Introducing the Cambridge Greek Lexicon

After more than fifteen years of tireless research, a very important project in Greek lexicography is currently wrapping up over at Cambridge. The new Cambridge Greek Lexicon promises to supplant the received authorities in Greek lexicography (including, perhaps, the newest English translation of Vocabolario della Lingua Greca by Franco Montanari, or ‘BrillDAG’). This is not a modest claim, but it is defensible in view of the fact that this new lexicographical work features an entirely fresh methodology in evaluating a given word’s lexical semantics. The truth is that no current lexicographical work in ancient Greek represents a truly innovative step forward with respect to methodology. We rely too heavily on prior works which are methodologically flawed. As John Lee wrote in his monograph, A History of New Testament Lexicography:

New Testament lexicography has failed to deliver the results one might expect from such long-sustained attention. Instead of a commodity that provides accurately described meanings and a reliable summation of the relevant data, we have haphazard coverage of the latter and a considerably flawed treatment of the former. The reasons for this outcome . . . [are] undue reliance on predecessors, an unsatisfactory method of indicating meaning, interference from translations, and an inadequate means of gathering evidence and opinion.

Often what we have with a new lexicon is the incorporation of new data with a corresponding update in the English glosses provided, yet the flawed methodology remains intact. This project, however, promises to offer a methodologically modern lexicon. For example, rather than supplying simple glosses in a traditional format, the editors have chosen to provide descriptive sense distinctions:

Instead of relying solely on existing lexicons, the editors have systematically gone back to the original texts in order to  construct their entries, which has enabled us to identify fresh interpretations and insights. . . There is a strong focus on identification of sense distinctions and a detailed description of them, as opposed to an older methodology in ancient Greek dictionaries where general catch-all single word translations were used, along with a bias in the presentation towards the highlighting of syntactic information, which in practice tends to override somewhat unsubtly the divisions of sense. . . In this lexicon, current English has been used, with great care taken to match the ancient senses with a modern way of expressing them. As a further aid to sharpening understanding, a wide range of contextual information has been included, for instance, the kinds of subjects and objects which occur with a given verb, or the semantic range of nouns that an adjective can qualify.

Very exciting. Go have a look!


Lee, John A. L. A History of New Testament Lexicography. New York: P. Lang, 2003. 177.

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