Joseph Henry Thayer’s Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament is one of the greatest achievements in biblical scholarship at the turn of the twentieth century. As the culmination of nearly three decades of work, it contains more than 5,000 entries, references to hundreds of grammatical and exegetical works, detailed etymology, and complete summaries of both biblical and extra-biblical word usage. The publication of the revised edition of Thayer’s Greek–English Lexicon in 1889 represents a watershed event in nineteenth-century Greek lexicography, and it remains an important tool for students and scholars of the Greek New Testament more than a century after its first appearance.
Thayer’s Greek–English Lexicon is a revised and translated edition of C.G. Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, which was first published in 1841. After numerous revisions by both Wilke and his successor, C.L. Wilibald Grimm, Joseph Henry Thayer took over the project. Thayer devoted nearly thirty years to the translation—making thousands of revisions based on the latest Greek scholarship. The first publication of Thayer’s Greek–English Lexicon appeared in 1885, and an updated edition was published in 1889—the edition available from Logos Bible Software.
The publication of this lexicon unquestionably brings in a new epoch for English-speaking students of the Greek Testament. . . . It will affect commentaries, sermons, Sunday school expositions, and other religious literature.
Joseph Henry Thayer was born in 1828 in Boston. He graduated from Harvard in 1850 and from Andover Theological Seminary in 1857. From 1858 to 1864 he served as a pastor—first in Quincy, Massachusetts, then in Salem—and served as a chaplain in the American Civil War. After the war, he returned to Massachusetts to become Professor of Sacred Literature at Andover Theological Seminary, where he taught until 1882. In 1884, he began teaching New Testament criticism at Harvard.
In addition to his Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament, Thayer was also the editor or translator of numerous works, and the author of Biographical Sketch of Ezra Abbot, The Change in Attitude Toward the Bible, and Books and Their Use. His academic achievements were recognized with honorary degrees from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Dublin University. Thayer died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1901—sixteen years after the first publication of his Lexicon, and the same year Adolf Deissmann’s Bible Studies was published, which would revolutionize New Testament lexicography.