Research Guides

Glossary: Theological Sources & Terminology

When conducting graduate level research it is important to consult a variety of sources.


An access tool that summarizes the contents of journal articles or monographs (books). Most abstracts are descriptive; a few are evaluative. For example, Allison Library subscribes to the electronic versions of New Testament Abstracts, Old Testament Abstracts and Religious & Theological Abstracts.

Article / Book Review

A critical summary of an article or book in light of specific issues and/or theoretical concerns. Reviews are often found through periodical indexes such as the ATLA Religion Database.  The Allison Library offers this online database in the library or remotely (i.e. at home) with a username and password.  The UBC Library’s e-resources also offer many other indexes and databases.

(Annotated) Bibliography

A list of works—selective or comprehensive—that is compiled based on a common principle such as: subject or author.  Bibliographies can appear at the end of a book, journal, encyclopedia or dictionary article, or as a separate publication (a bibliography of bibliographies). These can be annotated with a brief summary of each work, or just simply list the works with the required information (author, title, publication, date, etc.) (e.g. The Pentateuch: an annotated bibliography or The Pauline Writings: an annotated bibliography). Most bibliographies are located in the Reference section starting with the call number “Z.”


In Biblical Studies, a work that provides a series of explanations or interpretations of a particular Bible text with supporting arguments.  Commentaries vary in terms of their level of thoroughness; some provide an overview, while others are quite technical in coverage.  The 12-volume New Interpreter’s Bible (BS 491.2 N484 19994 RREF) is an example of a commentary series, whereas The Oxford Bible Commentary (BS 491.3 O94 2001 RREF) is an example of a 1-volume commentary.

There are three basic styles of commentaries:

  • Exegetical – Critical, detailed analysis of the text
  • Homiletic – Intended for the minister preparing a sermon or lecture
  • Pastoral – Practical, non-technical, devotional application of the text to everyday life

Bible Concordance

An index that lists the occurrences in Scripture where each principle word can be found, often with its immediate context.  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance based on the KJV (BS 425 .S8X RREF), and The NIV Exhaustive Concordance (BS 425 .G62 1990 RREF) are useful tools that do not require knowledge of the Biblical languages.

Electronic  Database

A structured collection of information that can be retrieved via a computer system. Access can be via CD-ROM or online.  Check the Allison Library Resource Guide entitled A Guide to Research Tools for a listing of various databases available for research.


The process or act of interpreting (Biblical) texts. A thorough researching of the original meaning of a text in its historical and literary contexts.  (For a more detailed explanation from Richard Ascough of Queen's Theological College, click here)


A book compiled in honour of a scholar, typically at the peak of his/her professional career.  Individual chapters may be written by colleagues, former students, and academics with similar research interests.  The subject matter of each chapter can be traced using the ATLA Religion Database.


Usually a general information source which provides quick reference for a given subject area, although some provide longer essay-type entries with bibliographies. Handbooks are generally subject-specific. (“Handbook” is often synonymous with “manual.”)  Examples include:

  • Handbook of Biblical Criticism
  • Handbook of Bible Charts and Maps
  • Handbook of Scriptural Reasoning
  • Missions Handbook: U.S. and Canadian Protestant Ministries Overseas
  • Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters;
  • Church Leaders Handbook.


The Oxford Companion to the Bible defines this as the theory of interpretation, with biblical hermeneutics being that which “inquires into the conditions under which the interpretation of biblical texts may be judged possible, faithful, accurate, responsible, or productive in relation to some specified goal.”  Hermeneutics may include the process of exegesis but is broader in scope as it entails a study of biblical texts in order to understand not only the historical aspects of the writings but also the significance of these documents for the present as well.


A systematic listing of works that indicates where information can be located.  For example, the Christian Periodical Index points to citations of articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers that are traditionally Evangelical in content.  Elenchus of Biblica, one of the most influential Roman Catholic indexes, is an indispensable tool for Biblical studies and includes references to books, book reviews, articles in journals, articles in Festschriften and multi-author works, dissertations, and dictionary articles.

Interlinear Bible

A Bible that typically shows the Hebrew or Greek text of the Old or New Testament (respectively) with a literal English translation between the lines of the original-language text. Often will include a separate column with a cohesive English translation of the text.


“A periodical that contains scholarly information or current information on research and development whose intended audience includes scholars, practitioners, and experts in the subject field covered by the publication.” (An Introduction to Information Research, Glossary, p. 144.)

Note that a magazine is a periodical that is intended for a general readership.

LC Subject Headings

The Library of Congress Subject Headings: A guide to standardized subject headings and their cross references used to search most North American academic library catalogues, as well as many other electronic databases.


A dictionary of certain languages, especially Hebrew or Greek. Usage requires a working knowledge of the language.

Library Catalogue

The main database for searching for books, theses, and audio/video recordings of a particular library.

Parallel Bible

A Bible that shows several (usually 3 or 4) translations side by side for comparison

Primary Source

Original document/ writing created at or near the time an event occured. These can include letters, speeches, diaries, etc. and tells us about the time period in question, but not necessarily about the specific event. See also Secondary Source.

Secondary Source

Interprets or analyzes primary sources.

Style Manual

A guide to formatting various parts of a research paper, including the footnotes and bibliography.  Some useful style manuals include:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style (Z 253 .U69 2003 RREF)
  • Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (LB 2369 .T8 2007 in the Reference section and General Stacks)
  • APA Style
  • Online! A Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources
  • The SBL Handbook of Style: For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies  (PN 147 .S66 1999 in the Reference section and General Stacks)

Subject Encyclopedias/ Dictionaries

Encyclopedias / dictionaries that define subject matter in shorter articles and that often conclude with brief bibliographies for further research.  These are often excellent sources for beginning a topic of research as they provide overviews, concepts, and terminology that can be used for further research.  Examples include Augustine Through the Ages (B 655 .Z69 A84 1999 RREF), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought (BR 95 .B58 1993 RREF and RSTC), Rutledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy  (B 51 .R68 1998 RREF), Anchor Bible Dictionary (BS 440 .A54 1992 RREF), Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation (BS 500 .D5 1999 RREF), Dictionary of Feminist Theologies  (BT 83.55 D53 1996 RREF) and many others.

Synoptic Gospels

(“seen together”) A term used to describe the first three books of the NT—Matthew, Mark and Luke—which demonstrate many similarities in content and arrangement. A Gospel synopsis presents the Gospels (sometimes the Synoptic Gospels alone and sometimes with the inclusion of John) in parallel columns for the sake of comparison.

Book Recommendations

Booth, Wayne C., and Gregory G. Colomb, and Joesph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: Unviersity of Chicago, 2003. [This is a guide to mastering the art of research.]

Grenz, Stanley, and David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. Downers. Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999. [A quick reference guide to key theological terms you may encounter during your studies at Regent.]

Leveen, Steve. The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life: How to get more books in your life and more life from your books. Delray Beach, FL: Levenger Press, 2005. [This is an endearing, practical guide for reading more intentionally in a life filled with many distractions and commitments.]

Salter, F. M. The Art of Writing. Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2004. [Provides sound advice for the aspiring writer.]

Stewart, David. The Literature of Theology. Rev. ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003. [This is a useful reference work to essential theological resources.]

Stone, Howard W. and James O. Duke. How to Think Theologically. 2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006. [This is a short introduction to the practice of theology.]

Thielicke, Helmut. A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1996. [This work stresses the importance of spiritual health while in the midst of technical theological inquiry.]

Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writiers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 7th ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007. [This is the recommended style guide for most papers at Regent, though please abide by your professor's preference first.]

Website Recommendations

Library Catalogue (jointly shared with VST)
Wabash Center Internet Guide