Montanari talks about BrillDAG

Is a new dictionary of ancient Greek necessary? On Brill’s language and linguistics blog, Franco Montanari answers this question and talks about the distinctive features of his new lexicon.

This is a really helpful post highlighting three reasons why he thinks his lexicon is necessary:

  1. Progress in our understanding of ancient Greek
  2. The evolution of the modern languages in which our lexicons are written
  3. The need for a comprehensive lexicon with a clear graphic layout

I’ve enjoyed using Montanari’s lexicon, especially with later writers like Josephus but also with the Septuagint. There’s a host of LXX references in just about every entry. The other great thing about this work is the price. Brill sells it for $125. The binding is not great, but as long as you use it as an in-office reference lexicon and don’t tote it around everywhere, it should hold up pretty well. Mine has, and I got it as soon as it was published in 2015.

I really hope to see BrillDAG become available in digital platforms other than Brill Online. With Brill Online you can get an individual license for $230, but I’m not a big fan of using an internet browser to do lexical work.

How to Work with Definitions in a Lexicon

What are you supposed to do with those “extended definitions,” and why don’t they just give you a one word gloss, a translation equivalent?
This is from Danker’s Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. vii:

For many glosses and translation of phrases I encourage users, should they be inclined, to form an alternative rendering while keeping the extended definition in mind as the governing semantic agent. Thus the user takes part in the lexical enterprise and the corresponding challenge for acceptable translation.

Ponder the definitions and come up with your own word or phrase that captures the meaning as best you can.


The Earliest Hebrew-English Lexicography

When most students think of an “old” Hebrew-English lexicon, they think of BDB, originally published in 1906 by Brown, Driver, and Briggs, based on the work of Wilhelm Gesenius. The writing of Hebrew-English lexica, however, stretches all the way back to the end of the 16th century.

The early Hebrew-English lexicons can be divided into two groups — those written between 1593 and 1656, and those written from the mid 1700’s to the early 1800’s.

Marie-Louise Craig, “Pioneers and ‘No Through Roads’: The Story of the Early Hebrew-English Lexicons,” p. 25.

In the latest volume of the Perspectives on Syriac Linguistics series, Marie-Louise Craig describes seven of the earliest Hebrew-English lexica, noting the context, motivation, and resources of each project. The very first, John Udall’s The Key of the Holy Tongue, preceded the production of any Hebrew-Dutch, Spanish, or German lexica by more than a century (pp. 23-24).

The part of the article I found most interesting was Craig’s description of the motivations behind these works. She notes several themes that emerge in the titles and prefaces:

  1. The authors placed an extremely high value on the Hebrew language, viewing it as the very language of God.
  2. They were concerned about the trustworthiness of modern translations.
  3. They did their work for the “unlearned.” That is, those who could not read Latin. According to Craig, this was their strongest motivation.

Furthermore, “The four pioneer Hebrew lexicographers who produced significant works in English were all non-conformists.” For example, “William Robertson’s work was sponsored by the Puritans” (p. 24).

After Parkhurst (1762), Hebrew-English lexica were “either translations of Gesenius or based on the German scholarship of Gesenius and Fürst.” Craig concludes by giving two reasons why the work of the earliest Hebrew-English lexicographers did not endure: (1) their non-conformist views led many to neglect their work and (2) their linguistic theory was a bit too theologically framed.

Once linguistic science had established that Hebrew was one of a number of related Semitic languages, any lexicon based on the earlier theory was passed over for more modern productions. (p. 33)

This is a fascinating article, of which I thought you should be aware.

A Lexicographer’s Favorite Verses


Anyone with the slightest bit of experience doing word studies knows what a wearisome task the lexicographer has.
Today, as my mind wandered from the task at hand, I flipped through the front pages of Takamitsu Muraoka’s Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint. What verses did he choose to include at the end of his Introduction (page XVII)?

ἄνθρωπος γεννᾶται κόπῳ
Man is born to toil. (Job 5.7)

χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι,
καὶ ἡ χάρις αὐτοῦ ἡ εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη,
ἀλλὰ περισσότερον αὐτῶν πάντων ἐκοπίασα,
οὐκ ἐγὼ δὲ ἀλλ᾿ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ σὺν ἐμοί.

It is by God’s grace that I am what I am today, and His grace for me has not been wasted, but rather I toiled more than all of them put together, yet not I, but God’s grace which is ever with me. (1 Cor 15.10)

οὐκ εἰς κενὸν ἔδραμον οὐδὲ εἰς κενὸν ἐκοπίασα
I have not run in vain nor have I toiled in vain. (Phil 2.16)

I read these old, familiar words in a new light today — from the perspective of an accomplished, therefore wearied, lexicographer.