Searching Morphology

Printed concordances list every occurrence of a given word in the Bible. These concordances do not distinguish between the different forms the word may have in any given context. Bible software offers huge advantages over printed concordances for searching the biblical text.

A major advantage for using software rather than using printed resources is the ability to search by Greek and Hebrew morphology. Morphology is the part of speech information that is part of every word in a Greek or Hebrew text. Each Greek or Hebrew word has a lemma (this is the dictionary form of the word), plus the morphology. This combination of lemma plus morphology offers exciting search possibilities. We will look at one of these possibilities in this article.

Searching a word according to morphology enables you to find words that have a specific part of speech. In this way you can find every place where a given word appears, for example, in the aorist tense (for Greek) or the qal stem (for Hebrew). By using software you can restrict your searches to the exact form of a word that appears in the verse you are studying.

In Ephesians 5:25, Paul instructs husbands to love their wives. The word love, agapaw, appears 143 times in the New Testament in 41 different forms. However, it only appears 10 times in the New Testament in the imperative form, which is the form that appears in Ephesians 5:25. If you wanted to find each of the imperative forms of agapaw using the printed concordance, you would have to work through each of the occurrences manually and identify which of them are in the imperative form. It is easy to use software to find that believers are to love their enemies (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35), husbands are to love their wives (Eph. 5:25, 33; Col. 3:19), and believers are to love one another (1 Pet. 1:22; 2:17). A negative command also appears, that we are not to love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15).

Key Point

There are many search capabilities in Bible software that are not possible to replicate using printed resources. The ability to search on morphological information opens many search options that can save time and yield useful interpretive results.

Stay tuned for more examples of Bible software search capabilities that cannot be replicated easily when using printed resources!


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