Building a basic Christian library

There are, quite simply, more resources to help in understanding the Bible, than for any other book or series of books ever written. Wading through the 1000’s of books currently available at Koorong (or on-line) to find the gems, is a hard task—worth the work but…!

What do you need if you want to be serious about studying the Bible? Maybe you lead a Bible Study group – or do Scripture or Sunday School—maybe you’re getting questions at home you can’t answer. Every serious Christian should have some of these at home to further their study and understanding of the Scriptures.

Theological Dictionary: “The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology” (EDT-often referred to as “Elwell”) provides in-depth summaries of theological issues from an Evangelical perspective and is one of the most valuable modern textbooks ever written. It tries to ensure articles are evangelical but also present other views with fairness (doesn’t always work). This is the textbook I go to first more often than any other. In addition to the article it gives excellent resources for further enquiry and is cross referenced internally. It is not a “Bible” Dictionary—so it covers more than words found in the Bible.

Theological Bible Dictionary: “Theological Dictionary of the Bible” (TDB) This is the one that dissects the words found in the Bible—edited by Elwell (EDT above) this is evangelical and pretty well balanced (doesn’t mean you’ll agree). Where the EDT covers theological ideas and concepts, the TDB deals with words only found in the Bible.  For example it doesn’t deal with the Trinity in a specific article because the word doesn’t appear in the Bible.

Bible Dictionary: Different editor, different company, same basic concept except bigger and broader than the TDB (above). Provides the meaning of words (as any dictionary does) with references to similar passages. Evangelical and based on the NIV text.

Concordance: “NIV Exhaustive Concordance” Do you want to find out what the Bible says about “predestination”? This concordance lists every occurrence of every main word in the whole of the Bible (doesn’t list “the”, “a”, etc). Of course, just because a word is repeated doesn’t mean that it means the same thing or is referring to the same thing in each case. Context remains vital in understanding. This has no theological bias – it’s taken directly from the NIV text. You can get concordances for every major translation of the Bible.

Commentary on the Whole Bible: There are many different commentaries from all sorts of different perspectives – this one comes in a single condensed volume, a 2-volume edition, and a ten-volume edition. There are many commentaries – you have to be picky because not all of them share the values of Biblical faith that we do. With most of them you need to look for the credentials of the authors and their backgrounds.

Bible Encyclopaedia: There are varieties of these – Bible Words, Customs, Maps, Background, General, Church History, Christian Martyrs, Christian Church, Flora and Fauna and a vast array of many others – scholars need something to do I suppose. This one deals with the main (most common) words found in the Bible and gives greater detail with background and usage. There are illustrated Encyclopaedias as well. The problem with many Encyclopaedias is their bias – so you have to pick and choose – and many of them are so shallow that they are virtually worthless.

The Bible Speaks Today: One good series – if you need something bigger than the one or two volume series is a series entitled “The Bible Speaks Today”. This covers almost the whole bible in a series – mostly one book per volume. It is good basic evangelical scholarship written for normal people – that is lay not theologically trained clergy. Each volume is between $15-$25.

Know The Truth – A Handbook of Christian Belief: Much smaller in size and scope this is a miniature “Systematic Theology” textbook. It sets down the basic beliefs of the Church and shows where they come from in the Bible. This is one of the best short courses in theology in existence, especially for the non-theologian. Generally can be found for under $20..