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.

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.

Engaging Exposition (7): Discovering the Author’s Method of Communication

Some people use the terms Hermeneutics and Exegesis as synonyms. We should see a distinction, but they are closely related. Every close reading of a text-any text-is an act of exegesis. Exegesis refers to the process of discerning the truth of Scripture by allowing a text to reveal its meaning and significance, rather than reading the interpreter’s bias into it.

As we begin the process of Exegesis, we must inspect the content of the biblical text. When we speak of content, we are talking about the author’s use of semantics, syntax, and genre. It is essential to begin the exegetical process by studying the Scriptures, as opposed to commentaries, so that our interpretation is not prejudiced by external sources before we have taken the time to inspect the text itself. However, there is a time and a place for the use of external sources, but it should always follow our own close inspection of the biblical text.

We begin by determining the literary genre (or style) chosen by the author to communicate his intended meaning to his audience. We suggest a four-step process for discovering the author’s Main Idea of the Text (MIT). They are:

1. Inspect the Text

2. Inquire about the Text

3. Investigate the Text

4. Identify the MIT

1) Inspect the text. Ask the following questions: Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why? This will help us understand both the content of a biblical text and its context.

How was the Text Written?

In literature, the word used to reflect a unique style of writing is genre. Genre is defined as “a kind of style, especially of art or literature (e.g., novel, drama, satire).” The study of genre provides valuable insights for the interpreter. It may help the interpreter discern between the need for a literal or figurative reading of the text. We limit our description of biblical genres to five specific categories: Prose, Poetry, Historical Narrative, Wisdom Literature, and Apocalypse.


In its simplest and broadest understanding, Prose is any genre of writing that is not Poetry. It is important to note a couple of things about Prose. First, texts written in this style are often descriptive in nature. Second, while an author may use Prose as his primary genre, it does not mean that he did not incorporate other genres into his writing.

Historical Narrative

Prose is the predominant genre in the Bible. Historical Narrative is one of the styles of Prose that appears with the greatest frequency. Historical Narratives provide far more than just the recounting of historical facts. Historical Narrative has a spiritual focus and theological dimension.

When we turn our attention to the unique writing style of Historical narratives, we must be sure to understand the basic elements that are included in every narrative. First, we must understand our primary concern is with the text. We must never lose sight of the fact that the text itself is of first importance. Second, we must work to understand the point of view that the author uses when writing his story. Every author is writing from a specific perspective. Third, we must identify the plot of the story. Every story has several key plot elements. (E.g. conflict, protagonist, antagonist, suspense, turning point, and final resolution).

Fourth, we must be able to identify the characters and their traits as they are revealed in the story. Often we are given insights into the characters by their descriptions in the text. Fifth, we must grasp the setting of the story. Often, the setting is as significant to its meaning as anything. Sixth, we must look for the implied or explicit commentary of the author. We must understand that the author had an intended meaning for the story, and sometimes he makes that very plain.

Historical Narratives are by far the most common example of Prose in the Bible. Yet for all of their abundance, many pastor-teachers fail to spend time preaching these amazing texts.