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Bible Study and Research: Getting Started


About this guide

This is a guide to discovering and locating resources for Bible study and interpretation held by our library in print and online. Resources covered include dictionaries, encyclopedias, lexicons, commentaries, tools on exegetical processes, and resources for locating topic-specific articles and books.

Questions, corrections, or suggestions for improving this guide are welcome; please contact us.

Locating Resources

Browsing is often the best way to find standard tools for Bible study.  Knowing the outline of the classification scheme can facilitate browsing.  The attached handout is a guide to how the Library of Congress classification system organizes material in biblical studies.  Note the highlighted sections indicating major categories of resources.

Types of Bibles

Bibles in the reference collection are mainly study Bibles, containing

  • extensive notes on the text
  • introductions to each book
  • often background essays about aspects of Bible history and interpretation

A full collection of older and newer Bibles in English and many other world languages are available for check out in the bookstacks (BS125-355)

These present the text of multiple versions on the same or facing pages. See, for example,The Complete Parallel Bible (BS125.O9 1993 Ref.). For those specific to the New Testament, see BS2025.

Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Atlases


Using a dictionary or encyclopedia is an excellent way to begin a research project. Some advantages include:

  • Entries provide a concise overview of a topic, presenting the "lay of the land."
  • The content is introductory in nature, presenting generally agreed-upon information
  • Articles are written by authorities in the field
  • Entries frequently include references to important secondary literature

The reference collection has both single and multi-volume Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias in call number range BS440-443.  A number of these are also duplicated in the circulating collection.  The Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.) is the most comprehensive. The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols.) is the most recent. Specialized dictionaries are also available, for example, the Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters (BS501.A1 H57 2007 Ref.)


A good atlas of geographic and political boundaries in biblical times can enable better understanding of the text by presenting in images the relationships between rulers and places, and changes over time.

Bible encyclopedias often focus on a particular theme and can save you time by quickly locating known scholarship on an array of topics. Here are a few of interest in Luther's collections: