Top 40 Resources (Or So) For an Exegetically-Minded Preacher to Buy (Pt. 1): Hebrew and Greek Tools

By: Bruce Riley Ashford & Grant Taylor

A while back, BtT posted a brief list of “Top 25 Books (Or So) For a Young Theologian to Buy (And Read).” At the request of some of our readers, we are following up on that post by providing a list of helpful resources for exegetically- and theologically-minded preachers. We will post the list over four days, but before we give the first installment of the list, here are a few prefatory comments.

First, we focus this list on exegetical tools (Hebrew and Greek), dictionaries (OT, NT, and whole Bible), commentary series (OT and NT), and big-picture tools (OT, NT, and whole Bible). We’ve left out numerous fine books that fall in other categories (hermeneutics, preaching, etc.).

Second, we include books that are written at different levels of accessibility, and we try to note this by flagging certain books as basic, intermediate, or advanced.

Third, we encourage the young preacher to begin building a library that eventually will provide most of the tools he needs to teach from any text of Scripture. This type of library is one way in which the preacher can be ready to preach “in season and out.”

Fourth, we encourage the young preacher to take this sort of books seriously, and allow them to drive him back into the biblical text, reading it slowly, patiently, and receptively. The best books are those that drive us back into the Scriptures and enable us to read the Scriptures more fruitfully. The worst books are those that seek to replace Scripture, or that somehow encourage us to bypass hard work in the text.

Fifth, we’d like to hear your thoughts about what you would have included that we left out, and maybe what we included that you would have left out. We started out aiming to provide 25 recommendations, but ended up exceeding our own limit.

Below is the first installment of the list—Hebrew and Greek exegetical tools.

Exegetical Tools (Hebrew)

1. Allen P. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Ross’s Hebrew grammar is one of the best tools to begin learning the language. He clearly explains the major and several minor features of biblical Hebrew, and includes his own parsing system for Hebrew verbs. Beginner-Intermediate.

2. Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1990. A very helpful reference work for studying Hebrew syntax, which is essential because phrases and sentences (rather than words) give the basic level of meaning. Waltke and O’Connor supplement (not replace) older grammars such as GKC (Gesenius) with clear explanations that helps students move from interpreting easier genres such as narrative to more difficult ones such as prophecy or the Psalms. Intermediate.

3. Willem A. VanGemeran, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997. (NIDOTTE) Word studies alone do not a complete exegesis make, but without them no exegesis is complete. VanGemeren (with contributions by numerous OT experts) provides a very reliable, precise resource helpful for preaching and teaching. If you know the Hebrew root, you can see the word’s usage in its ANE and OT settings and the theological implications for hundreds of key Hebrew words. Intermediate-Advanced.

4. Douglas K. Stuart, Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Fourth Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. In this book Stuart helps preachers and teachers put the essential parts of exegesis together into a whole. How do those word studies relate to syntax and the genre of the book you are studying? Stuart’s work will help you find the way. Intermediate.

5. F. Brown, S.R. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1996. (BDB) The standard (reprinted several times) lexicon for study of OT Hebrew and Aramaic words. While the print is frustrating at times, this remains a basic resource for Hebrew and OT study. Basic-Intermediate.

Exegetical Tools (Greek)

1. David Alan Black, Learn to Read New Testament Greek, exp. ed. (Nashville: B&H, 1994). Black’s introductory text teaches Greek in a manner that is as non-technical as possible. He also provides learning exercises that draw the beginning student into the process of learning Greek. Beginner.

2. F.W. Danker, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Revised. Third Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. (BDAG) Like BDB for Greek, but better. The third edition includes the history of classical Greek usage, semantic domains (ranges of meaning) with definitions in the NT, and early Christian usage for the same words. In sum, a must-have for serious study of the NT. Advanced.

3. Gordon D. Fee, New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Third Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. The New Testament counterpart to Stuart above, Fee helps students learn how to connect word studies with sentence diagramming and sentence diagramming with teaching or preaching. A very helpful “how-to” guide to reading the Greek NT well. Intermediate.

4. Dan Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996. This is the follow-up to William H. Mounce’s The Basics of Biblical Greek (the one to get if you are just beginning). Wallace’s Beyond the Basics goes well beyond them by providing major categories of interpretation for all the major components of NT Greek. Advanced.

5. Maximilian Zerwick, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Subsidia Biblica. 5th Edition. Translated by M. Grovesnor. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 2010; and Maximilian Zerwick, Biblical Greek: Illustrated by Examples. Adapted from Fourth Latin Edition. Rome: Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963. A couple of oldies but goodies. Zerwick’s Grammatical Analysis provides a parsing and lexical analysis to every book of the NT. It is also keyed to his grammar, Biblical Greek, which wonderfully illustrates the major components of NT Greek, like Wallace but with fewer sub-categories and far fewer pages. Intermediate-Advanced.

6. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Raymond Bouchoc, The Book Study Concordance of the Greek New Testament. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003. Organized by biblical book rather than by Greek word, this is an invaluable tool for exegetical and expositional preaching and teaching as it allows one to see the emphases and distinctions of biblical authors through the quantity and contextual use of their vocabulary. Intermediate.

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  1. Brent Hobbs   •  

    I’m really looking forward to this series.

  2. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    Thanks for checking in, Brent. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the list: what would you add to it? etc.

  3. Nathaniel Simmons   •  

    Good idea for a series. I think there is another book by Dr. Black that gets a little less attention but is incredibly helpful, and should make your list.

    – Linguists for Students of New Testament Greek –

    I would expect it to fall in your beginner Greek category, though perhaps one might argue intermediate. Regardless, it is indispensable even for students/preachers who have never taken Greek. The chapters on Syntax and Discourse analysis are especially helpful for the preacher who is concerned with understanding the literary methods the Biblical authors use to communicate meaning.

    I wrote a post on it not long ago, but it deserves many more.

  4. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    Nathaniel, thank you and great suggestion.

  5. Lance Michels   •  

    Most recommended reading lists I have found have been more general. It’s helpful to have something like this that is ad hoc for exegetical preaching. Thanks!

  6. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    Lance, thanks man. don’t forget to check in at BtT over the next three days, as we will unfold the rest of the list.

  7. Chris Lawson   •  

    Thanks for the great resource. What books do you suggest for preaching?

    I’m interested in active preaching & church planting and disciple making ministries that are led by “regular” people who aren’t paid staff and may not have seminary degrees. (Nothing against seminaries.)

    By the way, I participated in the Greenhouse meeting in Nashville a few years ago that Bruce led. I really appreciate that experience and Bruce’s help with it.

  8. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    Chris, hey man, great to hear from you! The first two books you need to read are relatively short and very accessible. (1) Tony Merida, “Faithful Preaching: Declaring Scripture with Responsibility, Passion, and Authenticity,” and (2) Danny Akin, “Engaging Exposition.” Then after those two are some books like (3) Graeme Goldsworthy, “Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture” and (4) Bryan Chappell, “Christ-Centered Preaching.”

  9. Chris Lawson   •  

    I will look into it. Thanks again. I would really enjoy a school like Southeastern; but I press forward with other studies until I attend seminary.

    I spent years in church trying to “be a good Christian” before I really began to understand God’s grace. Once the gospel of Christ took root, my life has been such a joyful experience- my marriage, family, work- every aspect of my life has been turned upside down for the better.

    Now I don’t live with a sense of guilt or obligation. Instead, I am free and immersed in an amazing world of grace in which I serve God as a response to his love and grace. There is no question about being good enough or acceptable because I know Christ is completely sufficient for my righteousness.

    It’s all about the gospel of Christ over and against religion/self-justification. Let’s continue to pray for each other and for the advancement of the gospel.

  10. Roger Simpson   •  

    An excellent help, at least for laymen like myself with limited Hebrew training, is ANALYTICAL KEY TO THE OT by Owens. This is a four volume set. It gives a “stone cold literal” translation of the OT text. Then for each word it gives you the page number in the Brown / Driver / Briggs Greek Lexicon where that word is covered.

    Roger Simpson — Oklahoma City

  11. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    Roger, thank you for this nice contribution. Appreciate you.

  12. Duke Dismukes   •  

    Hey are you going to include any books that look into the custom and heritage of what was going on during the OT and NT times? I hear a lot of the solid preachers bring the history and customs of when the letters (of the NT for example) and it makes the text become so simple to understand. For example, my pastor talked about the “Roman Impressment Law.” When he talked about it…it opened my eyes about the Sermon on the Mount and Simon carrying the cross for Jesus. Are there any books that talk about customs and laws in that nature?

  13. Grant Taylor   •  


    Thanks for your question. In a later post we mention the IVP dictionaries that provide a lot of help in these areas. In particular, the IVP Dictionary of New Testament Background, edited by Evans and Porter would be helpful for your question. Also, there is Craig Keener’s IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. This book works book-by-book, passage-by-passage, so would be very helpful, I think. Thanks for reading!

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