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Bible Dictionary or Bible Encyclopedia - Since the Bible was written in a culture that no longer exists it is difficult for us to place ourselves in a position to understand Biblical writing in a manner similar to those to whom it was originally written. The distance between us and the original audience is great, in terms of both culture and time. Many individuals, events, and nations referred to in the Bible are completely unknown to the average reader while some are unknown even to our current understanding of history and are only revealed as archaeological inquiry unearths extra-Biblical evidence of their existence (indeed many will doubt the Biblical record as a legitimate historical document unless such extra-Biblical evidence is found). These two tools are designed to reduce this difficulty and contain much information that will help us to feel as much as possible the impact that the text would have had on its original recipients. At the very least they enable us to participate to a small degree in the culture in which the Bible was produced and come to some understanding of the times in which it was written. Some very good Bible encyclopaedias and dictionaries are: Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (a good, well rounded dictionary, predominately in text), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (a great deal of information on most items of interest but with an occasional liberal tendency), and The Revell Bible Dictionary (many illustrations and a comprehensive index). Other very good dictionaries abound at a variety of levels of detail.
How to Use This Tool
1 - Use a Bible Dictionary/Encyclopaedia to look up the definition and significance of unfamiliar words as you encounter them.
2 - Read it in your free time as a way of becoming familiar with the way of life as it was lived in Bible times.
3 - Compare information in two or more Bible Dictionaries/Encyclopaedias. Occasionally versions of these resources make compromises on critical issues (such as creation vs. evolution) that many Christians may not necessarily feel equipped to evaluate critically. Where disagreement exists between the teaching of the Bible and the teaching of man it is the teaching of man that must be modified.