Cambridge Greek Lexicon at ETC

Friend of Koine-Greek.com (I hope!), contributor to the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog, and Vice Principal at Tyndale House in Cambridge, Dirk Jongkind, has begun a series of posts giving his first impressions of the Cambridge Greek Lexicon, a new, from-scratch, lexicon for Classical Greek texts. As he produces more posts, I’ll continue to update this page. I believe there will be four posts total.

Our own copy of the lexicon is pre-ordered and we’re looking forward to perusing it ourselves. Expectations need to be kept lower for biblical scholars. This is a monumental achievement to do this lexicographical work from scratch without relying on past lexica. However, it is not intended to comprehensively cover New Testament vocabulary—only the Gospels and Acts. This likely means two things (that I look forward to confirming myself):

  1. Words that appear in the rest of the New Testament, but not in the lexicon’s corpus will not appear in this lexicon.
  2. Words that appear in the rest of the New Testament, but with a sense that is not attested in the lexicon’s corpus will not have that sense included in its entry.

Additionally because of the space constraints required for a student’s lexicon, there are no citation or quotes from individual texts, only senses in glosses. Within the bounds of what this lexicon claims to be for itself, I expect it to be superb. But many who focus on the post-classical period will likely feel disappointed. This was also our view of Muraoka’s great achievement in his A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint. We are still in need of a general lexicon of post-classical Greek.

I do not have much more to say until I am able to peruse its pages myself, but my anticipation is that if your work depends on reading and studying non-biblical literary texts like Plutarch or Polybius (and if you study Koine Greek, you should), which do receive full coverage in the Cambridge Greek Lexicon, this lexicon is still going to be an important pair of volumes on your shelf.

The reality is simply ugly:

  • LSJ with the 1996 Updated Supplement has the best papyri and epigraphic coverage, but still fails for glosses in the Septuagint and makes poor organizational choices for the order of senses.
  • Brill’s Greek-English Dictionary improves readability and organization and improves coverage in many ways, but at the expense of the insights of the 96′ supplement.
  • The Cambridge Greek Lexicon is expected to have the best/most recent lexicographical research, organization and semantic descriptions at the expense of quotations, citations, and corpus coverage.
  • Post-classical Greek options, like BDAG, Muraoka, Moulton & Milligan, Thackeray’s A Lexicon to Josephus, etc., are all even more corpus limited and arguably more frustrating to use than other options in many contexts—even BDAG.

Finally, I would encourage everyone to give a read to William Ross’s interview with James Diggle about the process of producing the lexicon: The Cambridge Greek Lexicon: An Interview with Prof. James Diggle.

The Cambridge Greek Lexicon is currently available for pre-order for $53 in the US, which is an excellent price for its 1,000 pages.