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How to Use Strong's Concordance and What to Use Instead

Video from Mark Ward

"This article appeared originally at Word by Word, the Logos blog, and is used by permission:" from video introduction

How to Use Strong's Concordance and What to Use Instead

A friend of mine recently polled his church—both members and pastors—to see which Bible study resources they used. Independently, every single one of them named Strong’s Concordance. Many mentioned nothing else. Strong’s was their only Bible study tool.

I’m here to help you understand two things:

  1. How to use Strong’s Concordance

  2. Why you should probably reach for better tools instead

I’ll tell you what those tools are, and I’ll mention both free and paid resources. And I want you to know: I will work in good faith in both parts of this article. If you choose to use Strong’s in your Bible study, I’ll show you what to do and what not to do. But I hope you will consider my recommended alternatives.

1. How to use Strong’s Concordance

Here’s how the original 1890 title page describes Strong’s Concordance—gotta love those massive, explanatory, nineteenth-century titles:

Let me explain the elements:

  • A concordance is just a list of all the words in a book in alphabetical order.

  • Strong’s is a concordance of the words in the common English version, in other words, the translation then used by effectively all English speakers; namely, the King James (or Authorized) Version.

  • It’s a concordance, however, of just the canonical books—the canon as understood by Protestants, so no Apocrypha or deuterocanon.

  • It’s exhaustive: all the words are there, except for forty-seven words that are so common that they wouldn’t be helpful for the purposes of a concordance—which is (typically) finding passages of the Bible by searching for key words. Here are those forty-seven exceptions:

  • Strong’s puts the KJV words it lists in regular order; that means alphabetical order—from Aaron, Abaddon, and Abagtha to Zain, Zechariah, and Zephaniah.

What to do with Strong’s Concordance

Before tools like the concordance, if you were studying your King James and just couldn’t remember where the phrase “wherewith Christ hath made us free” occurred, you were out of luck. But look up “free” in Strong’s, and soon enough you’ll see this:

Bam: Galatians 5:1. That’s helpful to the paper-oriented Bible student!

And at the end of the line, you’ll see one the other major values of Strong’s Concordance. It’s a number: 1659. That number actually tells you the Hebrew or Greek word (Greek, in this case) that was translated “free” in Galatians 5:1. The Greek word here happens to be 1,659th in the (also alphabetical) list of Greek words in the New Testament..." from the article: How to Use Strong's Concordance and What to Use Instead

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