Skip to Main Content

Research Guides

Theology Resources

This guide is to help you locate resources in the areas of Theology and Christianity.

Book recommendations

Glossary of theological resources and terms

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

  • Abstract: summarizes the contents of journal articles or monographs (books). Most abstracts are descriptive; a few are evaluative.  UTL 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. UTL subscribes to several databases for book reviews.
  • (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.”
  • Commentary:   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 is an example of a commentary series, whereas The Oxford Bible Commentary 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 .S8 2007 Reference), and The NIV Exhaustive Concordance (BS 425 .G62 1999 Reference) are useful tools that do not require knowledge of the Biblical languages.
  • Electronic Database:   A comprehensive collection of related data organized for convenient access, generally in a computer. Check the Best research resources for Christianity guide for a listing of databases available for research. (From UTL homepage under the Subjects A to Z tab, then choose 'Christianity' from the drop-down menu) .
  • Exegesis:    The process or act of interpreting (Biblical) texts. A thorough researching of the original meaning of a text in its historical and literary contexts.  (See a more detailed explanation by Richard Ascough of Queen's University Theological College.)
  • Festschrift:   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.
  • Handbook:    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
    • Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters;
    • Church Leaders Handbook. 
  •  Hermeneutics: 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.
  • Index: A systematic listing of works that indicates where information can be located. For example, 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. An index can be available in print, electronically online or both.   Some of the databases used for finding journal articles are indexes only in that they provide citations that point a person to the article. Other databases are indexes but also include some or all full text articles online.  
  • 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.
  • Journal: “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. 
  • Lexicon: 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 occurred. 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 ( online and in print: Z 253 .U69 2003 Reference)
    • Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (LB 2369 .T8 2007 Reference)
    • The SBL Handbook of Style: For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies  (PN 147 .S26 1999 Reference)
    • SBL Citation Builder (created by Pitts Theology Library)
  • 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 Reference), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought (BR 95 .B58 1993 Reference), Anchor Bible Dictionary (BS 440 .A54 1992 Reference), Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation (BS 500 .D5 1999 Reference), Dictionary of Feminist Theologies  (BT 83.55 D53 1996 Reference) 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.