Jan 1, 2013

Using Strong’s Numbers

Tony GarlandBy Dr. Tony Garland

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Q. Can you tell me where I can find the original meanings for words and numbers, in Hebrew and Greek (Old and New Testaments), for the KJV Bible?

A. If I understand you correctly, you are interested in information on the meanings of the original-language words (Hebrew and Greek) behind the Old and New Testament English texts within the King James Bible (rather than information on archaic English words found within the King James Bible).

James Strong

James Strong

What you may be looking for is a resource that was developed by James Strong wherein he assigned a unique identifying number to each Hebrew or Greek word appearing behind the King James translation of the English Bible text. When reading the English text of the Bible, these "Strong's Numbers" make it possible for those without direct knowledge of Hebrew and Greek to gain limited insights concerning the meaning of the original language words behind the English words or phrases.

The KJV translation with associated Strong's numbers and related dictionaries is available on our website. This information is also available for the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation. Equivalent information is also available in most Bible study software applications.

You can also find this information in standard book (print) format. The most succinct study aid I'm aware of for identifying the Strong's numbers associated with the KJV text as well as the dictionary meanings of the underlying Hebrew and Greek words would be The New Strong's Complete Dictionary of Bible Words. Another resource, which also includes the actual Hebrew and Greek text along with the English text (and Strong’s numbers) is The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew, Greek, English by the late Jay P. Green.

Caution is advised though, because a little knowledge of Hebrew and Greek by way of Strong's numbers can make one dangerous.☺ Some have overestimated what can be reliably gleaned by the use of Strong's numbers such that they have used their new-found knowledge to reach conclusions which are incorrect. Most frequently, errors are made when all possible shades of meaning of a particular Hebrew or Greek word are considered equally viable within each context where the term occurs such that the interpreter simply picks whichever shade of meaning suites their desire to develop "deeper insight" into the passage. [1] Keep in mind that the use of Strong's numbers cannot adequately substitute for in-depth study of the original languages which takes in a much broader consideration of the syntax and grammatical structure of each passage. For another thing, Strong's numbers do not reflect such basic grammatical information as person, gender, number, tense, voice, and mood (although some Strong's-based study aids augment the numbers with some of this information.) Using one's new-found knowledge of Strong's numbers to overthrow decisions made by a much more knowledgeable team of scholars which produced a given Bible translation from the original languages is analogous to completing one's first ice-skating lesson and thinking oneself qualified to skate in the Olympics: a hard fall on the ice is sure to follow.

Another caution I would mention: do not allow subtle inferences from the original language to color your interpretation to the degree that you ignore or minimize the contextual clues about the meaning from the passage in question. I've lost count of how often I've seen interpretations, either by Strong's number devotees or even by those trained in the original languages, which reach conclusions which are highly questionable given the context established by the broader paragraph or chapter within which the word or phrase occurs. Appealing to the original language in an attempt to establish a particular interpretation should never override basic contextual clues—which are often more reliable than language subtleties—found within the context of the passage. Remember that the writers of Scripture were neither language scholars themselves nor writing to language scholars, but to the average person.

If I've misunderstood your question and you are actually wanting to know about resources for understanding archaic terms from the KJV English text, I can recommend several: The King James Bible Word Book by Ronald F. Bridges and Archaic Words and the Authorized Version by Laurence M. Vance.

May God bless and guide you in your interest to study His Word in greater depth.


[1] This is one of the reasons I do not recommend the Amplified Bible because it implies that the full range of meaning of each original language word is equally likely within almost every context within which the term appears.