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Fall 2004 · Vol. 33 No. 2 · pp. 207–211 

Recommended Reading

Bible Resources for the Nonspecialist

Douglas B. Miller

For those involved in Bible study leadership, or who simply wish to improve their own study, the following resources may be of help. The emphasis in the first section is on the basics of Bible study, while the second section provides resource suggestions for a broad range of issues (all in English). In general, the reader should beware of relying on dated volumes which are fifty to one hundred years old; yet such works can still be valuable and often serve to challenge contemporary assumptions. Many of the following are available in electronic (computer) format (marked with *).


1. Scripture. It is valuable to consult several translations: two literal versions—e.g., the *New Revised Standard Version and the *New American Standard Bible—and one or two of the paraphrase or dynamic equivalency types, e.g., *The Message, the *New Living Translation, the *New International Version or Today’s NIV, and the *New Jerusalem Bible. Virtually every major translation is currently available electronically (see “Computer Bible Programs” below).

2. Concordances. It is essential for word study to have an exhaustive concordance. Those currently available which identify underlying original language terms are *The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible (KJV, Zondervan, corrects many past errors), *NASB Exhaustive Concordance (Lockman), and the *NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Zondervan). {208}

3. Bible Dictionaries. Good one-volume editions are the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (HarperSanFrancisco), the (Evangelical) *New Bible Dictionary (InterVarsity), and Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Much more thorough is the six-volume *Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday), the best currently available. Still useful are the five-volume *Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon) and the five-volume (Evangelical) *Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Zondervan).

4. Bible Atlases. The two best are Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, The Carta Biblical Atlas, 3d ed. (Macmillan), and James B. Pritchard, The Harper Atlas of the Bible (Harper).

5. Commentaries. Basic but still good are the Tyndale series (Eerdmans) and the *Daily Study Bible series (Westminster John Knox). Better are the homiletical and application-oriented sets such as the (Anabaptist) *Believers Church Bible Commentary (Herald), *Interpretation (Westminster John Knox), and the (Evangelical) NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan). Among the much more thorough, yet still readable, the following series are recommended: *Word Biblical Commentary (Nelson), Old and New Testament Libraries (Westminster John Knox), and the Anchor Bible Commentary (Doubleday). One-volume commentaries on the whole Bible can be of some help, but are limited. Among the better ones are the HarperCollins Bible Commentary (HarperSanFrancisco), the (Catholic) *New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice-Hall), and the (Evangelical) *New Bible Commentary (InterVarsity).

6. Word Study Tools. Valuable and easily accessible are, for Old Testament, the *Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (2 vols., Moody), and for New Testament, the *Theological Dictionary of the New Testament abridged in one volume (Eerdmans). More thorough and technical are the *New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (5 vols., Zondervan), the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (currently 14 vols., Eerdmans), the *New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (3 vols., Zondervan), and the *Theological Dictionary of the New Testament unabridged (10 vols., Eerdmans).

7. Textual Criticism. Very accessible are Ellis R. Brotzman, Old Testament Textual Criticism (Baker) and David Alan Black, New Testament Textual Criticism (Baker). {209}

8. Biblical Imagery. Three books for reference regarding images in the Bible are Leland Ryken, et al., eds., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (InterVarsity); G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible (Westminster); and Othmar Keel, The Symbolism of the Biblical World (Eisenbrauns). On the question of imagery for God in the Bible, see Paul R. Smith, Is It Okay to Call God Mother? (Hendrickson).

9. Computer Bible Programs can be a big help and save time. WordSearch and QuickVerse are very good and have additional supplementary tools. For those with some knowledge of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the following programs are recommended, each of which includes the ability to search the biblical texts as well as use various reference tools in the process of study: Bible Works, Gramcord, Libronix (Logos), and Bible Windows.


1. Introductions. For the Old Testament, Bernhard W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament (Prentice-Hall), Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Fortress), and (Evangelical) W. S. LaSor, F. W. Bush, and David Hubbard, Old Testament Survey (Eerdmans). For the New Testament, Luke T. Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament (Augsburg Fortress); Paul J. Achtemeier, Joel B. Green, and Marianne Meye Thompson, The New Testament: Its Literature and Theology (Eerdmans); and, more popular, Albert A. Bell, A Guide to the New Testament World (Herald). Also excellent as a sociological introduction to the NT and the teachings of Jesus is Donald B. Kraybill, The Upside-Down Kingdom, 3d ed. (Herald).

2. History of Canon and Bible Interpretation. Brief but valuable is Robert M. Grant and David Tracy, A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible, 2d ed. (Fortress), and, for reference, John H. Hayes, ed., Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation (2 vols., Abingdon). Mennonite scholar John W. Miller offers The Origins of the Bible: Rethinking Canon History (Paulist). For current discussion of canon, Lee Martin McDonald and James A. Sanders, ed., The Canon Debate (Hendrickson). For the use of the OT within the NT, see Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, 2d ed. (Eerdmans), and Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (Yale University Press). {210}

3. Hermeneutics and Method. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Zondervan), popular and especially good on genre; Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral (InterVarsity), a helpful structure and overview. A fine introduction to critical methods is Steven L. McKenzie and Stephen R. Haynes, eds., To Each Its Own Meaning (Westminster John Knox); an excellent popular introduction to inductive Bible study is Oletta Wald, The New Joy of Discovery in Bible Study (Augsburg Fortress); and, for those with knowledge of the original languages, Mennonite scholars Mary H. Schertz and Perry Yoder provide help in Seeing the Text (Abingdon).

4. Biblical Theology. Introductory essays, including contributions from Mennonites, are available in Steven J. Kraftchick, Charles D. Myers, Jr., and Ben C. Ollenburger, eds., Biblical Theology: Problems and Perspectives (Abingdon), and Ben C. Ollenburger, ed., So Wide a Sea: Essays on Biblical and Systematic Theology (Institute of Mennonite Studies). A very useful annotated bibliography for the OT is that of Elmer A. Martens, Old Testament Theology (Baker). Dan O. Via provides a helpful NT introduction with What Is New Testament Theology? (Fortress).

5. Biblical Ethics. Bruce C. Birch and Larry L. Rasmussen, Bible and Ethics in the Christian Life (Augsburg), the work of an ethicist and a biblical scholar. Extremely important is Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (HarperSanFrancisco), and also valuable is Allen Verhey, The Great Reversal: Ethics and the New Testament (Eerdmans). From Mennonite scholars, Willard M. Swartley’s Slavery, Sabbath, War, and Women (Herald) is helpful for ethics and for raising hermeneutical issues, while Waldemar Janzen, Old Testament Ethics: A Paradigmatic Approach (Westminster John Knox), argues from five models within the OT toward culmination in Jesus. One of the most important works of the past generation is John Howard Yoder’s, The Politics of Jesus, rev. ed. (Eerdmans).

6. Liberationist Approaches. Here are three books (among many) which provide accessible introduction to the issues and insights of those asking justice questions of the Bible: Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Woman (Westminster); Robert McAfee Brown, Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (Westminster); and Jose Miranda, Marx and the Bible: A Critique of the Philosophy of Oppression (Orbis). {211}

7. Teaching the Bible. Among the best are Jim Wilhoit and Leland Ryken, Effective Bible Study (Baker); Barbara Bruce, Seven Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults: Using Our Multiple Intelligences to Build Faith (Abingdon); Thomas H. Groome, Christian Religious Education (Jossey-Bass); and, for those teaching “discovery” Bible study, Oletta Wald, The New Joy of Teaching Discovery Bible Study (Augsburg Fortress).

8. Reference Resources. Richard N. Soulen and R. Kendall Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 3d ed. (Westminster John Knox); David R. Bauer, An Annotated Guide to Biblical Resources for Ministry (Hendrickson).

Douglas B. Miller is Associate Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas, and General Editor of Direction journal.

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