Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

English Concordances

The first purpose of a concordance is merely to find the texts which you know are there, but don’t know where. For this purpose Cruden’s Concordance (the work of Alexander Cruden, first published in 1737, but revised and reprinted numerous times) has been the universal favorite. This was one of the first books I ever bought when a student at Bible school, and to this day it remains one of the most-used books in my library. Years of constant use wore out the spine ten or twelve years ago, and I re-covered it with leather.

Another concordance, however, has more recently come into competition, in my library, with Cruden’s. This is The Comprehensive Concordance to the Holy Scriptures, by J. B. R. Walker. This claims to omit only non-essential words, and to contain 50,000 more references than Cruden’s. It was first published in 1894, but, though it is certainly superior, in that it is much more likely to contain what we are looking for, to date it never seems to have offered any threat to the popularity of Cruden’s. I suspect that this may be due primarily to poorer printing.

Both of the above are based entirely on the King James Version, with no reference to the Greek or Hebrew. Their primary use is as text-finders, and they may also serve for studying particular subjects. For the study of the meaning and usage of particular words they will be of little help, and may often mislead. For that purpose something is needed which takes into account the Hebrew and Greek originals. There are several of these:

Two are similar in scope and content, though different in arrangement. These are Analytical Concordance to the Bible, by Robert Young, and The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong. Young’s is not exhaustive, for it omits such words as “that,” “the,” “thee,” etc. But in this it can scarcely be regarded as inferior to Strong’s, which lists references only for such words, in an appendix. Both of these list the English words according to the King James rendering, but give also the Hebrew and Greek originals. Under each particular English word Young’s gives as many separate lists as there are Greek and Hebrew words underlying that English word, each list headed by the original word, with an English transliteration, and a brief definition. Strong’s gives one complete list under each English word, with each entry followed by a number, from which number the original word may be found in the index. Young’s also contains an index of the original words, transliterated into English characters, with full information concerning all of the different renderings of that word in the English version. Strong’s also lists the various English renderings of each original word, but in a manner which is not so clear as Young’s. Either of these concordances may be used to study any original word in all of its occurrences, excepting the insignificant words omitted by Young’s, and listed by reference only in Strong’s. Young’s is probably better for this purpose, as its index is clearer.

Superior to either of these are The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament and The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament, both executed under the direction of George V. Wigram in the 1840’s, and published by Samuel Bagster. They have since been reprinted by others. These list every occurrence of every original word (except a few particles), giving the English translation, but listed under the original words. Thus all the occurrences of any original word may be seen in one list, with its English renderings. The same information may be found in Strong’s or Young’s, but only by a round-about method, which will often require you to look in a dozen or more places to get it all. The Englishman’s concordances are actually better adapted to those who know at least a little of the original languages, though they do contain indexes of the English renderings, which give the original words, and page numbers on which they may be found.

I have taken some pains to compare the first four of the above concordances, Cruden’s, Walker’s, Young’s, and Strong’s, all of whose listings are according to the English version. The results follow:

Under the common word “world,” Cruden’s has 172 entries, some of them containing more than one occurrence, with parallel passages listed under one entry. Thus, a passage from the Old Testament which is quoted in the New Testament will not be found in its expected place in the New Testament book which contains it, but the New Testament occurrence will be listed under the entry in its place in the Old Testament. This disadvantage is true also of Walker’s, though not of Strong’s or Young’s. Cruden’s also has two entries under the plural “worlds,” and a notice to see “foundation.” The entries are subdivided into three lists, under “world,” “in or into the world,” and “this world.”

Walker’s has 221 entries, many of them containing two or more occurrences, and subdivided into six separate lists, headed “world,” “world to come,” “in or into the world,” “inhabitants of the world,” “this world,” and “whole world,” with a notice to see “face of the world,” and “foundation of the world.” It will thus appear that Walker’s is much more complete than Cruden’s, but it should be observed that many verses not listed under one word in Cruden’s will be found under some other prominent word in the verse. In John 15:19, for example, Walker’s lists all five occurrences of “world,” while my edition of Cruden’s lists only the first two. Two of the remaining three, however, will be found under “chosen” and “hateth.” The fifth, which stands in connection with none but small and insignificant words, does not appear in Cruden’s at all, and this will also be found to be the case with many verses or clauses which contain none but small and insignificant words. In using Cruden’s I long ago learned to look first under what I suppose to be the least common word in the verse. Walker’s usually eliminates the necessity for such guessing.

Young’s contains 271 entries, subdivided into 18 separate lists, each headed by a different Greek or Hebrew word.

Strong’s contains 284 entries, all in one list. I believe the reason that Young’s contains fewer entries is that it more often doubles up, giving two occurrences on one line, when the two fall close together in the same verse. Strong’s does this also, but not as often. In the book of John, Strong’s has 77 entries under “world,” while Young’s has but 68. Yet they both give a complete listing, except that Young’s omits both occurrences in John 17:16. This is no doubt an oversight, as Young’s is designed to be complete.

The Englishman’s concordances, of course, cannot be brought into this comparison, for everything in them is listed under the original words, without regard to the English renderings.

Mainly out of curiosity, I also checked to see how the different concordances handle words added by the translators, such as “cometh” in Psalm 75:6, and “belong,” “belongest,” “belongeth,” and “belonging,” in numerous places. Cruden’s may or may not contain them, depending on whether or not they were judged important. Walker’s has them, and so does Strong’s, though with a blank space where the number designating the original word usually appears. They have no place in the Englishman’s, nor in Young’s, though Young’s gives a partial listing of references only under “belong.”

Young’s is superior to Strong’s in the fact that it gives at a glance, on the same page as the entries, the original Greek and Hebrew of each of them. But Young’s method of listing the English entries according to the original words creates some difficulty, since a Greek or Hebrew word is often translated by a phrase in English, and Young did not always list every word of the phrase, as Strong did. Thus the word “nay,” in “say me not nay,” or “not say thee nay,” in I Kings 2, is not listed in Young’s at all. It will be found, however, under the word “say,” as “SAY nay, to.” Similarly, Young’s contains no reference to “meet,” in “a help meet for him.” Strong’s lists it, of course, but improperly references it to the Hebrew  (“help”), as though “help meet” were one word, whereas “meet” comes from another Hebrew expression. Likewise, words such as “when” and “while,” when they form part of the rendering of a participle, are entirely omitted by Young’s, while Strong’s contains long lists of them, without indicating any Greek or Hebrew word.

Each of these concordances has its own strengths and weaknesses, as I have endeavored to point out. I use and appreciate all of them.

Glenn Conjurske