What Vocab is Provided? An Explanation and Sample Text

Probably the most obvious question to ask about a reader’s edition is “What vocabulary do you provide?” After all, that is the basic function of this kind of book—to supply the reader with guidance on the form and meaning of difficult vocabulary.

So obviously that’s what we did.

But how did we define “difficult vocabulary” for Septuaginta? It was actually a pretty tricky issue to address. Let me explain.

New Testament Vocabulary & Reader’s Editions

9781619706187oMany will know already about the two reader’s editions of the Greek New Testament currently available (Zondervan and Hendrickson). Although much could be said about the pros and cons of each, what’s important here is how they handle NT vocabulary in terms of frequency:

Both provide footnotes with English glosses (among other info) for any words that occur 30x or fewer in the NT.

For those of you interested in numbers, there are 5,397 lemmata in the New Testament. Of these 455 occur over 30x, whereas a whopping 4,942 occur 30x or under. However, the former make up the vast majority of discrete words in the NT: 115,949 versus 22,064 respectively.* So when students of NT Greek memorize all vocabulary down to the 30x threshold, it means they will know ~84% of the words they encounter while reading.

The importance of this information for our purposes is that we figured most people interested in reading the Septuagint will have taken NT Greek courses. So we decided it was safe to assume that our readers would already know NT vocabulary down to this 30x threshold.

The Septuaginta Vocabulary System

It turns out that determining which Septuagint words to footnote while excluding the NT vocabulary mentioned above is way more complicated than you’d think. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that it required spreadsheets, databases, and diagrams. Like this one:


Thankfully Greg likes this sort of thing, so that helped! After a lot of brain-cramping here’s what we landed on:

A word in Septuaginta gets a footnote and an English gloss if it occurs 100x or fewer. In addition to those words, we also provide a footnote for any word that occurs over 100x in the Septuagint but under 30x in the New Testament. 

Combining these two criteria allowed us to set a frequency threshold for Septuagint vocabulary that we felt was appropriate and helpful while simultaneously:

  1. Excluding NT vocabulary that our readers already know
  2. Including NT vocabulary that our readers probably forgot

There are over 14,000 lemmata in the Septuagint. We framed our thresholds at 100x or fewer in the Septuagint in order to be on the more generous side. That is, we erred on the side of providing more vocabulary help, not less. At the same time, we wanted to avoid overwhelming the reader with a ton of footnotes on every single page. The 100x mark seemed to strike the right balance in the end. The net effect is that there are roughly 125,000 footnotes in Septuaginta (clocking in at ~380,000 total word-count).

Some of the more difficult books (like Wisdom of Solomon or 2 Maccabees) end up with more apparatus on the page than text, which is understandable due to their lexical complexity; easier books (like 1–2 Chronicles or Genesis) end up with more text than apparatus.

The Glossary

What if you forgot your NT vocabulary down to 30x, you ask? Well, we created a Glossary that contains every other word in the Septuagint, so that you can consult it for words you’re not sure about. The content of the Glossary is the inverse of the criteria above for the footnotes, which means it contains all words that occur 101x or more in the Septuagint and 31x or more in the New Testament. We will do a more detailed post on the Glossary in August.

In case you’re wondering, yes, Septuaginta is two volumes (over 3,300 pages combined). Yes, the Glossary is present in both volumes, and it is identical in both.

Footnote Information

What else is in the footnotes? Here’s a breakdown:


  1. Footnote marker
  2. Lexical form of the in-text word
  3. Parsing information
  4. Contextual gloss (usually one or two possibilities that fit the local context)

Note that we only provided morphological information for verbs. That means there are no genitive endings for nouns or adjective forms, or articles for nouns. The primary reasons for doing it that way was to conserve space in the book and to avoid clutter.

We also decided to avoid providing grammatical notes almost entirely. Septuaginta was a massive project. Attempting to include more information than vocabulary (such as commentary on Semiticisms) was not feasible. That said, we did include footnotes for frequent phrases that are not common in the NT, such as ὅν τρόπον, ἀνὰ μέσον, and ἀνθ’ ὧν.

We also included tricky forms, such as less common stem-changing verbs, peculiar perfect forms (a subjective criteria, we know), and all pluperfects and optatives.

Sample Text from Exodus

Okay. Enough talk. Time to take a test drive. As usual, we’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below to tells about your reading experience or ask about something I didn’t address here!


* According to BibleWorks (may it rest in peace)


20 thoughts on “What Vocab is Provided? An Explanation and Sample Text

  1. Reblogged this on Greg Lanier and commented:

    Will Ross on how we went about constructing the vocabulary apparatus for our LXX Reader’s Edition. Including a fancy chart that I no longer know how to explain even though I did it, as well as a short sample from Exodus.


  2. Reblogged this on Septuaginta &c. and commented:

    Over at our blog Septuaginta, I put together some information about what vocabulary we provided in the apparatus of our reader’s edition. Plus if you stick with it you’ll find a sample text from Exodus at the bottom of the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This looks really good! Thanks for the clear explanation, Will, and thanks especially for all the work you both did.


    1. Will means well. But really it was that diagram that sealed the deal for you 🙂

      (I actually cannot for the life of me figure out what I was trying to do in that multi-dimensional venn diagram. Been so long since I did it…)


      1. Yeah I can’t make sense of any of it anymore either. It’s kind of like one of those Magic Eye pictures – the more you think about it the less you get it.


  4. Looks nice, English headings and font are good. Much nicer to read than Rahlfs font in print. I use the UBS reader and the distribution of vocab seems similar to yours above which is good.


    1. Thanks. That’s a good observation. One of our goals was indeed to have the scale of the apparatus be close to the UBS GNT reader’s edition (which is why it took so much thought, since the vocabulary profile for the LXX is far more complex than GNT); e.g., Hebrews has a bigger apparatus, while GJohn’s is much lighter.


  5. I am glad this is similar to the UBS GNT Reader in regards to footnotes, I much prefer that to the Zondervan version. Also, having the difficult parsings is very helpful too! I am looking forward to this coming out.


  6. This looks outstanding–what a useful tool (far better than the competition, imho). I look forward to recommending it to and using it with students. Thanks for all of your good work.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s