Skip to main content
Michigan State University

Bible Resources: Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

The purpose of this guide is to point the way to information sources about the Bible.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible

Authoritative reference overviews of scholarship on some of the most important topics of study in the field of Biblical studies. Contains almost 120 in-depth entries, ranging in length from 500 to 10,000 words, on each of the canonical books of the Bible, major apocryphal books of the New and Old Testaments, important non-canonical texts, and thematic essays on topics such as canonicity, textual criticism, and translation.  Bibliographies for all entries.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation

Provides detailed, comprehensive treatments of the latest approaches to, and methods for, interpretation of the Bible. Entries are written by expert practitioners and collectively provide a single source for authoritative reference overviews of the scholarship on some of the most important topics in the field of biblical studies.Has over 100 alphabetically arranged entries of about 10 pages each including bibliographies for further reading suggestions.  The entries establish a definition of each interpretive approach, trace its development and key proponents, and explore some primary issues and prospects for each (from review in Choice, May 2014).

Anchor Bible Dictionary  Reference BS 440 .A54 1992 v. 1-6

Standard work. 1,000 contributors, mostly North American, provide 6,200 entries, some as long as 40 pages, most with bibliographies. Entries cover every proper name, major words, each book of the Bible, apocryphal texts, Dead Sea scrolls, and Nag Hammadi codices. Gives much attention to cultural history, social institutions, and method. Cross-references (often inconsistent and sometimes lacking); no general index.  This is a standard work that has generally updated but not replaced The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, which among other things offers far more entries on biblical words.

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Theology

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law  Reference BM 520.52 .O94 2015 v. 1-2

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology Main DS 111 .A2 O94 2013 v. 1-2

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Ethics

Oxford Companion to the Bible

Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible and  Main BS 570 .O94 2001

Dictionary of the Bible

These three items are part of Oxford Reference Online, a package of online versions of reference works from Oxford University Press.

Blackwell Companion to the Bible and Culture

Drawing on interdisciplinary and international examples, the volume explores how the Bible has impacted on all the major social contexts where it has been influential – ancient, medieval and modern, world-wide. Contains 30 articles written by distinguished specialists, accompanied by comprehensive bibliographies. Taken together, these articles emphasize the multi-faceted nature of the Bible and its impact on the world. They help to bridge the gap between specialist biblical studies and other disciplines such as literature, art, music, history, theology, religious studies, politics and psychology.

Blackwell Companion to the Hebrew Bible,

A survey of Old Testament study.  Explores the history, archaeology, theology, sociology, and ancient Near Eastern context, addressing methodology, interpretation, and academic study of the Old Testament.  Authors of the articles are from U.K., Europe, Canada, and the U.S.

Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels

Designed to answer such questions as: Wwhat does it mean for Jesus to be called God’s Son? Why did Jesus have to die? Did Jesus have female followers; if he did, what is their significance? What is a “Gospel”? Was Jesus a Cynic? (What is a Cynic?) How can we make sense of Jesus’ parables? Fewer, longer articles than many such dictionaries.

Encyclopedia of English Language Bible Versions  Main BS 455 .T35 2013

Entries for particular versions of the Bible through time, topics related to study of different Bible versions, and translators, revisers, and editors  associated with different Bible versions.  Appendices: Variants of different versions, confusing Bible names, unfinished and abandoned versions, notable Bible portions, dialect and slang, version number cross reference tables.  "Identifies, explains, and categorizes more than 1,400 versions of the English Bible." "Includes internet versions..."  "Abridged or condensed Bibles are not included." "Chronologically or topically arranged Bibles...are not found here."  Arranged alphabetically by Bible version name.  

Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls Main BM 487 .E53 2000 v. 1-2

HarperCollins Bible Dictionary  Main BS 440 .H235 2011 one volume. We have older editions also.

Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible  Main BS 440 .E44 2000

5000 entries by 600 scholars.  Entries for all books of the Bible, including non-canonical writings of N.T. Apocrypha, O.T. Pseudepigrapha, and Dead Sea Scrolls.  Also entries for related subjects: biblical theology, cultural and historical background, geography, Near Eastern archaeology, textual and literary studies.

New Interpreter’s Bible  Main BS 491.2 .N484 1994 v. 1-12

General articles & introduction, commentary, & reflections for each book of the Bible, including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books.  This has many older editions in same stacks area.  People, places, broad and narrow topics, events, huge!  Some entries a paragraph; other entries many pages.  Bibliographies at article ends.  Signed entries.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Main BS 440 .I6 1979 v. 1-4  Downloadable version

Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Main BS 511.3 .O94 2006

Lengthy chapters by Oxford University professors on history of Biblical studies as a field, on languages, translations, and textual transmission of the Bible, on the historical and social study of the Bible, on the composition of the Bible, on methods in Biblical scholarship, on the interpretation of the Bible, and on the authority of the Bible.

All the People in the Bible, an A-Z Guide to the Saints, Scoundrels, and Other Characters in Scripture Main BS 570 .L66 2008

Entries are about one page each.  Dictionary at the end of briefer entries of all people named in the Bible and Apocrypha including those "about whom nothing else is known, " of about 100 pages.  List of kings of the Jewish monarchies.  Genealogical table of Seleucid emperors.  Lists of Maccabean leaders and Hasmonean kings.  Genealogical tables of the family of the Herods and of the Herodian dynasty.  Lacks further reading references.

Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters Main BS 501 .A1 H36 2012

Biographical dictionary of deceased women who have written about the Bible, from the 9th century onwards, whose writings are extant and who worked prior to the 1970s and 1980s.  Omits many contemporary Biblical scholars whose work is in text, source, form, redaction, and tradition criticism and more recent literary approaches: structuralism, deconstructionism, narrative criticism, and reader-response theory.  Omits those working in ancillary disciplines such as archaeology, Near Eastern languages and literature, and the social sciences as they relate to the Bible.  Catholic female voices from Western Europe predominate until the Reformation; after this diverse Protestant voices from Europe and North America prevail.  Non-Western and non-White voices are unrepresented.  Each of the180 entries includes a short biography, analyzationof the woman's work, and bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Women in Scripture, a Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament.  Reference BS 575 .W593 2000

Entries from a paragraph to a page or so.  Copious cross references.  Biblical references.  Bibliography at end of book includes many periodical references to newish research on Biblical women.  “Additional Ancient Sources” at back has suggestions of and paragraph length descriptions of ancient texts, but no bibliographical references to reading copies.

Dictionary of Bible Plants Main BS 665 .M86 2012

Describes and illustrates (black and white) each plant mentioned in the Bible.  Surveys history of biblical plant literature from Greeks/Romans to present.  Index to all verses containing references to plants. 

New Cambridge History of the Bible, volume 2, from 600-1450 Main BS 445 .N49 2012 v. 2

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology Main DS 111 .A2 O94 2013 v. 1-2

Represents a new way of conceiving of the relationship between archaeology and Biblical studies that allows the results of a wide cross-section of excavations and regional studies to contribute to the interpretation of the Biblical text through an elucidation of the lifeways of the ancient world. By going beyond mere architecture and chronology into the social organization of biblical society, the Encyclopedia is an important methodological breakthrough for the study of the Bible and archaeology.

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies

First reference source aiming to provide a comprehensive critique of biblical literature through the lens of gender.  Interdisciplinary, with international scholarship by ancient historians, archaeologists, gender theorists, biblical scholars, and classicists.  Topical entries  with sub organization within them by culture and historical period.  Majority of articles focus on social and ideological facts of gender-related topics.  Articles also explore gender theory and topics in the Jewish and Christian canons.  Rich bibliographical references.

Michigan State University