Research Tools

Most of the following books are helpful both to students who are studying the text in the original Hebrew as well as to those exploring the texts in translation.*


Introduction to the Hebrew Bible by John Collins, 2nd edition (Fortress Press, 2014): The largest and most extensive recent introduction available, now in its second edition. Collins approaches the text from the historical-critical perspective, and enhances the work with maps, images, and suggestions for further reading to guide students. (You may sample this book by following the link above. Also note that many of the resources listed on this page may be previewed through Amazon, Google Books, or the publisher's website.)

The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures by Michael Coogan, 3rd edition (Oxford University Press, 2013): Employing the narrative chronology of the Bible itself and the history of the ancient Near East as a framework, Coogan covers all the books of the Hebrew Bible, along with the deuterocanonical books included in the Bible used by Catholics. Coogan works from a primarily historical and critical methodology but also introduces students to literary analysis and other interpretive strategies, especially current ones.

T&T Clark Handbook of the Old Testament: Introduction to the Literature, Religion and History of the Old Testament by Jan Gertz et. al. (T&T Clark, 2012): This introduction gives English readers access to mainstream European scholarship on the Hebrew Bible. The European approach differs from the traditional Documentary Hypothesis in favor of the supplementary model for the formation of the Pentateuch. It also contains a helpful introduction to the study of Israel's history and the history of Israelite religion.

The Old Testament: An Introduction by Otto Eissfeldt (Harper and Row, 1965): Though dated, this is a classic work that offers a good sense of historical-critical biblical scholarship in the middle of the twentieth century. Eissfeldt approaches the text from a critical perspective and utilizes the Documentary Hypothesis. The work also includes books from the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha.


The Anchor Bible Commentary (Yale University Press): though not yet fully completed, AB is the most popular and perhaps the best overall critical commentary series, written primarily by American and Israeli scholars. The earlier commentaries in the series—for example, E.A. Speiser’s Genesis (pictured right)— are more succinct, while the more recent volumes are more expansive—for example, J. Milgrom’s Leviticus (3 vols.). AB volumes include different sections, such as translation; (textual) notes; and comment. By following the link above (to The Anchor Bible Commentary), you can navigate to individual volumes and preview their content.

Hermeneia (Augsburg Fortress Press): somewhat technical, including significant reference to Hebrew and Greek, much in these volumes is accessible to those without original language skills. Samples are also available for this series by following the link above (to Hermeneia).

Old Testament Library (Westminster John Knox): very good, critical commentary series. Written by German, American, and Israeli scholars, some of the volumes are becoming dated, though several remain the authoritative statement on particular books—for example, S. Japhet’s I & II Chronicles.

JPS Bible Commentary (Jewish Publication Society): combines traditional Jewish interpretation with modern critical scholarship. It originally only covered the Torah, but has been expanded to cover the five megillot (scrolls) and the haftarot (prophetic readings), and will soon be expanded further. 

International Critical Commentary (Bloomsbury T&T Clark): most of these volumes are older but still helpful. Particularly good in this series is S.R. Driver’s Deuteronomy

The New Interpreter’s Bible (Abingdon Press): this is a twelve-volume (plus index) update of the Interpreter’s Bible, a standard critical commentary among mainline Protestant scholars and ministers. The contributors to the NIB reflect a wide range of denominational backgrounds. The first seven volumes contain the books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The NIB includes a commentary section as well as a (homiletical) reflection section. The latter section should not be used in critical exegetical work.

Mikra Leyisra'el (Am Oved and Magnes): Written in Modern Hebrew (Heb:  מקרא לישראל: פירוש מדעי למקרא), this critical commentary series also incorporates much medieval Hebrew exegesis, especially when it sheds light on the original meaning of the text.

Other Commentaries: the commentaries above are particularly helpful tools; however, there are other good commentary series (e.g. Forms of Old Testament Literature; Continental Commentary; New Word Biblical Commentary; New Century Bible Commentary; New International Commentary on the Old Testament) as well as individual commentaries.

Please note: It is important to remember that all commentary series are somewhat uneven, and a good series may have some poor volumes, and a mediocre series may have some excellent volumes.

Reference Works

The Anchor Bible Dictionary (Yale University Press): actually an encyclopedia, not just a dictionary. Written in the 1980’s and published in 1992 by an international group of critical scholars, ABD is the best critical biblical encyclopedia available in English. Entries can be found for biblical books, characters, places, concepts, and topics. It also contains good bibliographical data. This six-volume set is also available in several electronic versions, including for Accordance.

The New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon Press, 2006-2009):
 a five-volume encyclopedia often less technical than ABD. It is an up to date resource for the study of books, people, places, and topics in the Bible. It is a good place to go for bibliographical references that will discuss the topic of any given entry in fuller detail.

Encyclopedia Judaica 2nd edition (Macmillan, 2006): a 22 volume set that contains a combination of traditional and critical information on all things Judaica, including biblical subjects. Some entries are very good, while others are less useful. Many libraries have electronic access to this resource, check your library catalogue.

Encyclopedia Miqra'it (Heb: אנציקלופדיה מקראיתBialik Institute, 1950-1988): an extremely detailed nine volume set, in Modern Hebrew, reflecting the best of Jewish biblical scholarship in the second half of the twentieth century. Volume nine is a detailed subject index. The official English title of this set is Encyclopaedia Biblica.

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The History of Its Interpretation: edited by Magne Sæbø, 5 volumes (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996-2014). This is a large international reference work that brings together Christian and Jewish professionals from around the world to trace the interpretation of the Bible through modern times.

New Cambridge History of the Bible (Cambridge University Press, 2012-2015): in four volumes, this series has a similar goal and purview as Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, focusing on the history of the Bible as a text from the beginnings to the present. The fourth and final volume will be published at the end of 2015.

Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (de Gruyter, 2009-): a 30 volume detailed encyclopedia of books, people, places, etc. which is not yet complete. It not only focusses on the historical-critical study of the Bible, but on different methods of interpretation, and especially on reception history.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible 2 vols. edited by Michael Coogan (Oxford University Press, 2011): a comprehensive introduction, with bibliography, to each book of the (Catholic) Bible, and some related topics.  Offers an excellent orientation to biblical books, modern scholarship on the book, and their reception history.  

Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation edited by John H. Hayes (Abingdon Press, 1998): this two-volume set contains a series of articles on individual biblical interpreters, books, and methods throughout the ages. Because the cut off date for inclusion in the dictionary was the year 1930, most of these interpreters are male. 

Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament
edited by G. Johannes Botterweck et. al. (Eerdmans, 1975-2006): translated from a German work, in fifteen volumes in its English edition. It is arranged according to the Hebrew terms it discusses. The lexical work includes detailed surveys of a word’s occurrences in Hebrew and related languages. The pages that contain the entry for the word אלמנה ("widow") is available for download at the bottom of this page.

Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (TLOT) edited by Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann (Hendrickson, 1994): also translated from German, and arranged similarly to TDOT, above.  It is shorter than the previous work, and contains useful indices. The entry for אלמנה is available for download at the bottom of this page, so that you can compare this work with the TDOT.

Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible edited by Karel van der Toorn et. al. (Brill, 1999): a major work of reference on the gods, angels, demons, spirits and semi-divine heroes whose names appear in the Bible, this book will prove especially helpful in gaining a basic understanding of these figures and in acquiring pertinent bibliographic information. More of a single volume encyclopedia, the DDD contains over four hundred entries.

Searchable Electronic Databases

ATLA: this religion database covers religious studies, Bible, and theology journals and books from 1949 to the present. It can be searched according to several different criteria, including keyword, author, title, journal, and Scripture reference. Some of ATLA’s entries include abstracts, which can be consulted by viewing the entry’s full record.

Old Testament Abstracts: as its name denotes, this database covers only scholarly material related to the Hebrew Bible. Like ATLA, it can be searched according to several different criteria. Although it is slightly more difficult to use, OTA often contains more references than ATLA, and all of its entries are abstracted.

Recommended Journals
NOTE: Even if a journal name is in a foreign language, the articles may be in English.

Biblical Archaeologist (BA)

Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR)

Biblica (Bib)

Catholic Biblical Quarterly (CBQ)

Harvard Theological Review (HTR)

Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel (HBAI)

Hebrew Union College Annual (HUCA)

Journal of the American Oriental Society (JAOS)

Journal of Ancient Judaism (JAJ)

Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL)

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures (JHebS)

Journal of Jewish Studies (JJS)

Journal of Near Eastern Studies (JNES)

Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (JSOT)

Journal of Semitic Studies (JSS)

Lectio Difficilior

Revue Biblique (RB)

Semeia (Semeia)

Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament (SJOT)

Vetus Testamentum (VT)

Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (ZAW)

Biblical Hebrew Tools

Biblical Hebrew for Students of Modern Israeli Hebrew: written by Marc Brettler (Yale University Press, 2001). A teaching grammar that is particularly useful to students who are familiar with some Hebrew, though not necessarily academically. Particular emphasis is placed upon Hebrew phonology, which will help you learn morphology more quickly and easily.

Brown Driver Briggs (most recently published by Hendrickson in 1994): usually referred to as BDB, the initials of the three authors of the work—Brown, Driver, and Briggs. BDB is a compact and very good, if dated, lexicon of biblical Hebrew and Aramaic. Words are listed according to their triliteral roots, although it is alphabetized from left to right (thus the book reads from “front to back” like an English book). Learn more about this resource here.

The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Brill, 2002): usually referred to as KB, which stands for Kohler/Baumgartner, the two authors of the work, or HALOT, which stands for the title. KB is the best available lexical resource for biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, including significant and relatively up-to-date comparative Semitic information (BDB, by contrast, was written prior to the discovery of Ugaritic and significant advances in Akkadian). Learn more about this resource here.

The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (DCH) edited by David J. A. Clines (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 1993-2011): an eight-volume dictionary that incorporates all Hebrew from the earliest times up to 200 CE, including Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls and related texts, and the Hebrew inscriptions. It also contains a comprehensive bibliography to scholarly studies on individual Hebrew words. Learn more about this resource here.

Gesenius edited and enlarged by E. Kautzsch, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 1922): the old standard reference grammar for biblical Hebrew. It is at times difficult to understand; however, its verbal paradigms in the back of the volume are very helpful. Learn more about this resource here.

Joüon-Muraoka - A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew 2nd edition (Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2011): a translation and updating of the French reference grammar of Paul Joüon by Japanese Semitic philologist Takamitsu Muraoka. This is the new standard reference grammar for biblical Hebrew. To learn more about how it differs from Gesenius, click here.

Accordance: biblical concordance software that will significantly ease and enhance your concordance work, allowing you to search the whole Bible or sections thereof for specific roots as well as specific binyanim and lemmas. Accordance includes English, Hebrew, Greek, and other language resources. It also includes an electronic, searchable version of the Anchor Bible Dictionary and many other tools. Learn more about Accordance and other electronic and print concordances here.

Ancient Near East

Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET) edited by James Pritchard (Princeton University Press, 1969): This work brought together the most important historical, legal, mythological, liturgical, and other texts of the ancient Near East with the purpose of providing a rich contextual base for the understanding of the Hebrew Bible. Published in 1969, it still provides excellent translations of many important texts, but is somewhat dated. There is also a new abridged, affordable version called The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures by James B. Pritchard and Daniel E. Fleming, with a foreword by Daniel Fleming (Princeton University Press, 2011).

The Context of Scripture (COS) edited by William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger (Brill, 2003): this is a three-volume set that involves the work of almost 90 scholars. It provides an introduction, translation, notes, and bibliography to a broad collection of ancient Near Eastern texts that have some bearing on the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Though this work contains many of the same texts as ANET it can be more helpful for Bible students because it contains references to similar or parallel biblical material.

A Reader of Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Sources for the Study of the Old Testament Edited by Michael Coogan (Oxford University Press, 2012): this is a collection of texts that introduce students to the larger world surrounding the Old Testament. It provides historical correlations to people and events mentioned in the Bible; parallels to biblical genres, motifs, institutions, and concepts, and windows into the lives of ordinary people. It is the companion volume to Coogan’s The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures (OUP 2010). This volume is similar to ANET but smaller and more accessible for students.

Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature by Kenton L. Sparks (Hendrickson, 2005): An excellent introduction, arranged by genre, discussing ancient Near Eastern texts that relate to the Bible.  It does not contain the texts, but brief discussions of them, and where the original texts, translations, and scholarly literature may be found.  

Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (CANE) edited by Jack M. Sasson (Scribner, 1995): this is a four volume (Hendrickson has a two-volume version published in 2000) set that brings together the work of 189 scholars from all over the world. It contains the most comprehensive and up-to-date survey of the ancient Near East now available. The essays cover all facets of the culture.

The Ancient Near East: History, Society, and Economy by Mario Liverani (Routledge, 2014): This is the English translation of Mario Liverani’s original Italian work Antico Oriente: Storia, Società, Economia. In textbook fashion, the volume comprehensively covers the history and culture of the ANE from the Neolithic to the Persian periods, while integrating archeological and textual sources. This book is a must-read for the serious student of the Ancient Near East.

The Ancient Near East by Amelie Kuhrt (Routledge, 1997): a two volume authoritative study of the history of the ancient Near East from 3000 to 330 BCE. It is a lucid, recent narrative that takes into account the latest archaeological and textual discoveries and deals with complex problems of interpretation and methodology. It cites a large number of primary texts. However, it does not deal sufficiently with Egypt.

Archaeological Resources

Archaeology of the Land of the Bible (1,000-586 BCE) by Amihai Mazar (Doubleday, 1992): this book provides excellent summaries of various aspects of material culture. It is organized period by period. It contains many photographs, line drawings, and charts.

Archaeology of the Land of the Bible. Vol II by Ephraim Stern (Yale University Press, 2001)this is the companion volume to the work above. It deals with the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian periods from 732 to 332 BCE. It provides a strong summary of material culture and contains many photographs and line drawings.

The Sacred Bridge edited by Anson Rainey and Steven Notley (Carta, 2005): this is an historical atlas that traces the course of Near Eastern history from the Chalcolithic Age (ca. 3500 BCE) to the Bar Kochba revolt (136 CE). The atlas provides 300 maps to as far as possible in terms of modern knowledge, and the changes and historical process that affected the land of the Bible. 

Dead Sea Scrolls

Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (Clarendon Press, 1955-2009): Abbreviated DJD, this is the official publication series of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Individual texts are presented along with critical commentary, and plates (photographs) are available at the back of each volume. Vol. 39 is a useful index.

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library: This site contains digital images of the scrolls, including multispectral images that are often superior to the plates in DJD. The majority of the scrolls are available on the Leon Levy Site. Five major scrolls from Cave 1 
(the Great Isaiah Scroll, War Scroll, Pesher Habakkuk, Temple Scroll, and Community Rule) are found on a site hosted by the Israel Museum Jerusalem:

The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible edited by Martin Abegg, Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich (Harper Collins, 2002): an English translation of all of the DSS biblical texts, with brief notes.

The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English by Geza Vermez (7th edition, Penguin Classics, 2012): an English translation of all of the non-biblical DSS texts organized by genre.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Today by James Vanderkam (2nd edition, Eerdmans, 2010): a clear, accessible and current introduction.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition edited by Florentino García Martínez and Eibert Tigchelaar (Eerdmans, 1999): this two-volume work contains the Hebrew and Aramaic along with English translation of all of the non-biblical texts from Qumran as well as bibliography on each scroll. A valuable and accessible resource for students who want to work directly with the Hebrew and Aramaic of the scrolls.

Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls edited by Lawrence Schiffman and James Vanderkam (Oxford University Press, 2008): a reference work containing 450 articles covering all facets and issues pertaining to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran. Written by prominent DSS scholars, with helpful bibliographic information.

For a more thorough bibliography for the DSS, download the "DSS Bibliography" file at the bottom of this page. Also, visit the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature, and click on the bibliography tab.

Online Resources 

Many resources are available online for biblical studies; most reflect a confessional perspective. The following resources are especially useful for students and scholars:

Bible Odyssey: This site, run by the Society of Biblical Literature and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a resource for both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Intended to introduce scholarly perspectives on the Bible to the broader public, it features many articles, maps, timelines, and other tools.

Oxford Biblical Studies Online:  A collection of many useful biblical resources published by Oxford University Press, supplemented by images and maps, short articles, and interviews with major biblical scholars. (full access requires a library subscription)

Biblical Studies: Oxford Bibliographies:  Part of the larger Oxford Bibliographies Online project, this peer-reviewed site offers detailed, subcategorized, and annotated bibliographies to many areas in biblical scholarship.
(full access requires a library subscription) offers the ability to find biblical sites on Google Earth, to search what the Bible says about certain topics, to search for references to the Bible on Twitter and Facebook, and other features.

The Bible and Interpretation: a free, very accessible site that presents the latest news and information in the field of biblical studies and archeology to a wide readership. A current biblical encyclopedia, in German, with excellent bibliographies. 
Das wissenschaftliche Bibellexikon im Internet (WiBiLex).

Journal of Biblical Literature: the flagship journal of the field of biblical studies, published by the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). Issues from 1881 to the current issue are available for free download to members of the SBL and those with JSTOR access.

Review of Biblical Literature: published by the Society of Biblical Literature, this electronic resource presents detailed reviews of books in biblical studies and related fields. The site features a search page that allows you to search for specific authors, titles, etc.

Biblical Archaeology Society: an excellent resource for keeping up with current research in biblical archeology. The site features a library with hundreds of articles (available by subscription), as well as electronic versions of its marquee journal, Biblical Archaeology Review.

Textual Resources from the German Bible Society: through a partnership with the German Bible Society, the texts (without critical apparatus) of BHS, Septuaginta, Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam, and the UBS Greek New Testament are available to SBL members in several formats for download and personal use.

Bibliographical Sites

Many colleges, universities and seminaries subscribe to the ATLA (American Theological Library Association) Religion Database—see and OTA (Old Testament Abstracts)—see (and note the free trail offer), which both offer excellent capabilities for searching topics, authors, and passages. The École Biblique library in Jerusalem has an excellent (free) online catalogue at; see the brief description at  RAMBI—The Index of Articles on Jewish Studies, catalogues many articles in biblical studies, especially if written in Hebrew—see See Biblical Bibliography of Lausanne (BiBIL), which is a database maintained by the Institut romand des sciences bibliques (IRSB) of Lausanne University/Switzerland (UNIL)

Further resources may be found at:  Especially noteworthy are the open-access books published by SBL as part of the Ancient Near East Monographs series, all available for free download at

In addition, through the International Cooperation Initiative (ICI), the Society of Biblical Literature has hundreds of volumes from a number of willing publishers available for free to people in any country whose GDP per person is substantially lower than the average between the USA and EU. Visit to learn more.

*This page is based on a handout prepared by Professor Jeffrey Stackert of the University of Chicago; the section on the Dead Sea Scrolls was prepared by Mr. Jamie Bryson of Brandeis University.
Jamie Bryson,
Jul 10, 2015, 6:03 AM
Jamie Bryson,
Dec 20, 2015, 4:39 AM
Jamie Bryson,
Dec 20, 2015, 4:39 AM