Thursday, February 8, 2024

"A" is for Aaron: Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

Big Idea: Navigate your way through the Bible making use of Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias which define and explain what’s in the Bible.

This series is about Bible study tools. There are many types of Bibles and helpful resources like a concordance or Bible dictionary. Information about their book and their electronic version are included. Cost and “how to use” will be addressed.

"A" is for Aaron

My mom taught me the ABC song. I remember a book of mine that began, “A is for apple, B is for bear…”

Then I learned to use a dictionary for word definitions. My father sold World Book Encyclopedias for a time when he was on strike so I became familiar with encyclopedias too.

There are dictionaries for the Bible too

A Bible Dictionary defines the words used in the Bible. It tells you how it is used and often Bible references where you find it. Some write more details than others. Some include color photos and maps.

A Bible Encyclopedia has longer articles about a word or topic. Bible Encyclopedias can be multi-volumes long.

Bible words are less common

The Bible uses specific words from ancient cultures and Bible times like shekel or cubit. There are also theological words that are not used every day.

It helps to look up these words in a trusted source.

There are specific dictionaries for Bible names and places, and other special topics.

Some are specific to theological words. Some relate to Old or New Testament words and examine the original languages. 

Bible Dictionary recommendations

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary 1586 pages  (between $40-$50) – considered one of the best.
  Amazon (currently $38.20) CBD (currently $43.99)

Zondervan’s Compact Bible Dictionary  600 pages  (much cheaper ~$12) Used version even less. 
 Amazon (currently $12.99) CBD (currently $13.99)

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary – a little less $ than Zondervan. Excellent also 
Amazon (currently $26.99)    CBD (currently $28.99)

The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary - we have an older well used version that we got while in seminary. 
Amazon (currently $37.72)    CBD. (Currently $30.99 with a new slightly imperfect one for $24.79) Touted as a bestseller for 50 years.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary and Smith’s Bible Dictionary are two classic ones that have been around a long time. They still have a lot to offer especially the revised editions. Used ones are found quite cheaply. They can also be found free for online use. 

Excellent Bible Encyclopedias

The one I have is a 5 volume set and have cherished it since seminary days. Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible. The books are out of print. Both Amazon and CBD sell them as e-books one volume at a time, about $44 each volume. Reviews indicate it is not worth the price because to formatting is so awful. However the original version is free to use while online at Bible Gateway. See below. 

Two excellent choices are free online. The ISBE (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia) and the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible.

Available for FREE online!

A Bible tools site that has many older reputable Bible references available for free. It deserves a future blog of its own. 

Bible Dictionary Multi-Source Bible Dictionary: Easton's, Smith's, SAA, ATS, Webster

Bible Encyclopedia Primarily the ISBE (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

A basic Bible software tool available free for anyone.

There are packets of theological books that you can add on that can get quite expensive. But the free edition includes a number of excellent tools. It too deserves a future blog of its own.

The free edition includes the Lexham Bible Dictionary which is quite robust and worthwhile.

 Bible Gateway is the main resource I use on my computer for looking up and copying Bible references. I did not know till today that there are a number of free resources available.

There is also Bible Gateway Plus that for a monthly fee includes many more resources. I do not subscribe. 

Of incredible note is the online availability of a Bible Encyclopedia 5 volume set that I bought in seminary that we have in our home. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 Volume Set can be used online at the Bible Gateway Free Resources page.

It is really exciting that there are so many tools available online now!

If you are one who prefers the written page, there are Bible dictionaries of great value and smaller informational books you can buy to gather information on the Bible

The Word of God is ALWAYS primary!

There are many great Bible tools around! Just be sure studying them does not replace the primary importance of the Bible! The Word of God is ALWAYS primary !


Previous: The Classic Halley’s Bible Handbook
Up next: Soup to Nuts: Topical Bible Dictionaries


1. If you could look up anything you’re interested in in a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia what would It be?

2. Now take that and practice it with either Bible Hub or Bible, looking that up.


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