“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev 22:21).


Choosing the right words or phrases  for focused word study is important. According to Richard Fuhr Jr. and Andreas Köstenberger, the purpose of discriminate observation is to narrow the field for interpretative study and nonroutine words and phrases within a passage are those in which further examination is warranted.[1] Understanding the sense of the meaning a word carries in a particular context is essential for proper interpretation.[2] While semantic range refers to related meanings within a given word, semantic field refers to related words within a given language. 

Words and Phrases

The semantic range of is identified by its usage in a range of contexts; hence, the more times a particular word is used in different contexts, the broader its semantic range. Paul’s use of the word “domain” (ἐξουσίας) in Col 1:13-14 presents an ideal opportunity for a consideration of semantic range. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14, ESV).[3] The word ἐξουσίας refers to a dynamic range of word usage, depending on which NT translation cited. Thayer’s lexicon expands on Strong’s definition of ἐξουσίας as “authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power,” by expounding four coinciding contexts: the power of liberty of doing as one pleases, the physical and mental power one either has or acts upon, and the power of rule or government. The KJV translates ἐξουσίας as “power,” while the NIV translates the term as “dominion,” and the CSB, ESV, and NASB translate as “domain,” but all of these translations do so within the phrase “of darkness.” Unlike the use of δύναμις, which is translated as “power” in terms of the miraculous, might, or ability, Paul’s use of ἐξουσίας affirms that his audience has gained freedom much in light of jurisdiction; therefore, Strong’s definition of ἐξουσία as “authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power,” makes sense in light within the passage. 

Whether translated as “power,” “domain,” or “dominion,” the semantic range is one which is indicative that the Colossian Christians have been liberated from the authority, or the jurisdiction, of darkness and transferred “to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” through whom the faithful are redeemed and their sins forgiven, where they have gained not the right of doing as one pleases, but rather, pattern their behavior after Christ. Moreover, Paul uses the word ἐξουσίας again in Colossians 2:15 reasserting that Christ has “disarmed the rulers and authorities [ἐξουσίας]” and “put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Paul uses ἐξουσίας in other letters to express the same authoritative context, like stating the right of an apostle to receive financial support (1 Cor 9:1–18; 2 Thess 3:9) as well as by illustrating God’s right to form and mold his clay in Romans 9:21. Finally, not limited to the Pauline epistles, scriptural occurrences of ἐξουσίας are found in other books of the NT, such as Matthew 7:29 and Revelation 22:14, both verses proclaiming the authority of Christ, and by extension, to our new authority in Christ.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev 22:21). A semantic field refers to words with related, not identical, meanings that describe or pertain to a particular domain or semantic area. The semantic field of the word “grace” (χάρις) includes “grace, mercy, kindness, favor, compassion, and pity, as well as lovingkindness, goodness, and thanks.”[4] “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28). Moreover, verse 24 explains how it is that we are justified in verse 28, “and are justified by his grace [χάρις] as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul liken grace to Thayer’s semantic field of related terms as mercy, kindness, favor, compassion.

According to Mary Bolin’s research, data was compiled by beginning with the words grace and mercy in the KJV, and then correspondences was identified in the original Greek and Hebrew, Martin Luther’s German Bible, and the Latin Vulgate.[5] Because the word χάρις has more similarity to unmerited favor, grace has a specialized theological meaning within the NT writings. For example, Thayer’s places “grace” in the field that which entails joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, and considered in a broader sense, good-will, loving-kindness, and favor quintessential to Christians forgiveness of sins and redemption by God. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14). Paul’s use of the word grace here in Titus relates it to concepts like “mercy,” “pardon,” and “forgiveness”; a gracious offer made to those who truly receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.


There is value to a traditional word study in that it focuses on the semantic range and the sense of the word within a particular context, and the helpfulness of a semantic field study in the interpretation of terms and the associated texts. While semantic range refers to related meanings within a given word, semantic field refers to related words within a given language. Interestingly, the words grace and mercy are ubiquitously related and share many elements of meaning in common with one another, such as gracias or grazie express gratitude in Spanish and Italian, while merci expresses gratitude in French. 

[1] Richard Alan Fuhr Jr. and Andreas J. Köstenberger, Inductive Bible Study: Observation, Interpretation, and Application through the Lenses of History, Literature, and Theology (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2016), 234.

[2] Ibid., 239.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the English Standard Version.

[4] Mary K. Bolin, “Grace: A Contrastive Analysis of a Biblical Semantic Field.” MA thesis, University of Idaho, 1999.

[5] Ibid.

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