New Expository Dictionary of Bible Words

Stephen Renn’s new Expository Dictionary of Bible Words is now available. Read Wayne Jackson’s review of this new Bible study tool. It will be a welcomed addition to the serious Bible student’s library.
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

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Book Review

The long-awaited, highly anticipated Expository Dictionary of Bible Words made its debut in 2005. This volume of 1171 pages, from Hendrickson Publishers, is subtitled Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts. It is coded to the Revised Strong’s Numbering System for the convenience of those who do not read the original languages.

The editor of this new volume is Stephen D. Renn. Renn has served as Head of Biblical Studies and Academic Dean at the Missionary and Bible College in Sydney, Australia. For 15 years (1986-2002) he was lecturer in Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew at that institution. More recently, Renn was the Coordinator of Language Teaching at Inaburra School in Sydney.

Several years ago, Professor Renn served as co-editor with N.J. Sandon in the expansion of W.E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. That volume, published by World Bible (Iowa Falls, IA – 1991) was called Vine’s Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Reference Edition With a Comprehensive Key to Major Old & New Testament Reference Works).

Unfortunately, that edition of Vine is now out of print, though occasionally it is accessible through internet used book sources.

This new volume is said to examine “over 7,260 Greek and Hebrew words,” arranged alphabetically under the English terms found in our common Bible.

Consider, for example, the English words “Ability, Able.” Under this heading there is first a listing of five Hebrew terms that provide different shades of meaning for these English words

Second, there is a consideration of four Greek forms that reflect the New Testament perspective of these terms. Frequently the comments on these Hebrew and Greek words are supplemented by short summaries designated as “Additional Comments.”

Perhaps the greatest value of this new book is the correlation of the Hebrew (and Aramaic) words of the Old Testament, with the Greek vocabulary of the New Testament, as they are jointly presented — Hebrew words first, corresponding Greek terms second.

Additionally, helpful comments generally tell approximately how many times an original word is found in the respective Testaments, though these figures are not broken down into book distribution, as is the case in some larger reference works.

Read Discerningly

It must be pointed out, however, that this volume occasionally ventures too far into the field of the commentator (which all lexicons do to a greater or lesser degree — ideally “lesser” than “greater”).

For example, in the article on “Spirit,” a number of inaccurate statements are made. It is alleged the “true followers of Christ” are to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” ignoring the fact that Spirit baptism was restricted to the apostles and the household of Cornelius (Acts 2; 10). The promise of Joel 2:28ff is made applicable to “the new covenant people of God.” The Spirit is said to “illuminate” the believer, and to provide “divine guidance” — in the same sense as indicated in Acts 8:29; 13:2. Unique contextual usages of passages pertaining to the Spirit’s work appear to be unrecognized.

Another example involves the brief reference to a “Bishop” suggesting that the first-century “bishop,” or “overseer,” was given spiritual oversight of a local congregation “or group of congregations.” There is absolutely no biblical evidence of this multi-church scope of authority.

Again, with reference to the term “Empty,” as used by Paul in Philippians 2:7, it is imprecise, at the very least, to suggest that Jesus “voluntarily put aside his status as a heavenly, divine figure” to assume a “full human identity” (emp. added). While Christ did take upon himself a “human” nature, he did not divest himself of his “divine” essence.

Another, under the word “Flesh,” in connection with Romans 7:5, etc., the editor defines the term sarx as “sinful human nature,” reflecting the Calvinist view of depravity.

And again, the editor’s recognition of teleios [“perfect” – KJV, ASV] as meaning “complete in its expression or construction” in 1 Corinthians 13:10, is quite correct. But his application of the term to “the heavenly tabernacle” is wholly foreign to the context — which has to do with the “completed” revelatory process in the finished New Testament canon.

Strange Things

A few things about this work are difficult to understand.

For instance, Professor Renn is identified as the “Editor” of this volume, yet no other contributors are specified in the book. Too, on the copyright page there is a notation regarding the contents: “Includes bibliographical references and indexes.” There are indexes of the Hebrew and Greek words, but there is no list of “bibliographical references” in this work.

Some words seem to be out of balance in terms of the space assigned to them — if indeed they are included at all. For instance, while a little over eight lines are utilized for the Greek term soudarion (handkerchief), not a solitary line is employed in explaining the uses of the words “Sincere,” “Sincerely,” or “Sincerity” — forms of which are found both in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament.

There is an entry for “dish” (tryblion – Matthew 26:23), but no mention of either apostasia (defection, falling away; used of religious apostasy – Acts 21:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3) or aphistemi (to stand off, withdraw from, apostatize – Luke 8:13; 1 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 3:12). Why would a “dish” be more significant than warnings against falling away from God and the Christian faith? But the verb ekpipto is cited under “Fall,” as referring to those who have “fallen from grace,” with Revelation 2:5 as passage of similar import.


The publishers promote this work as: “A feature-rich modern replacement for the classic Vine’s Expository Dictionary.” In spite of certain weaknesses in this volume (characteristic of all lexical tools), we recommend this useful book. But we do not believe that it is superior to Vine. Vine’s work, in our judgment, is more precise in its consideration of the actual meanings of the terms in the Greek New Testament.

No work surpasses Vine in the etymological breakdown of Greek words, e.g., ADVOCATE — parakletos [para — “beside”; kaleo — “to call”] (1 John 2:1), hence to call to one’s side.

Or consider LOOK — apoblepo [apo — “away from”; blepo — “to look”], used in the sense of looking away from distractions, and toward a fixed goal (cf. Hebrews 11:26).

Though we recommend Renn’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, it is much too ambitious to suggest that it will replace the “classic” Vines Dictionary; hang on to your Vine! The more you study it, the more you will appreciate it (though not even Vine is without its flaws).