Tag Archives: Divinity

Research Tips — Online religion research: locating recommended books

Written by Robert Sivigny, University Librarian

If you are distance student in the School of Divinity, one of the challenges of writing research papers is gaining access to the best books on your topic. How do you go about this? Where do you begin?

First, look for recommended books in your course syllabus or other resources listed at the top left-hand area of the course Web site within Blackboard. Professors often include a list of recommended resources, which usually have bibliographies where you can find authoritative sources. Your textbooks are another possibility; or you might ask your professor directly for best books on your research topic. If you topic has an historical angle, consult the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, available in full-text online through Oxford Reference Online. After logging in, choose “Religion & Divinity” from the subject list. Select “Advanced Search” at the top left-hand side in the dark blue menu, then select The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church from the list of works below. Type in your topic, click on the down arrow in the “Refine your Search” drop-down box to the right, and select “Entry Headings.” In this way, the database will return only full articles on your topic, not just passing references.

A full entry will give you a great overview, hypertext links to associated topics, and most importantly, a bibliography that will point you to the best books on your topic. Consider these recommendations like gold. Print out the page and search the Regent Library Catalog to see which books the Library has; then place requests through our InterLibrary Loan department. We will ship the books promptly at no charge to you. For books not held by Regent, check your local public library’s catalog and InterLibrary Loan service.

If you are working on a scriptural topic, a place to find recommended academic resources is the Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology at Crosswalk.com. Articles in Bakers usually have great bibliographies at the end of the entries. If you are looking for commentaries, use the School of Divinity handout, Selected Resources for Old and New Testament Studies, available from the Library’s new Divinity & Religion subject guide.

Other dictionaries and encyclopedias in the Library’s Reference section may have useful bibliographies. Check Recommended Reference Works to Consult for Bibliography to identify reference works that may have an article you would like to see. Call the circulation desk and ask one of the library faculty to examine a couple of listed reference dictionaries or encyclopedias to see if there is an article on your topic and to give you the page numbers. Armed with the article topic, page numbers, and specific dictionary or encyclopedia title, fill out a “Request a Photocopy” form in your InterLibrary Loan account.

After you identify the books you want, you can also use the WorldCat database to identify libraries in your area that may have the books on your topic. Sometimes even public libraries will surprise you and have the exact item you are looking for; if not, they should be able to acquire them for you through their own interlibrary loan service.

Library Faculty Recommendations: Finding Bible Commentaries

Written by Robert Sivigny, University Librarian

Bible commentaries are a key resource for biblical opinion on a topic or text. They are indispensable for nearly every School of Divinity research paper, whether the topic is doctrinal, ethical, pastoral, or textual. This article will discuss how to find commentaries in print and then explore where online full-text Bible commentaries may be found.

Considering the number of Bible commentaries in print, selecting the best ones is an important process, often ignored. Bible commentaries at the Regent Library are arranged on the shelf by book of the Bible-Genesis through Revelation. Currently, for example, there are approximately fifteen shelves devoted to commentaries on the book of Genesis. A guide, Selected Resources for Old and New Testament Studies, by Drs. Pannell and Holman, is excellent for identifying good scholarly Bible commentaries. This forty-seven page guide, arranged by book of the Bible, is available online on the Library Divinity & Religion Subject Guides. Select the Websites tab, then Bibliographies and Guides. A copy is also available for loan at the Reference Desk.

Suppose, for example, you are looking for the best commentaries on the book of Jeremiah. A check in the Jeremiah section shows twenty-six commentaries, with an asterisk beside the most highly recommended titles. Off-campus students should browse this list, identify the commentaries they want, and request them through the Regent Interlibrary Loan.

An Annotated Guide to Biblical Resources for Ministry, by David R. Bauer
An Annotated Guide to Biblical Resources for Ministry, by David R. Bauer

While there are several other good commentary selection guides, I recommend David Bauer’s, An Annotated Guide to Biblical Resources for Ministry. Bauer, a biblical studies professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, organizes his recommendations into four sections: the whole Bible, the Old Testament, Early Judaism, and the New Testament. The Old and New Testament sections are further arranged by book of the Bible. Bauer includes useful descriptive paragraphs on his recommended commentaries. Bauer always follows his recommended list with a second list of other significant commentaries, giving a fuller picture of what is available on each book of the Bible.

While researchers have an abundance of scholarly commentaries in print to choose from, finding full-text commentaries online remains a challenge. There are a number of older commentaries online, including those by Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, and Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown. These are available on sites such as Crosswalk.com and Tyndalehouse.com, but I hasten to say that these should not be used for School of Divinity research papers! The best scholarly online commentary series currently on the Web is the IVP New Testament Commentary series at Biblegateway.com. Not all the books of the New Testament are available, but sixteen are. The IVP New Testament Commentary series can be accessed by selecting Additional Resources on the left-hand side bar of the homepage.

NetLibrary, available from the Regent library databases collection, currently offers the Believer’s Church Bible Commentary series published by Herald Press, a Mennonite publisher. The series states in its forward that it is published “for all who seek more fully to understand the original message of Scripture and its meaning for today-Sunday School teachers, members of Bible study groups, students, pastors, and others.” The series can be viewed by opening the Advanced Search option within Netlibrary. With the advanced search menu displayed, type, “commentary” on the first line as a title search and, “bible,” on the second line as a subject search.

Ebrary Academic Complete, another electronic book collection available from the Library databases, also offers a few commentaries that might be of assistance. After logging into Ebrary, click on the advanced search option on the left-hand menu and type “commentary” as a title search and “bible” as a subject search. Currently, five works are available, not all commentaries: Theodoret of Cyrus’ Commentary on Daniel, Diodore of Tarsus’ Commentary on Psalm 1-51, Laura Lieber’s Study Guide to the JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot, Eliezer Segel’s From Sermon to Commentary: Expounding the Bible in Talmudic Babylonia, and Daniel Frank’s Search Scripture Well: Karaite Exegetes and the Origins of the Jewish Bible Commentary in the Islamic East.

Both the netlibrary and ebrary Academic Complete may offer more full-text commentaries in the future, so it is a good idea to check these collections from time to time. Fore more help in locating scholarly resources on the Bible, contact the Reference Desk or e-mail Bob Sivigny, librarian for Divinity, at robesiv@regent.edu.