Do you have a paper to write for a biblical studies (Old or New Testament) class? Here are five sources that are often overlooked but can be very helpful.
1) Theological dictionaries. These dictionaries are outstanding sources of information. They contain, among other things, helpful introductions to the books of the Bible and topics surrounding their study. Equally important, however, are the bibliographies at the end of each article which can point you to resources for further study. Some of my favorites: The IVP Dictionaries on the various segments of the canon, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible and The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis.
2) Bibliographies in commentaries. In commentaries, authors will generally do more than offer their treatments of a passage; they will often leave you their trails of research in the form of bibliographies. Authors tend to use bibliographies to list sources that are worthwhile in doing further research, even if the author would not endorse the points of view in those sources. (By the way, if a commentary does not have a good bibliography you probably should not use it in your paper!
3) Historical theology sources. Modern advances in biblical studies have given seminary students and pastors wonderful tools to use in studying the Old and New Testaments. But it is tragic when modern interpreters forget that Christians have been reading Scripture for over two thousand years! The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament volumes) and The Reformation Commentary on Scripture are especially helpful in showing you the primary sources where you can explore how some of the brightest thinkers in Church history have understood Scripture.
4) Journals. Students tend to bury themselves in mounds of commentaries when doing exegetical work. As great as commentaries are, they can become outdated very quickly. Journals, on the other hand, are helpful in keeping you up-to-date with the most recent research. The ATLA database (available through the Rolfing homepage) can help you find articles on your topic or passage, many of which can be downloaded to your computer for free. What’s even better—the reference staff would be happy to help you learn to use the database!
5) Commentary surveys. Students occasionally approach us at the reference desk needing help finding good commentaries on a particular book. My first course of action is usually to recommend to them the commentary surveys by Tremper Longman III (Old Testament) and Trinity’s very own D. A. Carson (New Testament). These surveys give concise evaluations of the major commentaries on a given book of the Bible and tell you which commentaries are likely to be the most helpful (and which ones you should probably leave on the shelf!). You can find these surveys in print in the main and reference collections and they’re available in e-book format. The reference desk at the library also has copies that you can consult.
Guest blogger Lance Higginbotham is available at the reference desk to help you with your library needs during the following times: Mondays 6-9; Wednesdays 1-3, 6-9; Thursdays 6-9 and Fridays 11-1. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.