Help for the “I’d Like to Read This Commentary, but I Don’t Understand Some of the Technical Terms it Uses” Problem

When studying the Bible with someone, it is often helpful consult a Bible commentary, book, or essay that is intended for an academic audience or that uses technical language. The advantage to using theological terms—and this is exactly why writers use them—is that they efficiently convey an idea with precision. Instead of saying “reading a meaning into a text that is not present or intended in the text,” a writer can simply refer to that idea by using the word eisegesis. Once you know what the terms mean, it actually makes for easier reading.

The problem is that such words are rarely used by your average layperson. All those unfamiliar words can make what should be a help (commentaries, books, and articles) become a barrier to understanding. However, the answer is not to abandon the rich help of commentaries and the like. Instead of throwing your commentaries in the trash, there are a couple of resources that can help you make sense of those theological terms and make the most out of your study aides.

Stark’s Glossary of Theological Terms

Stark’s Glossary of Theological Terms would be my first recommendation for anyone trying to familiarize themselves with the theological terms they encounter. The collection is faithful, easy to quickly digest, well focused on which terms are important or likely to be encountered, and the entries quickly and accurately identify orthodoxy and heresy. Furthermore, the entire list is provided in two formats (1) in alphabetical order and (2) with each entry organized into categories (anthropology, apologetics, ecclesiology, etc.).

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary is offered as a free resource at BibleStudyTools.com. It is helpful and lengthy.  It also includes links to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Hitchcock’s Bible Names, Nave’s Topical Bible, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, and Torrey’s New Topical Textbook. While it is not as focused as Stark’s Glossary of Theological Terms, it does cover a wide range of terms.

Don’t let the size of the glossary or dictionary bog you down. Don’t fret over making an attempt to memorize all of them. Use these lists as tools—when needed—to make your study of the Bible more effective.

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