The Anchor Bible DictionaryIt’s often difficult to tell which encyclopedias and reference works you should rely on for academic biblical studies. There are a lot of “Bible Dictionaries” that are too shallow to be very useful, or that don’t reflect modern scholarship. One helpful tool is A Guide to Biblical Commentaries and Reference Works by John F. Evans (10th edition; Grand Rapids: Zonervan, 2016). But I’ve also compiled here an (incomplete) list of reference works that are academically reliable and useful in writing research essays on New Testament topics. Those marked with a plus (+) are especially useful.

Biblical Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

  • Alexander, T. Desmond, and Brian S. Rosner, ed. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Leicester/Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000.
  • Davids, Peter H., and Ralph P. Martin, ed. Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments.Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1997.+
  • Green, Joel B., I. H. Marshall, and Scot McKnight, ed. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1992.+
  • Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, ed. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993.+
  • Porter, Stanley E., ed. Dictionary of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Vanhoozer, Kevin J., ed. Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
  • Freedman, David Noel, ed. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 volumes. New York: Doubleday, 1992.+
  • Aune, David E., ed. Westminster Dictionary of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Rhetoric. Westminster John Knox, 2003.
  • Sakenfeld, Katherine Doob, ed. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. 5 vols. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.+

Greco-Roman History and Society

Surveys and Histories

  • Johnston, Sarah Iles. Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004.
  • Potter, David S., ed. A Companion to the Roman Empire. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2006.
  • Porter, Stanley E. Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period (330 BC–AD 400). Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

  • Cancik, Hubert, et al., ed. Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopedia of the Ancient World: Antiquity. Leiden: Brill, 2002.+
  • Evans, Craig A. and Stanley E. Porter, ed. Dictionary of New Testament Background: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.+
  • Gagarin, Michael. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Neusner, Jacob, and Alan J. Avery-Peck, ed. Encyclopedia of Religious and Philosophical Writings in Late Antiquity. Leiden: Brill, 2008.
  • Sacks, David, and Oswyn Murray. Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World. Infobase
    Publishing, 2009.
  • Shipley, Graham, et al., ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University, 2006.

First-Century Judaism

Surveys and Histories

  • Barclay, John M. G. Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora from Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE-117 CE). Hellenistic Culture and Society, XXXIII. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
  • Cohen, Shaye J. D. From the Maccabees to the Mishnah. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1987.
  • Collins, John J. Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000.
  • Collins, John J., and Daniel C. Harlow, eds. Early Judaism: A Comprehensive Overview. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2012.
  • Davies, W. D, Louis Finkelstein, William Horbury, John Sturdy, and Steven T Katz, eds. The Cambridge History of Judaism. 4 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984–2006.
  • Fiensy, David A., and James Riley Strange, eds. Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods. 2 volumes. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.
  • Grabbe, Lester L. A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period. Library of Second Temple Studies. London: T & T Clark International, 2004.
  • ______. An Introduction to Second Temple Judaism: History and Religion of the Jews in the Time of Nehemiah, the Maccabees, Hillel and Jesus. London: T & T Clark, 2010.
  • Henze, Matthias. A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2012.
  • Neusner, Jacob. Judaism in Late Antiquity. Leiden: Brill, 2001.
  • Sanders, E. P. Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE-66 CE. London: SCM Press, 1992.
  • Schürer, Emil. History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.-A.D. 135). Revised. Edited by G. Vermes et al. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973-1987.+
  • Scott, J. Julius. Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2000.
  • Tomasino, Anthony J. Judaism before Jesus: The Events and Ideas That Shaped the New Testament World. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
  • VanderKam, J. C. An Introduction to Early Judaism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001.

Encyclopedias and dictionaries

  • Collins, John J., ed. Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism: Volume One: The Origins of Apocalypticism in Judaism and Christianity. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2000.
  • Collins, John J, and Daniel C Harlow, eds. The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2010.
  • Neusner, Jacob, Alan J. Avery-Peck, and William Scott Green, eds. Encyclopaedia of Judaism. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999.
  • Schiffman, Lawrence H., and James C. VanderKam, eds. Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Skolnik, Fred, and Michael Berenbaum, eds. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Detroit/Jerusalem: Thomson Gale/Keter Publishing House, 2007.
  • Wigoder, Geoffrey, Fred Skolnik, and Shmuel Himelstein. New Encyclopedia of Judaism. New York: New York University Press, 2002.


  • Stern, E. New Encyclopaedia of Excavations in the Holy Land. Jerusalem, 1993.

Inappropriate Sources

The following are examples of reference works that are too brief, too unreliable, or too dated to rely on when you are writing a research paper:

  • Court, John M. Dictionary of the Bible. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000. (1 vol.)
  • Gehman, Henry Snyder, and John D Davis. The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1970.
  • Holman Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991. (1 vol.)
  • Harper Collins Bible Dictionary (1 vol.)
  • Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (2 vols.)
  • Barton, John, and John Muddiman. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001 (1 vol.).

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