What is a biblical concordance? Put simply, a concordance is an index—in most cases, alphabetical—that supplies the location and usage of words in the book.
In its simplest form, you might use a biblical concordance, for instance, if you want to find all the passages in the Bible that contain the word ‘love.’ Most Bibles contain in the back an abridged index of important words. But the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, instead of English; and simply finding all the instances of the English word ‘love’ may not be helping you understand the root meaning of the translated word, or how that root meaning might have different nuances in separate passages.
So, proper biblical concordances—used as a means of studying Scripture—provide a definition for a specific word in its original language along with a contextualized listing for each instance of that word: an index and a dictionary of the root words being translated into English.
In order to link the original-language word to the corresponding English word, concordances use a system that applies a number to each original-language word. Why is this important? In Greek, there is more than one word for the English word ‘love,’ each of which have differing connotations that might affect how we understand certain passages. Numbering systems, like Strong’s and Goodrick/Kohlenberger, assign a different number to each different original-language word.
For example: The Greek word for “loved” in John 3:16 (“for God so loved…”) is agapaō, which means “to love, value, esteem, feel, or manifest generous concern for, be faithful towards; to delight in, to set store upon.” The G/K number for agapaō is 26; the Strong’s is 25.
The Greek word for “loved” in John 11:36 (“See how he loved him!”) is phileō, meaning to “regard with affection, have affection for; to like, be fond of, delight in a thing.” The G/K number for phileō is 5797; the Strong’s is 5368.
When conducting a word study of a biblical passage, a concordance user can follow this numbering system to easily find the Greek or Hebrew word and the full definition of that word. And the systems correspond to other resources that employ the same numbers, so they offer any student of Scripture a quick and easy path to uncovering the original meanings of the text.
To learn more about how to conduct your own word studies of the Bible, check out our video series, Bible Word Study Made Easy: A Conversations with Dr. Bill Mounce.