You may or may not know that Logos hosts a series of newsgroups (news://news.logos.com) dealing with various aspects of Logos Bible Software. The "General" group gets the most traffic by far, but my favorite group is the "Greek" group.
Yesterday, a correspondent asked about Greek lexica. Here's his question:
Can anyone recommend a source of information about the various Greek Lexica, their origins, relative strengths & weaknesses? e.g. BDAG, Kittel, Louw & Nida, Brown (Zondervan), Liddell & Scott?
As I accumulate these lexica in LDLS, I'm trying to learn how to use these tools better, rather than just adopting their insights uncritically, and trying to avoid the exegetical errors and excesses that come from an inexperienced and uninformed handling of these resources.
As you may or may not know, I love Greek lexicons. I had to respond:
John A.L. Lee's A History of New Testament Lexicography traces the history of Greek lexicography from its beginning. He's more concerned with the content and how lexicons have developed than on theological perspectives of the lexicon editors, but you may find it helpful. The book is published by Peter Lang and is volume 8 in their Studies in Biblical Greek series. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.
One thing that has been helpful for me personally, besides Lee's volume, was reading Adolf Deissmann. Both his Bible Studies volume and Light from the Ancient East provided insight on the state of Greek lexicography at the time he was writing (1890s-1920s). This in turn has helped me understand proper usage of these sorts of sources and also made me more aware of the value of Greek sources from the NT era that are not the New Testament.
Another help has been some discipline in looking up and considering citations listed in the lexicon article. I used to simply scan lexicon articles to see if the verse I was studying was explicitly mentioned, and then went with whatever sense the verse citation occurred in. Now I spend time considering many citations, especially citations to the LXX and non-biblical sources (e.g. Josephus, Apostolic Fathers, pseudepigraphal documents) to consider if the cited usage is adequately handled by the definitions (glosses) provided.
Regarding Louw & Nida -- much has been written. Books such as Louw's Semantics of New Testament Greek or (especially) Nida & Louw's Lexical Semantics of the Greek New Testament may be helpful in understanding the practice and principles of Louw & Nida's lexicography.
I should also note that another Logos user responded to the same question, recommending the Frederick Danker fettschrift edited by Taylor & Lee, Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography. I can't believe I forgot that one. I'm so ashamed. Of course anyone interested in lexicography should read that book.
Update (2005-06-23): Michael Gilleland picks up this thread on his blog, Laudator Temporis Acti. As Michael mentions, the books I've discussed above primarily deal with the Greek of the New Testament. He pads out the discussion. Check out what he's got to say, and check out the linked editions at the end of the post.