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Fall 2004, Vol. 1, No. 2

Additional Sources for the Pastor’s Library—and Beyond

Ben Aker, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament and Exegesis at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

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Some time ago, this illustration about topical preaching was making the rounds. A sermon contains the sacred number of points—three—just like the number in the Trinity. The sermon’s format is the “typical topical,” with this outline: Point 1: “Choose a Biblical Text,” Point 2: “Depart from the Text,” Point 3: “Never Return to the Text. Preaching is hard work at all of its stages, but a number of helps can enrich preachers’ libraries, deepen their preaching and spirituality and help them avoid identifying with this story.

How-To Sources

Frederick Danker’s Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study: Revised and Expanded Edition (Augsburg Fortress Press, 2003) with interactive CD is a treasury chest of instructions showing how to navigate a host of reference helps and get the most out of them. For all serious students of the Bible, this is the book with which to begin. Multipurpose Tools also has helpful explanatory sections on ancient documents, as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and current hermeneutical methods, like Social Scientific Criticism.

Baker Books published Guide to New Testament Exegesis, edited by Scot McKnight, a series of short and helpful how-to paperback books that are excellent guides for interpreting biblical texts. The series is arranged around the various genre of the New Testament. Individual titles in this series are Introducing New Testament Interpretation (1992); Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels (1988); Interpreting the Gospel of John (1992); Interpreting the Pauline Epistles (1990); and Interpreting the Book of Revelation (1992). These books contain a wealth of helps and sources and are a bonanza for preaching. They will impress students of the Bible by showing, for example, how to analyze a text and do word studies.

Of equal assistance is Gordon D. Fee’s New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors, Third edition (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002). In two sections, he provides instructions and examples for longer exegesis papers as well as for a shorter process to benefit pastoral preaching. Also very valuable are Fee’s suggestions about references and other sources. In this regard, keep in mind  David R. Bauer’s An Annotated Guide to Biblical Resources for Ministry (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2003). This is an excellent bibliographic source for a variety of works going far beyond what I can do in this short essay.


Often, commentaries are best purchased because of the author’s specialization and the preacher’s needs. Several kinds of commentaries exist: critical, theological, devotional, archaeological, homiletical, applicational, and the like. For preaching, a combination of commentary types is useful so that preachers can secure sufficient depth while being practical, relevant, up-to-date, and of course, sensitive to their tradition and experience, in this case, Pentecostal and Charismatic. Here is a list of commentaries I place high on the must-have list. I list a few that are sensitive to, or written by, Pentecostals/charismatics. Some may be too technical to be read straight through or for light reading

Gordon Fee is the editor of the New International Commentary on the New Testament series by Eerdmans. He authored The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987) and Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (1995). Fee also published a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: 1 and 2 Timothy. New International Biblical Commentary Series (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1995).      

In the NIC series mentioned above, Joel B. Green’s The Gospel of Luke (1997) is exceptional. He provides background information seldom seen and takes a different approach from others in this same series. Another commentary to be commended is Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, paperback (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997).

Craig Keener is writing some of today’s best commentaries. Besides his helpful monographs, And Marries Another: Divorce and Remarriage Teaching in the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1991) and  Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Hendrickson, 1992), he produced The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), and The Gospel of John: A Commentary, 2 Vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2003). This latest volume is one of the most significant commentaries on John that exists and will probably remain so for some time to come. Keener has 30,000 references in it.1  He has two more titles of interest that are forthcoming: a commentary on Acts for Eerdmans Publishing Company and 1 and 2 Corinthians for Cambridge Press. He also has written Revelation: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).2 

Students, teachers, pastors and scholars will benefit from a new Zondervan series Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. Clinton E. Arnold is editing the New Testament volumes; the Old Testament volumes are in process. Spiced with charts, pictures, time lines, maps, sidebar articles, customs, and the like, it makes a valuable reference tool. Another commentary in this genre, a companion to Craig Keener’s IVP Background, is the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Genesis-Deuteronomy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000) by John H. Walton and Victor H. Matthews and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), also by Walton and Matthews as well as Mark Chavalas.3 On this note, it is appropriate to bring attention to a few other sources that help immensely with understanding the background of the Bible. They are the Social World of Ancient Israel: 1250-587 BCE (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1993); The Family, Religion, and Culture series including Families in Ancient Israel  by Leo G. Perdue, Joseph, John J. Collins, and Carol Meyers  (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), and Families in the New Testament World: Households and House Churches by Carolyn Osiek and David L. Balch (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997).4

Several books provide background assistance for understanding Acts. One of the best is Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts edited by I. Howard Marshall and David Peterson (Grand Rapids: Erdmann’s Publishing Co., 1998). In the same category is The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting , the outstanding series edited by Bruce W. Winter with consulting editors I. Howard Marshall and David Gill. The individual volumes are: Ancient Literary Settings, vol. 1 Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke, eds., (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993); Graeco-Roman Setting, Vol. 2, David W.J. Gill and Conrad Gempf, eds., (1994); Paul in Roman Custody, Vol. 3, Brian Rapske, (1994); Palestinian Setting, Vol. 4, Richard Bauckham ( 1995); and Diaspora Setting, Vol. 5, Irina Levinskaya, (1996). Also useful is the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, Completely Revised and Expanded Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999).

Of special note is Word Biblical Commentary, a technical set nearly complete, now published by Nelson and available on CD through Logos. Also quite helpful is the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan Publishing House) in either twelve hardback volumes or an interactive CD. This set, aimed especially for the pastor, contains excellent introductory articles for the Old and New Testaments as well as commentary on each Bible book.

Other Reference Works

Publishers of books and software often take advantage of older works that are in the public domain. They are free, and publishers do not have to worry about copyright infringement. However, biblical studies have advanced so far in linguistics, history, methodology, and archaeology that older works are rendered obsolete. Nonetheless, some publishers make millions of dollars from sales of these public domain materials. Newer and current works are readily available, and often available in software packages that make copying and printing their material in word processing programs. I place the following resources in these categories.

Word Studies

Some of the books listed above could be included here but are not because of unnecessary duplication. Along with the public domain works noted above, several of the following works are available on CDs.

Old Testament

Important aids in Old Testament studies include the multi-volume Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament edited by G. Johannes and Helmer Ringgren Botterweck  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974) that has several translators, the first three volumes retranslated to be acceptable to the academy. Still in process is David J.A. Clines, ed., The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, Vols. 1-8 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993). Others are R. Laird, Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 Vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980); Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, 3 Vols., translated by publisher (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997);  and Willem A. VanGemeren, gen. ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, Vols. 1-5 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House: 1997).

New Testament

Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, eds. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 3 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990-1993). Colin Brown, gen. ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House: 1975-1978). Frederick William Danker, rev. & ed., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd Edition [also known as BDAG] (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 2000). Gerhard, Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the NewTestament, 10 Vols., Translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965-76). This also exists in one volume, condensed and abridged, that is especially useful for pastors and other students (also available on CD with Scholars Library by Logos). Johannes P. Louw & Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains. 2nd Ed. (New York: United Bible Societies:

1988-89). Ceslas Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, 3 Vols., Translated by James D. Ernest (Peabody: MA: 1994). Verlyn Verbrugge, ed., The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words: An Abridgment of New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000). Since A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [noted above] is limited in scope, it is helpful to have at one’s side Liddell and Scott’s A Greek--English Lexicon (New York: American Book Co., 1897), and its supplement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), containing words from the classical Greek period and the LXX (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible; BC 250--).

Bible Dictionaries

Among helpful Bible dictionaries are George Arthur Buttrick, ed., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 4 Vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press: 1962) [Supplementary Volume (1976)]; Craig A. Evans & Stanley E. Porter, eds., Dictionary of New Testament Backgrounds (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000). Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, eds., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992); David Noel Freedman, Editor-in-chief, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 Vols. (New York, et. al.: Doubleday, 1992). Gerald F Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993); and Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997).

Bible Introductions

Also important for students of the Bible are books that provide background information. These secondary resources should not replace one’s personal engagement of the primary text, the Bible itself, but they can be helpful. Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994); Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997); and D.A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992).

Biblical Theology

A recent publication expressing the need for a biblical theology covering all the issues is T. Desmond Alexander, et. al., eds. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. This volume is in three parts: (1) discussion of issues, (2) articles on backgrounds of books and (3) articles on biblical theological topics. The purpose of this reference is to encourage more biblical theological preaching and understanding—a valuable tool.

Old Testament Theology

Helpful works in Old Testament Theology are Brevard S. Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986); William A. Dyrness, Themes: Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979), valuable because Dyrness takes a cross-cultural approach; Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, 2 Vols. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, n.d.); Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Robert K. Johnston, and Robert P. Meye, Studies in Old Testament Theology: Historical and Contemporary Images of God and His People (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992); Walter C. Kaiser, Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987); Elmer A. Martens, God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981); Ralph L. Smith, Old Testament Theology: Its History, Method, and Message (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993); and Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2 Vols. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967).

Do not ignore some because they are perceived as being moderate or liberal. For example, von Rad, a German scholar, has one of the best chapters relating to the exile, new exodus, and suffering servant of Isaiah that one can find.5 Surprisingly, the more conservative scholar, Kaiser in his Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament, largely ignores this important Isaiah material. New Testament scholars know these topics of Isaiah, and his Spirit related material, to be significant.

New Testament Theology

Significant for New Testament Theology are G. R. Beasley-Murray, Gospel of Life: Theology in the Fourth Gospel. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1991); James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998) [a must read for Chapter 5 “The Beginning of Salvation,” Par. 13 – “The Crucial Transition,” Par. 15 – “Participation in Christ,” Par. 16 – “The Gift of the Spirit”; Chapter 6: “The Process of Salvation,” Par. 18 – “The Eschatological Tension,” Par. 19 – “Israel”; Chapter 7: “The Church,” Par. 20 – “The Body of Christ,” Par. 21 – “Ministry and Office”; Chapter 9: “Epilogue,” Par. 25 – “Prolegomena to a Theology of Paul”]; L.Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament, 2 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans

Publishing Co., 1981; 1982); D. Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981); George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974); Leon Morris, New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986); and R. F. O'Toole, The Unity of Luke's Theology (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1984). One, just off the press, comes with high expectations and I find it very useful: I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004). Not only does Marshall introduce the field of biblical theology, a most needful area; he also gives the theology of individual books and authors.

Software Bible Programs

I judge a software programs by at least three criteria. (1) Does it provide me with the information I need for Bible study easily and quickly? (2) Since public domain material is everywhere, even on the Internet, does it have the capacity to add to its library new and updated books? (3) Does it notify of and provide updates and fixes (patches, etc.) for its existing software over the Internet?

Although a number of Bible software programs exist, I recommend two—each with strengths and weaknesses—Bible Works 6 and Logos.6 Both have powerful capacities to provide more data than a person can assimilate. For example, one can select what information to seek on a single Bible verse from a command center or tool bar, give the command, and up to hundreds of pages of information are generated in a matter of seconds. These results give parsing, lexical definitions, concordance and commentary data, and other information. Bible Works 6 is more user friendly and powerful, in my opinion. I use it for Bible material management. It has numerous texts and translations that easily can be accessed in seconds once the user becomes acquainted with its commands. It also offers an aid for diagramming sentences and for doing syntactical analysis (most helpful for Bible study and sermon preparation); it has a biblical timeline that can be manipulated and copied for excellent PowerPoint® presentations as well as an impressive chart system for showing word frequencies. BW 6 has redundancies of command—there are numerous ways to get at the same search or work. One weakness of BW 6 is that it does not have the number of add-ons that Logos does. I have both programs and use each for different purposes. Logos has a host of helps that can be purchased and incorporated into its search capacity. Many of the references and lexicons can be bought on CDs and they can be included into one’s word search. For example, one can search for “Abraham” or “faith” and references will show up in writings such as those of Josephus, Philo, and the Church Fathers. One can get an InterVarsity set of references as well as the large Word Biblical Commentaries. Anchor Bible Dictionary also can be added on.

All of these software packages can be loaded on to a laptop computer and carried around the world. This is very useful for missionaries, not only for having a great library in the middle of Africa or Singapore (for me), but more than likely (BW6, especially) it has a translation for one’s own place of ministry in the world.


I have covered more than three points here. While one can conclude that these suggestions are not sacred, they will be, I trust, helpful. The references and lists here are only the beginning of a host of new materials that aid the preacher to “feed the sheep” and never depart from the biblical text—something sacred in itself.


1. The publisher’s website says more than 20,000; he says 30,000, e-mail message.

2. On this note, The NIV Application Commentary series published by Zondervan is to be commended. These volumes have all the requisite elements—contemporary, specialization in the field, technical questions, and application. 

3. Old Testament commentaries are not abundant in these lists, in part because Spirit issues are more directly related to the New Testament.

4. See Susan R. Garrett’s review of the latter in Christian Century, 115:35 (12/16/98):1223-26. Find it at http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=1385535&db=afh.

5. 2: 238-62. Just “spit out the bones” and take the meat.

6. Find more information at www.bibleworks.com  and www.logos.com/.  If ordering Logos Bible Software, I recommend the Scholars Library package.

Updated: Friday, June 16, 2006 10:22 AM