Just about everybody had a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. If you were a Christian, it seemed like you would have a Bible, and somewhere next to it you would have Strong’s Concordance. First published in 1890, it contains a numbering system for Hebrew and Greek words. It has 8,674 Hebrew roots that are numbered and 5,523 Greek roots that are numbered. This massive, exhaustive concordance shows where every word in the Bible can be found with its book, chapter, and verse. And this was produced before computers, before software programs, and before search engines, which means this work was all done by hand.
This same Strong also served as editor of the massive ten-volume Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. It was published from 1867 through 1881. And if that’s not enough, this same Strong worked on a committee that produced the American Standard Version of the Bible. For thirty years this committee labored, from 1871 until the ASV was published in 1901. Charles Hodge was one of the editors. It involved a pantheon of scholars of the day. One hundred and one editors worked on the American Standard Version, and one of those 101 was Strong.
So who was he? James Strong was born in New York City on August 14, 1822. He died in New York in 1894. He wanted to be a doctor when he was young, but he went off to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and there he studied biblical languages, among other things. He was a layman, and he had a fascinating career. He organized a railroad company and then built the Flushing Railroad in the 1850s. It was later incorporated and is actually part of the railroad and subway system of New York today. He also served as a mayor of his hometown on Long Island. He taught for a while in Vermont. But his main career was at Drew Theological Seminary, where he worked for twenty-five years.
Just prior to going to Drew, he was the Acting President of Troy University. And sometime in the 1850s he published an article that argued the Methodist Church should establish a seminary in the New York vicinity to train ministers for the gospel. He was mocked for that article. There were many who thought that you shouldn’t train ministers, that God just handpicked them, so they should be God-trained, not man-trained. But Strong persisted, others joined him, and Drew Theological Seminary opened.
He was part of what was called the Strong Five, who were the five who started the seminary. The early president of the seminary was James McClintock. He knew Strong back from their days when they were working on that ten-volume Cyclopedia. So the two of them set off with some other faculty to establish Drew. One of his colleagues at Drew said this of James Strong: “At night, in the library, he worked like a plow horse, but in the lecture room he was a cult. No one ever went to sleep in his class unless he was in bad health or an imbecile.” That’s what they thought of James Strong.
He spent thirty-five years working on the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. It became a standard text, and as I said, just about everybody had a copy of Strong’s Concordance.