Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testament

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Stephen Hughes
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Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testament

Post by Stephen Hughes » October 3rd, 2014, 8:35 am

Another lexicon from the nineteenth century when the classics were still a considerable part of the school cirriculum is Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testament (New Edition) (1838), which is available on Google books. (There are various printings / editions from other years available too.)
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testamen

Post by Barry Hofstetter » October 4th, 2014, 6:23 am

I won't say, especially without looking at it, that such a resource is useless, but why bother with a lexicon that doesn't take into account the papyri and other discoveries/advances made since the 1830's?
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testamen

Post by Stephen Hughes » October 4th, 2014, 1:41 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:I won't say, especially without looking at it, that such a resource is useless, but why bother with a lexicon that doesn't take into account the papyri and other discoveries/advances made since the 1830's?
Over the intervening 180 years, there has, unquestionably, been a great deal of development and progress. But that is not all there has been.

The lexicon is written so that school students who have read / can read some works in Classical Greek could be able to read the New Testament. Also because it is written for students, it has a slightly explanatory / conversational tone, which helps the reader interact with the work.

It is a good reminder that what we are struggling to do with the language in our day and age was achieved to some greater degree in the nineteenth century. Barry, you have posted the Harvard University entrance exam to much the same effect earlier in the year. Most university graduates in classics would have a time of it getting into Harvard under those requirements. I have mentioned too, previously that many of the early Egyptologists wrote notes to each other in Greek verse. Knowledge, analysis and scholarship in the field of New Testament Greek have undoubtedly progressed. Learning, skillful handling and mastery of the language has markedly regressed. It is convenient to point the finger at digital technology, but honestly, what was the state of classical studies in 1985? The PC revolution and e-Bible Greek and Hebrew tools came into being to cater for a need that existed since for the greater part of the twentieth century at least.

In this age of specialist knowledge hand in hand with the demystification of expertise (the dethroning of experts), it is a little difficult to imagine a knowledge of Greek more widespread than now, but of course the fact that another small and specialised work like this lexicon could warrant the time and energy that went into its composition and publishing is testimony to how broad the customer-base for these works was.

Another feature of the modern age is the pace of life, where there is a loss of "in between" time. Things happen in rapid succession. That is the loss of time for thinking and reflection. The talkie style of this lexicon is a little reminiscent of that ambling pace of life too. It is another thing that makes it attractive to me at least too.

This is bigger, but even a very brief lexicon is good for an advanced / upper intermediate learner. Single word definitions serve as reminders of one's knowledge of as word at that level, and 3 - 5 word quotations are a reminder of what we already know about the meaning of the word, which we had previously learnt, and then for whatever reason it slipped our mind.

The papyrus discoveries, and in particular the so-called non-literary papyrus - I think they could just as well be called semi-literate in some cases - add quite a few details to our understanding of the Attic Koine, but actually the New Testament is first and foremost literature. This lexicon assumes that New Testament Greek should be seen within the context of the broader Greek literature, and as mentioned above is written for students who have a grasp of Classical Greek, and want to move on to read the New Testament.

They are just personal impressions though.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testamen

Post by Stephen Carlson » October 7th, 2014, 1:21 am

As pointed out in the ἄν thread, this lexicon is keyed to an obsolete text of the NT. So it's not just being out of date with regard to the papyri that's a problem but also with regard to the text of the NT.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testamen

Post by Stephen Hughes » October 7th, 2014, 3:29 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:As pointed out in the ἄν thread, this lexicon is keyed to an obsolete text of the NT. So it's not just being out of date with regard to the papyri that's a problem but also with regard to the text of the NT.
I realise that you've written this on the fly, and at the risk of leading others to believe that the main point you were making was the one I will speak to, let me take the opportunity to labour just one point of detail, which is probably of little or no interest to anyone anyway.

As I've said previously, I'm not sold on the idea of a new single authoritative or standard text to replace an older standard. The eclectic text is a conjectural composite of texts and textual traditions. I think that the discovery - realisation - that there were so many variants in the manuscripts was a great opportunity to expand on the idea of a single standard and authoritative text approach to reading the New Testament. Back in the age of paper and ink perhaps the costs of reproducing parallel column variants of the New Testament would have been prohibitive, but now, perhaps not.

I have alluded to my feelings about this in a previous discussion we had some time ago. Let me speak more fully about it. It is like someone who lived in a small little room for a long time, who suddenly went out to see the world, then collected a lot of pictures of different scenes of beauty and insight that he found. When he got back to his little room, he realised that there was not enough space on his walls to fit what he had found, so he created a photomontage, which captured many of the interesting features and points of detail that he had seen along the way in his travels, the downside of his cut and paste was that he couldn't leave them within their contexts due to the demands of space. In some cases, notes were written (on the floor) under the text, but not all readers or people reproducing the new scene in his room noticed, paid attention to or even reproduced that part of his room.

I really appreciate some of the older lexicons - after this Robinson, Duncan and Negris one we are discussing - that listed which manuscripts had which readings. This Robinson, Duncan and Negris was as you say too early to do that, and BDAG doesn't do that either (their reasons to depart from that practice are given on page X of the preface). That practice of citing actual manuscripts for their variants, rather than citing a text created from is one step less removed from the diversity of manuscripts that exists from the period after the autographs and before the eclectic reconstruction. Overlooking the diversity by talking about a text, or basing a lexicon, or a vocabulary learning guide (Trenchard) on a single text doesn't reflect the way Christianity has been throughout its history. I like to keep a distinction between what is real manuscript, and what is hypothetical scholarly reconstruction.

I realise that you didn't mean so much by your comment as could be inferred by what I have built up in seeming contradistinction to it, and I hope that noone takes it that I think you did mean a lot by it. I also hope that noone takes my continued writing about this lexicon as that I greatly support it for other than the reasons that I have previously stated, for its assumption of some reading ability in Classical Greek that was imaginable in the 19th century, and for its references to school level classical texts. It has been noted that at the time of its writing it was considered by some as one of the best available, as with most things even the best of the best are eventually improved.
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testamen

Post by Paul-Nitz » October 7th, 2014, 9:06 am


This dictionary is different from others I have.


  • As Stephen mentioned, it gives a fuller description of the word and its usage
    than most. It includes some commentary.
    Entries begin with the basic meaning of a word, whether or not that meaning is
    found in the NT, a feature missing in the concise NT dictionaries.
    Some notes are included on Hebrew usage, giving the actual Hebrew words
    (more often than BDAG).
Compare Robinson and BDAG for the two entries in the image found here (322KB). https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/988 ... B/Tent.jpg

From reading Robinson's introduction and looking through some entries, it seems to me this is a more readable and useful dictionary than any other I could give my students. I hereby pledge 40 hours of work editing to anyone who wants to take on the project of digitizing this book.
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Since Google Books doesn't allow downloads where I live, I looked into this on Archive.org. There, I found 8 different scans of the book. The best image (a bit faint), and best version (1850) that I could find is found here: https://archive.org/details/greekenglexicon00robirich
An entirley unusable edition is available on Kindle. It’s not even worth the $.99 they are charging.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testamen

Post by Jonathan Robie » October 7th, 2014, 10:17 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:
This dictionary is different from others I have.


It reminds me of Thayer's lexicon, which I find very useful. Alas, the scholarship is also sadly outdated.

Do you see a reason to prefer this over Thayer?
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testamen

Post by Paul-Nitz » October 8th, 2014, 10:43 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:Do you see a reason to prefer this over Thayer?
I've never used Thayer. It does look similar, and maybe close enough in content to Robinson. But I am looking also at readability. Even Robinson would not be a treat for 2nd language English speakers, but Thayer confounds things a bit more with his lack of section markers, lack of capitalization of new thoughts, and Latin quotations. But I'm just going by the smell of things. I should have some of my African friends give me an opinion after reading selections of Thayer and Robinson.

Do we have any 2nd language learning specialists out there who could evaluate the readability of Robinson. If it were digitized, if abbreviations (trop. Sept. Pr. Spec.) were replaced with real words, and if it was given the sort of standard formatting clarification that is so easy to perform these days, THEN would it be a text that could be used reasonably well by 2nd language speakers. It would need to be evaluated as a resource that a learner would use repeatedly. That would mean we could tolerate a little less readability than if it were something like a history book.


By the way, I found Thayer here
http://biblehub.com/greek/4633.htm
Your link was to Google books - not available to some parts of the world like mine.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Robinson, Duncan and Negris, Lexicon of the New Testamen

Post by Stephen Hughes » October 8th, 2014, 1:46 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:This dictionary is different from others I have.

As Stephen mentioned, it gives a fuller description of the word and its usage
than most. It includes some commentary.
Entries begin with the basic meaning of a word, whether or not that meaning is
found in the NT, a feature missing in the concise NT dictionaries.
Some notes are included on Hebrew usage, giving the actual Hebrew words
(more often than BDAG).

From reading Robinson's introduction and looking through some entries, it seems to me this is a more readable and useful dictionary than any other I could give my students.
It hadn't occurred to me that it might be useful for NESBs (persons of non-English speaking background), but I see your point.

The biggest difference between is that it seems to feed the information to the reader as they follow the entry sequentially, rather than what happens in a standard dictionary entry, which presents information in a stylised format, from which trained eyes can extract it.
Paul-Nitz wrote:if abbreviations (trop. Sept. Pr. Spec.) were replaced with real words, and if it was given the sort of standard formatting clarification that is so easy to perform these days, THEN would it be a text that could be used reasonably well by 2nd language speakers.
Abbreviations seem to be processed in a different way by my students than I do. I see "n." and hear "noun.", see "obj." and hear "object". My students see "n." and think "n.". A conversation like "The noun after the verb is an object." actually makes more sense as "The n. after the v. is an obj.". It is a little confusing when they have to decide themselves what is actual meaning in an entry and what is symbolic meaning. The italicism in both entries you have listed goes some way to making that clear.

Dictionary training is something that can be actively taught by simple exercises like, "Point to the italicised words", "Read out only the italicisied words", or something like that.

I think that there are two basic tests for a dictionary, learning and reading.
1) Can someone who wants to sit down with a dictionary read an entry and come away feeling they have a better appreciation of the word? In the case of Robinson et al., I would say definitely, yes. The information is presented more linearly, so it reads well. It has a simplicity that makes it easy to interact with.

2) For reading it would be better if the appropriate sense of the word in the place it occurs were easy to find. I think that BDAG is better for that.
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