Short Notice: BDAG3

bdagDanker, Frederick W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d ed. Based on Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der fruhchristlichen Literatur, 6th ed., ed. Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, with Viktor Reichmann and on previous English editions by W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2000. lxxxix + 1108 pgs. Hardcover. $85.00. ISBN 0-226-03933-1.

[Photos of these scholars and published reviews at end, along with an “Intro to BDAG.”
And Errata for BDAG on a separate page.]

Long awaited, the recent release of the third English edition of Bauer’s lexicon–the standard in New Testament lexicography–marks a significant achievement in biblical scholarship. Everyone who is serious about grappling with the text of the Greek testament owes a great debt to Frederick Danker and to the University of Chicago Press. Originally due in the mid-90s, many of us have fretted over innumerable delays, but the wait has been worth it.

The history of BDAG (as the new edition is to be known) may be traced to Preuschen’s Vollstadiges griechisch-deutsches Handwoterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testament und der ubringen Urchristlichen Literatur which appeared in 1910–the first lexicon to be published after the discovery and study of the papyri (though unfortunately the papyri evidence was not used by Preuschen). This work was revised several times by Walter Bauer as Griechisch-deutsches Woterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubringen Urchristlichen Literatur. The fourth German edition (1949-52) was the basis of the first English edition prepared by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich (1957). A second English edition (in which Danker took the place of Arndt who had died in 1957) followed in 1979, based on Bauer’s fifth edition (1957-58). The sixth edition of the Woterbuch (following Bauer’s death in 1960) was edited by the Alands (Kurt and Barbara) and Viktor Reichmann (1988). The third English edition builds on the preceding English editions, the sixth German edition, and Danker’s own work. (Gingrich died in 1993.)

The two most obvious and appreciated changes from previous editions are the inclusion of actual definitions of each Greek word (rather than simple English translation glosses) and the much improved typography. There is a considerable difference between how one might translate a Greek word into English and defining that word. The only other lexicon which has attempted to provide definitions is Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon of the NT Based on Semantic Domains. BDAG still includes translation glosses, but finally gives something equivalent to what readers would expect to find in a dictionary of their own mother tongue: definitions.

As to the typography, the user will quickly notice that the pages are much more legible. Although the main text is still set in 7 point Times New Roman, the leading has been increased to 10 points; the main entry word is set in a larger (10 point), bold typeface; and a brighter paper has been used. All NT references are set in bold, which makes it much easier to locate specific instances of a word in the NT. Perhaps the most distinctive innovation in the typography is the use of bulleted numbers to outline the semantic divisions of each article. Top level divisions are numbered with solid bullets and second level categories with hollow bullets (see illus. below). This greatly facilitates tracing the structure of BDAG’s entry and the semantic range of each word.

Other changes include the very large increase in non-NT citations (an additional 15,000 according to the publisher) and a major reworking of the abbreviation lists in the front matter.

The inevitable question that must arise upon the publication of such a book is, “Should I buy it?” If you are a student of the Greek NT and have not yet purchased a standard lexicon, the answer is an unqualified Yes. You will never accomplish any serious exegesis if you remain forever with only a beginner’s lexicon (as Newman’s Dictionary must be judged; it has other limitations as well). There is no other equivalent tool. Louw and Nida’s Lexicon has a different focus altogether. Abbott-Smith is much more limited (though handy enough to carry on vacation). Thayer ought not even be considered since his work is both inaccurate and seriously out of date (it is “pre-papyri”). The only other major lexicon is Liddell and Scott, but that work focuses primarily on classical Greek even though the LXX and NT are included. So buy BDAG (sell your car if necessary!) and learn to use it. You will not regret your purchase.

Another easy recommendation can be made for those who are either teaching Greek or who are doing graduate work in NT (or theology). In either case you simply must buy the new edition. As a teacher, all your students will be using BDAG in just a few years, and you will have to have the tool that they are using. For graduate students, only the most recent research is adequate, particularly when you reach the dissertation stage. (You can always “retire” the older edition to a handy place by your favorite reading chair at home–which is where my old BAG has been for a number of years.)

But what if you already have the first or second edition of Bauer’s lexicon (BAG or BAGD)? Here advice is more difficult. If all you have is one of the earlier editions and your eyes are not as keen as they once were, then the much improved legibility of the new BDAG may be worth your investment, especially if you do not also own Louw and Nida’s Lexicon, for then you would gain the added definitions as well. If you own an earlier edition and you also have Louw and Nida, then the choice becomes more difficult. You might decide to be content with these two tools–and that would be a viable decision if you regularly use both these tools together. More commonly Louw and Nida sits on the shelf untouched, and that is not good. It does take longer to consult two reference tools than one–and Louw and Nida is more clumsy to use than Bauer since one must first find the word in the index volume and then trace its multiple occurrences in the main volume. The gain in using the new BDAG might well expedite your study and even prompt you to pull down Louw and Nida to compare definitions.

Intro to BDAG

“An Introduction to the Bauer/Danker Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament” (R. Decker, 27 pgs., .pdf format). This is an extensive introduction to the history and use of BDAG. This has existed in various forms for several years as I have taught my students how to use BDAG. This is the first edition sufficiently complete to justify posting, although it is still to be regarded as a draft and not a final, polished version. Also see one of my PowerPoint files that I use in class:

A Basic Introduction to BDAG3”  This is one of the items that I use to introduce my students to BDAG. Please read the notes on the last slide. Requires XP version of PowerPoint (or newer). It’s probably best to download the entire file and run it from your hard drive rather than trying to view it over the web. (In Windows, right click the link and select “Save target as…”; In Mac, click and hold for the pop-up menu, then select “Save…”)
Alternate format: Adobe Acrobat *v. 5* .pdf format.  Revised and expanded versions posted 9/13/2007.

Errata for BDAG

As valuable a tool as BDAG is, a tool of this complexity and magnitude is bound to have typos, etc. My list of errata for BDAG (based on the first printing) is on a separate page. It’s not long; the Univ./Chicago Press has done an outstanding job with an exceedingly complex typesetting job. Some typos have been corrected in subsequent printings.

Notes on the Danker Festschrift

Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker, ed. B. Taylor, J. Lee, R. Burton, and R. Whitaker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004). Notes and my summary of the book. See especially Danker’s article, “Lexical Evolution and Linguistic Hazard” (pp. 1-31), formerly [I think!]: “Lexicographical Hazards” in SBL 1985 Seminar Papers, ed. K. Richards, 235-41 (Scholars Press, 1985).

Other Reviews of BDAG

  • Review by Jerker BlomqvistBryn Mawr Classical Review, June 2001
  • Review by Kim Haines-EitzenElectronic Antiquity 6.1
  • There are several reviews posted on the Review of Biblical Literature (RBLsite. Links to each of these (as of 10/23/02) are linked directly below. (The link in this entry goes to a page listing all reviews of BDAG on RBL.)
  • Review by J. L. North, JTS, ns, 54.1 (2003): 271-80
  • The review listed above by Terry Roberts has now been reprinted in the Danker Festschrift: Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker, ed. B. Taylor, et al, 53-65 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).

Other Relevant Articles

Reviews of 2d ed., 1978 (BAGD)

  • Gordon D. Fee, Christian Scholars Review, 10.1 (1980):92-93.
  • Francis Gignac, CBQ 42 (1980): 555-58.
  • Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Theological Studies, 40.3 (1979): 533-35.
  • Schuyler Brown, JBL 100.2 (1981): 290-91.
  • R. W. Klein, Currents in Theology and Mission, 6 (1979): 63-66.
  • Georgacas, CP [Classical Philology?] 53 (1958) 58-59.

Reviews of 1st. ed., 1957 (BAG)

  • Wm. Barclay, NTS 9 (1962): 70-72.
  • G. Friedrich, TLZ 88 (1963): 38ff.
  • E. des Places, Biblica 38.3 (1957): 355-56.
  • S. L. Johonson, Jr. BSac 114.456 (1957): 372.
  • Holt Graham, Anglican Theological Review 39.4 (1957): 584-85.
  • Stiles Lessly, Christian Century 74.17 (1957): 535.
  • ‘D.G.B.’ in Irenikon 30.2 (1957): 243-44.
  • A. A. Stevenson, Month 17.6 (1957): 407-08.
  • Times Literary Supplement, Ap. 19, 1957.



Fred Danker at SBL (early 2000s?)


Walter Bauer


Frederick William Danker (1920–)

ARNDT William F

William Frederick Arndt (1880–1957)


Felix Wilbur Gingrich (1901–1993)


Photos of Arndt and of Arndt & Gingrich courtesy of the Concordia Historical Institute. Photos of Gingrich (this page and other page linked) courtesy of Gingrich Library at Albright College.