Why read background information?

Reading background information helps fill in knowledge gaps. Virtually everyone, even experts, can benefit from reading authoritative summaries of the historic background, current developments, major players, and primary issues of a chosen topic. These summaries often include basic bibliographies that help to jump start research projects.

Major sources of authoritative summaries are subject dictionaries and encyclopedias. Other background information may be obtained from biographical and statistical sources and other reference works such as handbooks and directories.

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

Selected Theology & Ministry eReference Works

Bible Commentaries

To identify the more scholarly Bible commentaries, use the Bible commentaries series opens new windowchart in the opens new windowBible Commentaries Plus guide. The chart categorizes the commentaries as devotional, pastoral, or academic, with the academic category generally being the most scholarly and therefore the most desirable for use in college papers.

See also David Bauer's opens new windowEssential Bible Study Tools for Ministry, especially the "Highly Recommended" sections of his selected lists of commentaries for each book of the Bible. The book is kept at the Library Services Desk on the "Quick Reference" shelf.

Handbooks & Directories

To find a denominational or church-related directory or handbook, do a search for:

opens new window ((denomination* OR church*) OR ("Christian sects")) AND (handbook * OR director*)

Maps & Atlases