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Religions of the World: Western Christianity

This is a guide to researching religions of the world: Western and Eastern Christianity, Eastern religions, Islam, Bahai, New Age Movements, Judaism. Last updated 06-26-2023

Western Christianity

New Catholic Encyclopedia. Main BX 841 .C25 2003 v. 1-15
Long a standard multi-volume encyclopedia of religion. Long, signed articles, with bibliographies, on people, saints, places, church history, groups, orders, Biblical topics, etc. There is a web site at 2012-2013: Ethics and Philosophy

Papacy, an Encyclopedia. Main BX 955.2 .D53 2002 v. 1-3
Translated from French, originally published in French in 1994. Signed entries, mostly by Continental European scholars, with bibliographic references for most entries. Volume 3 has lists of popes, martyred popes, popes who are saints. Bibliographies are updated from 1994 and augmented with significant, recent English-language sources. Updated information on Pope John Paul II. Entries range from a paragraph to several pages. Entries for persons (predominate), broad topics (architecture, Papal, Renaissance humanism and the Papacy), narrow topics (catacombs, legate), interdisciplinary topics (image of Rome in literature, traveler’s views of Rome and the Vatican), parts of the Vatican (Press Office of the Holy See), events (sack of Rome), particular churches (St. John Lateran, basilica of), European history topics (wars of Italy, French (16th century), World War I), church councils (Vatican II), other faiths (Judaism), religious orders (Franciscans). Fewer place entries.

Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits Main BX 3702 .A1 C36 2017

Contains signed entries, from several paragraphs to several pages in length on topics, personalities, events, places, ideas, etc.

Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art and Architecture 

Eerdman's Encyclopedia of Early Christian Art and Archaeology Main BR 163 .E335 2017 v. 1-3

More than 400 distinguished scholars, including archaeologists, art historians, historians, epigraphers, and theologians, have written the 1,455 entries in this monumental encyclopedia--the first comprehensive reference work of its kind. From Aachen to Zurzach it draws on archaeological and epigraphic evidence to offer readers a basic orientation to early Christian architecture, sculpture, painting, mosaic, and portable artifacts created roughly between AD 200 and 600 in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity

Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. Remote Storage BR 162.2 .E53 1997 v. 1-2
Published by Garland. "covers persons, cities, doctrines, practices, art, liturgy, heresies, and schisms to 600 A.D." About 1,000 signed articles by 135, mostly American, authorities. Articles are paragraph length to a couple of pages, with bibliographic references. Also useful for EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY.

Dictionary of World Monasticism  Main BL 631 .O43 2020

Author is a librarian and a Benedictine living in the U.S.  Brief definitions of terms.  Some biographical entries on significant monastics.  Entries on religious organizations.  Doesn't confine himself to Western monasticism.  Has some entries on monasticism in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.  Criteria for inclusion:  some or all of the following: vows, rules of life, organized formation, poverty, obedience (obeying and listening), celibacy, sanction by an established religion, discipline, monastic lifestyle, historical interest.

Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Main BL 631 .E63 2000 v. 1-2
Fitzroy Dearborn. "a conspectus of monastic life, past and present- its practices, doctrines, lifestyles, spiritualities, and art, as pursued in Buddhism and Christianity." Useful for EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY and BUDDHISM. Five types of articles: persons (founders, reformers, scholars, mystics, etc.), places (monastic histories of countries, cities, and individual monasteries), topics (both Buddhist and Christian), Roman Catholic monastic orders, and themes (historical, sociological, theological, liturgical, gender, artistic, musical, both Buddhist and Christian). Signed articles, with bibliographies, a page to several pages in length.

Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage.  Main BX 2320.5 .E85 E53 2010 

An interdisciplinary reference work, giving wide coverage of the role of travel in medieval religious life. Dealing with the period 300-1500 A.D., it offers both basic data on as broad a range of European pilgrimage as possible and clearly written, self-contained introductions to the general questions of pilgrimage research. Local sites of pilgrimage are represented in this work as well as the main routes to Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago. Written and material sources relating to pilgrimage are used to illustrate aspects of medieval society, from book production and the trade in relics, to the development of the towns, art, architecture and literature which pilgrimage engendered. 435 signed entries; over 180 contributors from Europe and North America.

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Remote Storage BR 302.8 .O93 1996 v. 1-4
"...promises to become a standard." Reformation in the title is meant to be "a convenient label to denote nothing more, but also nothing less, than the rich diversity of all religious life in 16th-century Europe." "Seeks to do justice to the whole range of events and happenings of the 16thcentury. No illustrations. Signed articles, with bibliographies, with both primary and secondary sources, from half a page to several pages.

Encyclopedia of Martin Luther and the Reformation Main BR 324 .E53 2017 v. 1-2

Coverage extends beyond the Reformation to include the Reformed tradition, more radical movements (e.g., Anabaptists), the Counter-Reformation, and the history and present state of Lutheranism.  Each entry concludes with a brief bibliography—there is substantial scholarly apparatus, including appendixes that outline Luther's paradoxical doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and details about Lutheran bodies in North America. The 475 entries include doctrines and controversial topics (e.g., Sabbatarianism), religious phenomena (e.g., Marian piety), events (Marburg Colloquy), places (Slovakia, Wittenberg), and persons (Hieronymus Emser, Huldrych Zwingli). Also covered are subjects like printing, hymns, music, and family life. Luther's teachings are examined in articles ranging from "Views of Women" to "Self-Love." A series of articles address why the Reformation mattered, in its time and in various religious traditions since.

Reformation Sourcebook, Documents from an Age of Debate Main BR 301 .R45 2017

Contains copies of primary source texts in these areas: late medieval background to the Reformation; development of Martin Luther's thought; early radical wing and the German Peasants' War; Ulrich Zwingli, the Reformed tradition, and Swiss Anabaptism; French reform and Calvinism; English Reformation; Catholic/Counter-Reformation; Wars of Religion (16th c.); cultural impact of the Reformation I: Christian life and practice; ditto, II: social relations and customs.

Daily Life During the Reformation Main BR 305.3 .A53 2011

Chapters on historical overview of the Reformation, the setting, the Catholic Church, Witches/Magic/Superstition, Spread of the Reformation, Holy Roman Empire, chapters on England/Scotland, France, Netherlands, Family, Leisure/Arts, Clothing/Fashion, Military, Medicine, Education, Food, Travel, 30 Years War, Catholic Perspective and Counter-Reformation.  Chronology.  Glossary.  Bibliography at back, just basic books.

Historical Dictionary of the Puritans Main BX 9323 .P37 2007

Blackwell Companion to Protestantism

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Main BX 4811.3 .E53 2004 v. 1-4
Entries signed and by scholars, with further reading references. “Seeks to offer a comprehensive reference work for this diverse Protestant tradition, both historically and theologically.” “Protestant Christianity may be defined as those theologies, church structures, and polities that consciously separated themselves from the Roman Catholic Church.” “The historical dimension dominates.” “… it strives to be neutral….” Includes biographical entries, and for persons living in the 20th century if the person plays a significant role in shaping Protestantism in his/her times. Entries range from one or two paragraphs to several pages in length. Many biographical entries for deceased persons. Entries for denominations (Anglicanism), missionary societies, ethnic groups (Amish), religious groups (Anabaptists, Anglo-Catholicism), broad topics (colleges, Protestant; hymns and hymnals; ethics, medical; observances; science; women, United States), narrow topics (home schooling, homosexuality), particular schools (Moody Bible Institute), countries, theological movements (neo-orthodoxy, Mercersburg theology), Bible versions. One feels a North American emphasis.

Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions Main BL 2525 .M449 2017 v. 1-2
A new edition of a standard work, arranging American religions, denominations, and sects by "family," meaning, for example, that Presbyterians, Reformeds, and Congregationalists, all emanating from thought of the Reformation reformer Jean Calvin are discussed in one section. Covers all the "families," their many splinters, rebirths, etc.: Reformed-Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pietest-Methodist, Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Holiness, Pentecostal, European Free Church, Adventist, Independent Fundamentalist, Western Esotericism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduim, Christian Science, Latter-Day Saints, etc. Within each section there is an article about the history of the "family" in the United States, including time line, bibliography, and short entries on intrafaith organizations and on the various denominations making up the family (with contact information, membership numbers, periodicals published, educational facilties, and some more source references.)  The 2003 edition is online here.

Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South  Area Studies BR 121.3 .E53 2018 v. 1-2

The rapid growth of Christianity in the global South is not just a demographic shift--it is transforming the faith itself. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South traces both the history and the contemporary themes of Christianity in more than 150 countries and regions. It includes maps, images, and a detailed timeline of key events.

Brill's Encyclopedia of Global Pentecostalism Main BR 1644 .B75 2021

Dictionary arrangement, with articles in four broad subject areas: regions and countries, themes and topics, biographies, and movements/organizations.  Signed articles, with further reading references.  68 page overall bibliography at end.  Detailed index.

New Dictionary of Theology  Main BR 95 .N39 2016

Concise, signed articles, each with numerous cross-references and a select bibliography.  The more than 200 British and North American contributors represent the Protestant, evangelical viewpoint.  Over 400 additional articles from previous ed., 1988, minus the biblical theology material.  It is dictionary of systematic and historical theology. 

American Religious History, Belief and Society through Time Main BL 2525 .A4425 2021 v. 1-3

v. 1 Colonial Era through the Civil War. v. 2 Reconstruction to WWII. v. 3 WWII to the Present.  Each volume has a series of broad thematic essays taking up the first 80 or so pages.  These cover most of the same topics in each era: African Americans and religion, Native Americans and religion, the Bible in America, Catholicism, Women and religion, religion and science, religion and politics, etc.  These are followed by alphabetically arranged more specific topical and biographical entries.  Further reading references conclude the entries.  Overall bibliography at the end of volume 3.  Thematic articles and specific topic/bio entries are signed by their authors.  The overall editor, Gary Scott Smith, is a pastor in N.C., Ph.D. in History Johns Hopkins U., M.Div. Gordon Conwell, former history professor Grove City College.  Contributors are history, church history, religion, philosophy, humanities, etc. professors at American universities, seminaries, and colleges.  Detailed index, back of v. 3.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion in America  (2018)

Part of Oxford Reference Online.  Monumental work, 3 volumes, 2051 pages.  Detailed scholarly articles on themes, events, people, places, and ideas that have constituted the rich history of religion in America.

Religion and American Cultures, Tradition, Diversity, and Popular Expression new edition of title below. Reference online BL 2525 .R448 2015

Religion and American Cultures, an Encyclopedia of Traditions, Diversity, and Popular Expressions. Main BL 2525 .R448 2003 v. 1-3
Volume three contains copies of primary source documents significant in American religious history, organized chronologically, from privileges granted to Christopher Columbus to the oath taken by naturalized citizens in 2002. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is here, Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation,” Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Volume one contains articles on the various faiths and Christian denominations in America. Volume two has topical articles: the Body, Death, Sacred Space, Sexuality, Science, Violence, Ritual and Performance, etc. Lengthy, but unannotated bibliography.

Religion and Politics in America: an Encyclopedia of Church and State in American Life

Deals with the relationship between religion and politics, broadly conceived. Covered here are movements and groups, including denominations, issues, laws, events, as well as individuals, from colonial times to the present. The subtitle mentions the relationship between church and state. This is a reference to the institutional dimension of religion and politics. Please note that the term “church” is used in the United States, in a legal sense, to refer to any form of religion and is not restricted therefore to Christian denominations or to Christianity. In American jurisprudence, under the term “church” one can find considerations of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Native American religions, and other religious groups. One of the strengths is that it both deals with the religious diversity in the United States—a diversity that has been increasing over the past half-century—and at the same time does not lose sight of the still predominantly Christian orientation of the nation. Another benefit of this encyclopedia is its development of themes that are global or transnational in scope.

Religious Freedom in America, a Reference Handbook  Main BL 2525 .L46 2018

Part 1 Background and History with bits on the Constitution and first amendment, rise of homegrown minority religions, such as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other non-Christian minority religions in the U.S., such as Judaism, Native America religions, Islam.  Part 2 Problems, Controversies and Solutions, with short entries on such topics as prayer in schools, blue laws, tax exemptions for religious institutions, creationism, use of religious tests for public benefits or services, freedom of speech.  Part 3 Perspectives, with short articles on topics of current interest, such as transgender rights, religious choice in medical decisions, first amendment and immigration.  Part 4 Profiles, with short entries on important people and governmental and non-governmental institutions, such as Donald Trump, supreme court justices, ACLU, American atheists.  Part 5 Data and documents with tables on religions in the U.S. from the 2010 census, world religions by percentage, religious freedom Supreme Court cases, religion hate crime statistics, charges of religion-based discrimination 1997-2016, copies of documents, such as NAGPRA Act (Native American graves protection), Documents on the "Muslim Ban" from 2017.  Part 6 is a bibliography of print and non-print resources (including films and videos). Part 7 is a chronology.  Author is a professor emeritus of political science Cal. State U.-San Bernardino, former director of their National Security Studies program. Part of the Contemporary World Issues series from ABC-Clio. 

Religion and its Reformation in America, Beginnings to 1730, an Anthology of Primary Sources  Main BR 520 .R437 2020

Editors are literary scholars.  Contains selections from primary source writings by such authors as John Smith, Edward Winslow, Roger Williams, John Eliot, John Calvin, John Robinson, John Winthrop, Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, Anne Bradstreet, Increase Mather, John Williams, Cotton Mather, Samuel Sewall, etc., that trace the development of religious ideas in America from colonial beginnings to just short of the Great Awakening.  The initial chapters have some information on how mostly English Christian Europeans understood the Native people's beliefs.

Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism  Main BL 238 .E63 2001

Orientation is on Protestant fundamentalism in the U.S., which emphasizes literal interpretation of the Bible with absolutist claim to truth and emphatic intolerance of others.  Articles cover major denominations, historical events, theological concepts, and cultural flash points.

Handbook of Pentecostal Christianity Main BR 1644 .H36 2012

Chapters on 50 topics related to Pentecostalism, each by a different scholar.  Examples:  Azuza Street Mission and Revival.  Dispensationalism.  Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  African American Pentecostalism.  Glossolalia. Aimee Semple McPherson.  Revival.  Snake Handling.  Spiritual Gifts. Televangelism. 

Encyclopedia of Religion in America.  Main BL 2520 .E52 2010 v. 1-4

Chronology of Religious Life in America. Main BR 515 .W76 2009

Counter-Creationism Handbook  Main BS 651 .I82 2005

Takes several hundred claims of creationists and proponents of intelligent design and answers them succinctly and scientifically, providing citations for both the claims for, and the arguments against, them.  Creationist arguments are arranged by topic alphabetically.

Evangelical America, an Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Religious Culture Main BR 1642 .U5 E86 2017

Covers 1940 to present: topics, ideas, doctrines, persons, events, organizations.  Signed entries one to several pages long.  Further reading references and short overall bibliography; both include web sites. Chronology.  11 primary source documents. 

Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism Main BR 1640 .B35 2004

Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements Main BT 891 .E53 2000

Handbook of Roman Catholic Moral Terms  Main BJ 1249 .B625 2013

Catholic Experience in America Main BX 1406.3 .V38 2006

Encyclopedia of American Catholic History. Main  BX 1406.2 .E53 1997

"The primary aim of each entry, whether it reflects some original research or summarizes existing scholarship, is to provide basic information, while its bibliographical citations open the road to further study." Articles range from a single paragraph to many pages and are signed.

Contemporary American Religion. Main BL 2525 .C65 2000 v. 1-2
Macmillan. Over 500 articles. "....intended as a lexicon of popular religious culture, pulling together trends, organizations, beliefs, practices, ideals, symbols, traditions, movements, discourses, and major leaders making up the incredibly diverse religious climate of the United States at the beginning of the 21st century." Signed articles, with bibliographies, a page to several pages in length.

African American Religious Cultures.  Main BL 2500 .A37 2009 v. 1-2

Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions. Main BL 2462.5 .E53 2001

Routledge. "Focuses exclusively on religion, its place in African and African-American societies, and its impact on society in general." "Primary purpose is to provide an up-to-date and authoritative guide to the religions of African and African-American peoples with special attention given to religious movements in Africa and the religions of the African diaspora in North America, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean." 145 articles by 72 scholars from 13 countries, about half trained in anthropology. Many articles on religions, religious movements, churches, and organizations documenting movements. Signed articles, with bibliographies.

Asian American Religious Cultures Main BL 2525 .A845 2015 v. 1-2

19 essays on critical topics, plus over 200 shorter entries.  A place to start for undergrads.  Entries on persons and organizations also.

New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: v. 1: Religion Main F 209 .N47 2006

Encyclopedia of Religion in the South. Main BR 535 .E52 2005
Dictionary of religion in the American South, present and past. Overview of the topic, 37 pages. Dictionary arrangement of topics, concepts, denominations, places, persons. Lengthy articles, signed, and with bibliographies. No index.

Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites.  Main BX 4931.3 .C67 2010

"Provides a succinct overview of the history, religious beliefs, and cultural practices of four North American religious families: Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites," which "include more than 200 groups that trace their roots, inspiration, and/or affiliations back to the Anabaptist Movement in Europe during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation."  350 short entries.  Directory of groups.  Some statistics.   Bibliography.

Historical Dictionary of Calvinism Main BX 9406 .P53 2012

Historical Dictionary of Catholicism Main BX 945.3 .C65 2012

Origins of Catholic Words, a Discursive Dictionary Main BX 841 .L55 2020

Author is the former head of the Latin Mass Association.  "It is from the perusal of the best literature in liberal arts and the arts and music that have adorned the Liturgy that the words defined in this dictionary have been chosen."  Offers etymologies, meanings, discussion, quoting theologians, church figures, philosophers, historians, etc.  Passages in Latin or Greek where necessary.  Published by Catholic University of America Press. 

Historical Dictionary of the Reformed Churches Main BX 9415 .B46 2010

Historical Dictionary of the Baptists Main BX 6211 .B73 2021

Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism Main BX 5007 .B83 2015

Historical Dictionary of Methodism Main BX 8211 .H57  2013

Historical Dictionary of the Friends (Quakers) Main BX 7611 .H57 2012

Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement Main BX 7990 .H6 H55 2009

Historical Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses Main BX 8526 .C48 2019

Historical Dictionary of Lutheranism Remote Storage BX 8007 .G37 2011

Oxford Handbook of Presbyterianism Main BX 8913 .O94 2019

Historical Dictionary of Native American Movements  Main E 93 .L43 2016

Historical Dictionary of Radical Christianity Main  BR 95 .B68 2012

"Radical Christian activity and experience may reflect either a primary or derived life of spirituality.  New converts may join a sect or movement with radical characteristics, or they may become dissatisfied with their initial Christian experience and desire a different or deeper Christian spirituality, usually closely parallel to that seen in the New Testament."

Historical Dictionary of the Salvation Army Main BX 9721.3 .H57 2017

Historical Dictionary of the Seventh-Day Adventists Main BX 6153 .L36 2015  2005 ed. online

Historical Dictionary of the Shakers Main BX 9765 .P38 2017

Mormonism: a Historical Encyclopedia Main BX 8605.5 .M67 2010

Columbia Sourcebook of Mormons in the United States Main BX 8611 .C63 2014  Excerpts from primary sources

Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites  Main BX 4931.3 .C67 2010

Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. Main  BT 990 .C64 2003 v. 1-4 Supplementary material in Software Collection, DMC, 4th floor west.
Chronological arrangement, with early, Eastern, and medieval material in volume one, Reformation era material in volume two, modern Christianity in volume three. Volume four is called Credo and contains a historical and theological guide to Christian creeds and confessions of faith; it is really an introduction to the set. The first three volumes contain reproductions of primary source documents of Christian history, creeds and confessions. The other encyclopedias and dictionaries of Christianity in this guide will have entries of varying lengths about them, but will not contain copies of them, as are provided here. There is a page of introductory material about each entry; this includes references and citations to the texts presented. Volumes one through three each have an unannotated bibliography, and three indexes: to persons, to scripture references, and to topics.

Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Main BR 513 .Y4
Annual. Published by Abingdon Press. Similar to Catholic Almanac and Official Catholic Directory in function, which is quick factual and name/address information on denominations, para-church organizations, ecumenical bodies, church archives and records collections, religious periodicals, and seminaries in the U.S. and Canada. Also has statistical information on church membership and church finances.

Official Catholic Directory. Main BX 845 .C5
Annual. Published for the Vatican. Directory information for the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S., the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, Pacific Islands, and foreign missionary activities. Includes directory information on seminaries, religious orders, archdioceses, dioceses, parishes, parochial schools. Also has statistical information.  There is an online directory of United States Catholic parishes here.

World Christian Encyclopedia. Oversize 3 West BR 95 .W67 2020 Statistics on religion by country.

Encyclopedia of Christian Literature Main BR 117.3 .E53 2010 v. 1-2

"... is an attempt to identify the canon of Christian literature, the core books that have fertilized, irrigated, and nurtured the Christian mind over the centuries."  "This encyclopedia answers the question of which seminal books and which authors have had an enduring influence on the way Christians have appropriated the eternal truths of the faith and applied them to their own lives and the temporal world around them. v. 1 has long articles, with bibliographies,  signed by scholars on genres and types of Christian literature.  v. 2 has 430 signed biobibliographical articles on, primarily, Christian authors.

Masterplots II, Christian Literature Main BR 117 .M15 2008 v. 1-4
"...captures the entire breadth of Christian literature--both fiction and nonfiction--by selecting more than 500 of the greatest and most representative works identified with the genre. At the core of this list are the fiction and nonfiction "classics" to which most students and general readers, Christian or secular, will be exposed at some time in their lives, from Saint Augustine's Confessions to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series." Dates of publication range from the first to 21st centuries. Set is arranged by title of work critiqued. Entries of several pages each cover: author, history of publication, edition consulted here, genres and subgenres to which the work belongs, core issues dealt with in it, abstract, principal characters, an overview, the Christian themes in it, and sources for further reading and study. Author, title, geographical, core issues, genre indexes. Chronological list of all titles treated. Bibliography and electronic resources.

Biblical Studies on the Internet.  Remote Storage BS 600.3 .W67 2002

History Highway: a 21st Century Guide to Internet Resources Remote Storage and DMC 4 West (CD) D 16.117 .H55 2006

An annotated bibliography of web sites.

Christmas Encyclopedia  Main  GT 4985 .C74 2013

760 entries, all by the author, range in length from a paragraph to more than a page.  Wide variety of subjects: individual carols and songs, historical events at Christmastime, popular Christmas symbols, Christmas plants, place names, stamps, literary works, celebrations around the world, origin of most cherished traditions in the U.S.  Unique is the emphasis on Christmas as depicted in popular media. Some black and white illustrations.  Bibliography at end.