Top 40 Resources (Or So) For an Exegetically-Minded Preacher to Buy (Pt. 2): Dictionaries

By: Bruce Riley Ashford & Grant Taylor

The first installment of this series provided a list of helpful Hebrew and Greek exegetical tools for the preacher. This installment provides a list of dictionaries that will help the preacher. Although we realize that we are not likely to get trampled by a herd of preachers on the way to the dictionary rack at the local Christian bookstore, we provide this list because these types of dictionaries are invaluable resources.

 IVP Dictionaries

Since there are eight of these bad boys, we’ll cover them all at once. This set introduces readers to the key themes, issues, and debates in Old and New Testament scholarship. Versatility is the great strength of these dictionaries. For instance, one can read an overview article on the Book of Isaiah and a detailed article on idols/idolatry in the same volume. All articles are written by established biblical scholars and include bibliographies for further reading. Although the Old Testament side is a bit more up-to-date than the New Testament side (but there may be some new editions in the works), each volume is worth having. Advanced.

Old Testament

1. T. D. Alexander and David W. Baker, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2003.

2. Bill T. Arnold and H.G.M. Williamson, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2005.

3. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2008.

4. Mark J. Boda and Gordon J. McConville, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2012.

New Testament

1. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 1992.

2. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid, eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 1993.

3. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, eds. Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 1997.

4. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter, eds. Dictionary of New Testament Background. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2000.

Other Dictionaries

1. T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, and Graeme Goldsworthy, eds. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Exploring the Unity and Diversity of Scripture. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2000. This dictionary helps the pastor and teacher put together the major parts of Scripture. Three parts: part one covers the discipline of biblical theology; part two treats each major section and book of the Bible, discussing the biblical theological themes in each; part three then contains articles on those major themes (e.g., exodus, kingdom of God). An excellent resource to get started in biblical theology. Intermediate.

2. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, eds. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1998. Why does the Bible describe discipleship in terms (among others) of bearing fruit? Why does Jesus call himself the good shepherd? This dictionary will help you understand the function of the numerous images in the Bible and so help you unlock the meaning of numerous passages. Intermediate.

3. Trent C. Butler, ed. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Revised. Nashville: Holman Bible, 2003. A very reliable one-stop dictionary. The illustrations help bring to light the people, places, and events of the Bible. Basic.

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  1. Jonathan Catanzaro   •  

    Dr. Ashford,

    This is already a great series. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

    I’m not sure if you were going to include this on a future list, but I thought I would mention Kevin Vanhoozer’s “Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible.”
    It is particularly helpful when traversing the intersections between biblical studies, hermeneutics, and systematic theology. I use it quite often in my preaching and teaching.

    Thanks again!

  2. David (Not Adrian's Son) Rogers   •  

    These are the kinds of books that should be the first to be rescued from a fire (after photos, wedding album, etc., of course). They contain background material that most preachers have little ability to reproduce from study of the Bible. Any preacher could potentially write his own commentary on the surface words of the text, but how many instantly know the background cultural concepts informing the text.

  3. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    Jonathan, thanks for making a very good point. Vanhoozer’s book is a valuable contribution. There is indeed an inescapable intersection of bib studies, hermeneutics, and sys theo, and Vanhoozer’s book is worth buying and consulting regularly.

    David, thanks for the good word man!

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