It seems to be a popular question format to ask about the meaning of a word ("x") in a verse ("y:z").

There was one question whose originally accepted answer (now deleted) struck me the wrong way. It did little more than give the Strong's definition of the Greek word, and just felt lacking.

It made me think that it would be helpful to have some guidelines for what might make a good answer for this type of question. For example, beyond giving a dictionary definition, it might be helpful to have some attention paid to usage and context, perhaps the grammatical construct if relevant, perhaps give and evaluate some options, etc.

So, what would be some guidelines for a good answer to this sort of question?

  • I can imagine a case where a quote from Strongs is sufficient. However, I have yet to see that be the case so far. Most of the time, the questions need sufficiently more than just a dictionary quote.
    – Richard
    Oct 10, 2011 at 11:55
  • @Richard: My answer to hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/9/… isn't much more than a quote from a dictionary definition. (I used a modern Greek dictionary since the question was disputing (or looking to dispute) the Strong's definition.) Even so, I tried to elaborate on the meaning of the word to the best of my ability. Oct 10, 2011 at 21:03
  • @JonEricson Great example. Thanks!
    – Richard
    Oct 10, 2011 at 21:06
  • @JonEricson, this might be a good example of a case where there is wisdom in just showing the definition of the word. The brevity of your answer makes it clear and forceful. Any more would just encumber the answer in technical details
    – Ray
    Oct 10, 2011 at 21:07

1 Answer 1


This answer is inspired by this Meta.SO post regarding good answers

My advice for writing an excellent answer:

  • Be definitive

    Adding a reference to Strong's helps out significantly in this. Using conjecture (such as "Well, I was always taught..." or "It seems to me that...") makes for a poor answer. The answers to these types of questions need to be crystal clear and definitive (when possible).

  • Be clear

    Adding a reference to Strong's does help, but often a word carries multiple meanings. Therefore we need to be clear about which meaning applies to this verse (and why it applies). Often this requires analyzing context or showing the word within the sentence structure in order to explain why a certain definition is understood. Ultimately, though, it is important in these types of answers to be very clear.

  • Include outside support

    Saying on your own authority that a given word means a given thing is difficult to do (even in your native language). It's much better if you have outside support to show that others agree with your opinion on the matter. This is especially true if you're not a scholar of the subject. (For example, my first line in this post shows directly my outside support on this.)

  • Include Links

    Referencing Strong's is nice. Linking to it is even better so that the people reading the answer can launch off into their own word studies

  • Be Complete

    The QnA format of this site requires that questions and answers be relatively short. No one is expecting you to post a book regarding a given subject. However, the outstanding answers are ones that are fully supported so that no argument can be made against it.

  • When the answer is questionable, include multiple opinions

    In general, you should always seek to find the one true answer. However, in some cases it's not possible to have a definitive answer. (Since the topic is highly debated or debatable) When these types of questions arise, you should include a short survey of opinions about the subject. If you include both sides, it insures that your answer is complete. Also, I've found that it helps avoid contention since both sides of the argument are represented. Finally, in these situations, the survey of possible answers really is the only true, complete answer.

  • Revise your answer to include more information as it comes along

    Like the people that write the answers, no answer is perfect. Often someone will spot a mistake or error and post a comment asking for clarification or pointing out the error. Use these comments as a means to refine the answer. Also, if you can please the one or two dissenters, it will gain you more reputation and your answer will rise to the top as the best.

Some General guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Be respectful of others (See also the FAQ page)

  • Spelling and Grammar matter

  • If you have to guess, be honest that your answer is not to be taken as fact

  • Don't be afraid to delete your answer if a better answer comes along

  • Don't be afraid of deleting your answer to repost a better answer

  • Never repost your answer if a moderator has deleted it

  • I upvoted, but feel the need to add the caveat that I don't agree that including multiple options without a conclusion is good general advice for a good answer.
    – Ray
    Oct 10, 2011 at 12:45
  • @Ray Per our discussion in chat, I agree with your conclusion. In general, survey answers don't really answer the question. This is just something that I've found works well for an SE site (it seems to have avoids contention and finds the most support). That's just my experience, though. When definitive answers can be given they should. (Ooh, I'll add that)
    – Richard
    Oct 10, 2011 at 13:40

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