? What if you could send him scrambling back to the gym every time you had a new question, or even a slight variation on the one you just asked?
And what if he returned instantaneously?
That would be cool, no matter what the basketball team thought.
What if you could arrange all the entries according to sense, not just word? What if you could search just certain portions of Scripture?
You’d still need to be careful: we don’t do theology by counting words. But sometimes a theological insight arises out of poking around inside word-counts. Why is “house” mentioned so often in Luke-Acts? I don’t know. It may be worth pursuing.
Or here’s one: if I refine my Logos concordance to 1) put together root words—love, loved, lovingkindness, loving, etc., 2) focus on the surface text of the English Bible, and 3) include only the words of Christ, I find something interesting. The way Jesus uses the word “love” isn’t, perhaps, what you’d expect. One of his very first uses of the word in Matthew, in his famous Sermon on the Mount, talks about “loving those who love you.” And he adds, “Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” In other words, Jesus feels free to say that tax collectors—one of his prototypical sinners—“love” one another.
But isn’t the word “love” supposed to mean something selfless, kind, and unconditional? How could tax collectors have it?
Hmm. An anomaly.
You don’t know an answer yet. You can drill into this verse with any one of a number of tools Logos gives—the Bible Word Study Tool, your commentaries, etc. Or you could use the concordance again. Just do a concordance of Greek words by generating a “Lemma” concordance. One of the entries near the top is ἀγαπάω (agapao), the word Jesus chose to use for the love tax collectors share. There are almost 150 other uses of that verb in the New Testament, the concordance tells me. As I scan them I come up with more anomalies: Lk 7:36–50; 11:42–43; Lk 16:13; 1 Jn 2:15; Jn 3:19; 2 Tim 4:10; 1 Pet. 2:10; 2 Pet 2:15.
Anomalies. Hmm. Looks like this needs more study.
Having opened this can of worms, I must leave them squirming on the pages scattered over the gym floor. I promise I’ll pick them up again in a future post. I’m just trying to show how the Concordance tool—available only in Logos Now—might be useful to you.
It’s the perfect time to start your annual subscription to Logos Now. Not only will you get the Concordance Tool, the Systematic Theology section in the Passage Guide, and over a dozen other features, for a limited time we’ll give you over $100 in free books. They’re yours to keep forever! We’ll even throw in free training on your new features. Stop waiting for the latest innovations from Logos. Start your annual subscription now.