Best Resources for Original Language Bible Study
My assumptions here are that people need a variety of resources to conduct
Bible study for preaching, teaching, self-edification, reflection, and devotion.
At the seminary where I teach (LTSG), about a
year's worth of Greek is required. Hebrew is not required but is encouraged as
an elective. I am assuming some facility with Greek, therefore, but I am not
assuming that people will be 'fluent' in Hebrew or even Greek. I do assume that
with the proper resources they will be able to make use of both. I am also
assuming here that English is the primary, native language, and so the secondary
resources and translations I highlight are English ones.
BTW, one of the most important things you
can do to prepare to learn and understand a foreign language is to be familiar
with English grammar. Check the resources on this
Resources in bold are resources that are among the first
you should get (and often required in classes). For some resources, I indicate that they are "usable." By this
term I am indicating that they are not the best resource available, but they are
probably cheap and good enough until you can afford getting a better resource.
This listing is not exhaustive but is specially intended to be a short list. Resources
in green are ones that are relatively expensive (usually $100 or more) but are
among the best resources for which you should save up your money. Note that many
of these resources are also available as resources in Bible software.
- The basic Hebrew text is the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS)
>> considering costs, you won't need a critical edition, but you will need to check
it when doing detailed work
- The standard morphological tagging of the BHS is the Westminster one.
It is available in Ac/BW7/L3.
- To get a critical edition of the BHS, one needs to buy either a hardcopy
or the SESBible
from Logos or the Mac
Studienbibel from Accordance.
- NOTE: BHS is in the process
of being replaced by the updated Biblica Hebraica Quinta (BHQ).
Only a few fascicles are available for now.
- You will need to be able to search the BHS text by word(s) and
morphological forms. Most Bible software is now able to handle this
easily. Back in the day... the concordances by Lisowski or Mandelkern or
Evan-Shoshan were the only ways to get this information. More
helpful for English-speakers is the Kohlenberger/Swanson Hebrew-English
Concordance to the Old Testament.
- Hebrew-English Lexicon >> With cost considerations
- The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB
- look for the unabridged or enhanced editions) has been a long-time
standard, but it has weaknesses.
- The best and most up-to-date lexicon is Koehler, Baumgartner and Stamm's Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament
Save up money for it!
- A lesser but acceptable alternative based on
Koehler/Baumgarter is the Concise Hebrew and
Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by Holladay (often
designated simply as Holladay).
- An excellent, though as-yet incomplete,
alternative that is free and online is the UBS
Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew.
- Another helpful lexicon of sorts is The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
(TWOT) by Harris, Archer & Waltke.
- For a reliable introductory Hebrew grammar, use Basics
of Biblical Hebrew
by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt. The best reference grammar is Biblical Hebrew Syntax by Bruce Waltke and M. O’Connor.
(Also check Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar available in hardcopy and
as a free
- Interlinear Hebrew-English Texts: Bible software provides ways of reading
the Hebrew text with English translation in an interlinear fashion. >>
you don't need to buy an additional interlinear, but:
- Some English versions in Bible software--usually KJV and NASB--are
keyed to Strong's numbers, a system that allows an English reader to
determine the underlying Hebrew.
- There are a number of interlinear texts, but for someone who does not
know Hebrew, the ESV English-Hebrew Reverse Interlinear of the OT
is particularly helpful.
- Check the English Bible translations suggested, but also for the
OT, the Tanakh by the Jewish Publication Society gives
a translation with greater awareness of Jewish traditions.
translations include those by Everett Fox (Schocken Bible) and Robert
- For more info on Hebrew resources check this
excellent reference on "Introductory
Hebrew Grammars" and then "Mastering
Biblical Hebrew" or this Product
Guide for Hebrew Texts and Tools from Logos or this
listing by Marc Brettler or this
- For the text, start with Rahlf's Septuaginta or the
Old Testament in
Greek by Swete or the editions of it in Bible software or online.
- A morphologically coded text, which
generally comes with most Bible software, is needed. The
morphological data in electronic editions appear to trace back to
that of CCAT at the
Univ. of Pennsylvania or are based on the Kraft/Taylor/Wheeler
Morphology Database. (For now, the Logos LXX has known coding
and Swete list some variants, but the only real critical edition is the
Septuagint. (The Göttingen Septuagint is very expensive. Look for it in the library. Another
critical edition by A. E. Brooke, N. McLean, and H. St-J. Thackeray
was never completed.)
- You will need to be able to search the LXX text by word(s) and
morphological forms. Most Bible software is now able to handle this
easily. Back in the day... the Hatch
& Redpath Concordance to the Septuagint was the
only way to get this information.
- For a lexicon, you want A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint,
2 vols. by Lust and Hauspie with Chamberlain
- Get the free, downloadable
Selections from the Septuagint by Conybeare and Stock which
starts with a helpful grammar of the LXX Greek.
- For the LXX, Brenton's translation is an old but usable one in the public
domain that is readily available. What you really want, however, is the
English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS).
- The Parallel Aligned Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Texts of Jewish Scripture
by Emanuel Tov: If you learn both Hebrew and Greek, this will become an
important tool for the study of the OT.
- For more info on the LXX, check
The Septuagint Online.
Greek New Testament
- The basic Greek text with which you will be
working is the Nestle-Aland 27th (NA27) or the nearly identical United
Bible Societies 4th ed. (UBS4). Note that most electronic versions
do not include the text critical apparatus for these texts.
- You will need a morphologically coded
text. There are a number of different morphological coding schemes (Friberg,
Gramcord, Logos, Swanson, Robinson, etc.) depending on the base
Greek text you use. Multiple coding schemes will help you ask
different questions of the text.
- You will need to be able to search the Greek NT text by word(s)
and morphological forms. Most Bible software is now able to handle
this easily. Back in the day... the Moulton
& Geden Concordance to the Greek Testament was the
only way to get this information.
- You will also need a text critical
version of the Greek NT.
- The NA27 critical edition is the
most widely used, but to get it, one needs to buy either a
or the SESBible
from Logos or the Mac
Studienbibel from Accordance. The required NET
Bible Diglot is the best way to obtain the NA27 critical
edition and comes with helpful text critical notes.
- The UBS4
version provides notes on some of the more important variant
readings. A very helpful resource linked to the UBS4 is A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament
(2nd ed.) by Bruce M. Metzger.
- A critical apparatus from the Center for New Testament Textual Studies
is forthcoming that promises to be quite thorough.
- Another way to compare Greek texts
is to obtain various Greek versions, in particular: the Textus
Receptus (the basis for the KJV translators; cf. Erasmus of
1516; Stephen's of 1550 or Elezevir of 1624 or Scrivener's of
1894) and the Byzantine (or Majority) text (Robinson-Pierpont,
- There are a number of free resources
to obtain digital access to text critical matters:
- There are a number of Greek NT lexicons.
- The one you really
want is the Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature
(3rd ed.) designated as BDAG. (Earlier editions are denoted
- As a fine complement or
alternative to BDAG, check out the Exegetical Dictionary of the
New Testament (3 vols. - EDNT) by Balz and Schneider.
- Until you can buy one of the prior two
texts, two acceptable alternatives include:
- Shorter Lexicon of the Greek
New Testament (2nd ed.) by Gingrich/Danker is an
abridged version of BDAG and will give you most of the info you
- Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New
Testament by the Fribergs will also provide a solid
- A number of other lexicons regularly
appear in Bible software packages that are helpful but not
really sufficient for your work:
- Newman's A Concise
Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (also
indicated as the UBS Dictionary) is helpful but provides
little more than a gloss to the Greek.
- Thayer's A Greek-English
Lexicon of the New Testament has some good information,
but it is an old work (1889) superseded by 20th century
- You will also need the Louw-Nida Greek New Testament Lexicon based on Semantic Domains.
It provides a way of grouping Greek concepts together to help you
find and contrast near-synonymns.
- The Theological Dictionary of the New
Testament (TDNT) by Kittel, Friedrich & Bromiley is a
well-known standard available in a single abridged volume (aka
Little Kittel) or in its full 10 vol. glory. (The full Kittel is
indeed an invaluable reference work, but it is a
"theological" dictionary, and it
does have its flaws.)
- A Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott
is a dictionary of classical Greek that comes in 3 editions: an
abridged (aka Little Liddell), an intermediate (aka Middle Liddell),
and the unabridged (aka Great Scott). It is a helpful resource but
not necessary for strictly NT work. Many Bible software packages
include the intermediate version. The unabridged
text is available online and searchable,
and you can also download the free Diogenes program (info
here) which includes it.
- You will need a synopsis resource when
working with the Gospels that lays out the parallel passages in
Matthew/Mark/Luke/John. Most Bible software includes such a tool and you
can always create your own. This
is the hardcopy version.
- There are many NT Greek grammar resources
available online. For a quick reference grammar, download the free
Boyce grammar (PDF - Also online HERE
and in DOC HERE.)
- For an advanced Greek grammar, consider Greek
Grammar Beyond the Basics - An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament
by Daniel Wallace. (This is a required text in the Advanced Greek
- The Lexham
Discourse Greek NT also offers another valuable way of looking at
the Greek syntax.
- For more online NT Greek learning resources,
check out the NTGateway.
Students need a range of English Bible translations.
- For a more literal translation, use the NASB.
- For a more balanced translation, use the NRSV (or the TNIV or REB).
- For a more dynamic translation, use the GNT=TEV or NLT or CEV or The
- Because of its venerable tradition and familiar wording and because its
underlying Greek New Testament uses the Textus Receptus, use the KJV.
- For its useful text notes, use the NET.
(note below and also note the free online version,
the neXt Bible)
- Recommended but not required: For insight into what the Latin Vulgate renders, use the
- Along with the Hebrew or Greek original, you
will want to be able to lay out these versions in some kind of parallel
manner for easy comparison.
There are a number
of fine choices (including a Lutheran Study Bible coming in 2009; also check
this survey), but I
would highlight the following:
- I do recommend that you have a one-volume Bible commentary for quick
reference. For value and quality, the HarperCollins
is a reliable resource I suggest.
is a listing and brief description of a number of other one-volume
commentaries. Of these, I would highlight the Oxford, Eerdman's, and the
People's NT Commentary. Note that a number of these commentaries are
available in Bible software packages.
- Many Bible software packages include the
Matthew Henry commentary. Note that it was written in 1708-1710. It is a
fine devotional commentary, but it is not reliable for critical study.
- There are many multi-volume series, and often the quality varies depending
on the author. Some of the more reliable ones are the Hermeneia series (quite
technical), the Anchor Bible series, Word Bible Commentary, New
Interpreter's , New International Greek Testament Commentary...
- You can find links to lists of recommended commentaries here.
For further discussion of commentaries in general, cf. here
Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
- I do recommend that you have a one-volume Bible
dictionary for quick reference. For value and quality, the one I suggest is
- There are many other helpful dictionaries
available. Note that many Bible software packages include Easton's
Bible Dictionary published in 1897, the Faussett Bible Dictionary
in 1888, or the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)
which was first published in 1915. They may contain some useful
information, but their observations need to be validated by more recent
- The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel
Freedman (6 vols.):
This is the one you really want. Save up your money! It's available in both
hardcopy and digital editions.
- Another resource you might
consider is the IVP Essential Reference Collection 2. (Windows/Libronix
- Hardcopy books: The Carta
Bible Atlas is one of the authoritative references (but do not get the
outdated digital version). Also consider the Oxford Bible Atlas, the
Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible, and the HarperCollins Atlas of Bible
History among others. HERE are links to
- Digital Mapping Resources: Most Bible software comes with some
maps, and there are plenty of online resources. GoogleEarth (free) with
biblical overlays and KMZ files is particularly appealing. Check this comprehensive
- For more info on hardcopy atlases, check here.
Other Texts and Resources
- Dead Sea Scrolls:
- The Dead Sea Scrolls Today by James C. Vanderkam
- The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English by Geza Vermes
- The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English
by Martin G. Abegg and Peter Flint (an English translation of the DSS
A collection of Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible. It is a bit
difficult to locate English
translations for some of the books.
- Philo and Josephus:
These Jewish authors wrote in Greek at about the same time as the NT authors
and provide important insight into the history of the time and Jewish
biblical interpretation. (More online links HERE.)
- Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha: There is a usable public
domain version of English translations by R. H. Charles, but what you really
want is the two volume set by James Charlesworth. (Online links HERE
- Latin Vulgate: A literal English translation of this text is the
- Syriac Peshitta: This includes the Syriac of both the OT and the NT. Read
the info HERE.
- The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (TSK)
provides an abundance of cross-references of texts within the Bible. It's
not perfect, but it is a good start.
- Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament:
There are a number of different ways to present this information, but the
best is the one by Archer & Chirichigno.
- Nave's Topical Bible/Index provides a fast way
of looking for topics (instead of passages or words) in the Bible.
- Apostolic Fathers: These are among the most important, earliest Christian
works that are not in the NT canon. Ideally you want a morphologically
tagged Greek text along with English translation. There are fine, old
Greek/English editions by J. B. Lightfoot and by Kirsopp Lake, but the best
is a modern edition by Michael W. Holmes. (Online links HERE
- Early Church Fathers: This usually refers to the many volumes of the
Ante-Nicene Fathers (10 vols.) and the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (in 2
separate series of 14 vols. each) which are English translations of early
Christian works up through the 8th century. (Online links HERE
- New Testament Pseudepigrapha: Books in this varied collection have been
popularized of late for some of their non-orthodox views. It includes such
texts as the Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi Library, and
many more. (Online links HERE
- Vulgate: This is the Latin translation of the Bible that was the translation
of the Bible
- Sentence diagrams: These are more widely available for the Greek NT than
the OT. They can be helpful in seeing the larger sentence structure.
OpenText.org has provided quite a bit of the background work. Check what is
in your software package (either specialized texts or ones from OpenText or
- For more info on many of these works, start HERE
mgvhoffman - 2008.07 - www.scrollandscreen.com