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Religious Studies Guide: Bible Commentaries, Concordances and Bible Dictionaries

Research tools for students in religious studies

Religious Studies and Theology Reference

Researchers in the disciplines of Religious Studies and Theology rely heavily on academic reference works to interpret holy texts. Each type of reference resource serves a distinct purpose:

  • Bible commentary (or, exegesis): A Bible commentary provides an analysis of the text. Academics and students in Viterbo's Religious Studies courses use exegetical commentaries, commentaries written by scholars for an academic audience. Commentaries typically provide an analysis of a particular translation - choose the correct commentary for the Bible translation you are reading.
  • Bible concordance: A Bible concordance is used to find the number of times a word appears in the Old and New Testament. Bible concordances can be organized in two ways - alphabetically, or by topic/subject.
  • Bible dictionary: A Bible dictionary contains brief definitions of words used in the Bible.
  • Encyclopedia (general or subject-specific): An encyclopedia contains descriptive entries for concepts, subjects, people, and events (for subject-specific encyclopedias, usually related to an overall theme, like the Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion).

Using Bible Concordances

Bible concordances are organized alphabetically. Several concordances include a Greek and Hebrew dictionary, a few will also include the Greek and Hebrew word and definition along with the word described in English.

Note the highlighted areas in this page from the Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible:

Using Bible Commentaries

Commentaries are often organized according to the order books appear in the Bible - the Old Testament followed by the New Testament, from the first passage to the last passage. Many commentaries present a summary of the book or chapter, with a detailed line-by-line interpretation of the passage.

Note the sections highlighted in this page from The New Jerome Biblical Commentary: