Posts tagged Bible Dictionary

Building the Ultimate Study Bible



As a Bible teacher and technologist, people often ask me what they should buy to start building their Bible study library. I love answering this question and many are shocked by my response. The conversation begins by describing the massive library I’ve built over the years in several Bible software platforms. Then I tell them they don’t need all that & start listing the handful of resources that I find essential to Bible study. The end result is a concise but robust set of tools that anyone can use to study the Bible and grow in the things of God. Today, I will show you how you can build your ultimate Bible study library.

Step 0: Use the Bible Study App

If you’re at all technologically inclined, and I assume you are if you’re reading this, the initial step is downloading Bible software. For as much as I love print, it is easier and faster to study the Bible digitally. You can search resources in a matter of seconds, quickly look up cross references, and study anywhere. You don’t have to worry about flipping pages or having a large desk so that you can open all your books at once. Instead, carry your entire library on your phone, tablet, or laptop.

I always recommend the Bible Study App to people because it is feature rich and easy to use, and I say this not just as an Olive Tree employee. There is no steep learning curve required to use the app and all the features are intuitive. Plus, it’s free to download and try! So, download the app & let’s move to Step 1.

Step 1: Add a Bible Translation

A lot of people don’t think about Bible translations and how they can help their Bible study. For many, they use whatever Bible translation they were given when they became a Christian and never give it a second thought. Yes, the thee’s and thou’s of the KJV may be quite poetic, but what good is it if you cannot understand what you’re reading? In many respects, the Bible is already a difficult book to study, so why make it harder with a difficult to read translation? There is nothing wrong with owning a Bible written in a modern translation.

When choosing a Bible translation, you should find one that works for you. I also believe you should own at least two Bible translations. The first should be more word-for-word in its translation of the original languages, while the second should be more thought-for-thought or a balance between the two. I recommend checking out some of the translations listed below at and pick the one you find most readable in each category.

Once you have your Bible translations, you’re ready to build the rest of your ultimate study Bible library.



Step 2: Add Study Notes

Next to the Bible, if you had to spend money on one resource, hands down it would have to be a study Bible. These are great tools because they are an all-in-one resource. You get commentary, introductions, and a wealth of other useful features. With so many study Bibles on the market, wisdom is needed when making a purchase. You want to make sure you’re buying something that will help you understand what you’re reading and keep things in their proper context.

A good study Bible should contain: thorough study notes, book introductions, maps, charts & illustrations, and Bible chronologies. A few worth checking out include: the ESV Study Bible, NLT Study Bible, NKJV Study Bible, Life Application Study Bible, and the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible.

ESV Study Bible

ESV Study Bible

Step 3: Add Key Reference Tools

As you expand your library beyond Bibles and study Bibles, you should start by adding key reference tools. This is a broad category that ranges from single volume commentaries to Bible dictionaries and atlases.

Bible commentaries come in many flavors and vary in their target audience, which is often reflected in the price. Because of their depth, commentaries can quickly become the most expensive tool in your library. I recommend starting with single volume commentaries since they cover the entire Bible. While single volume commentaries may not be as thorough as their single-book counterparts, they do take time to cover all passages in general and are sure to explain the more difficult ones, making them useful additions to your library.

Moody Bible Commentary

Moody Bible Commentary

While study Bibles and commentaries are good at explaining the text of the Bible, they don’t always give enough detail about some of the Bible’s concepts and words. This is where a good Bible dictionary comes into play, which is, in effect, an encyclopedia for the Bible. To illustrate it’s usefulness, let’s say you’re reading the gospels and you encounter the Pharisees and Sadducees. Who are these guys and where did they get their authority? A Bible dictionary will explain who they are so you’re not left clueless about their role and purpose in the Bible.

New Bible Dictionary

New Bible Dictionary

Atlases are a fantastic tool to have in your library. If we’re honest, most of us aren’t familiar with the geography of the lands from Bible times. Not to mention, you’ll have no luck finding many places mentioned in the Bible on a modern map. Atlases provide you with extensive maps that help you get a lay of the land so that you can make better sense of the Bible’s narrative. Many atlases also provide relevant commentary on the Bible that corresponds to the map or picture.

Zondervan Atlas of the Bible

Zondervan Atlas of the Bible

Many of these tools you can add to your Olive Tree library at minimal cost and they will go a long way in helping you study the Bible.

Step 4: Add Advanced Reference Tools

Most people could stop at Step 3, but if you’re the person who wants to dive deeper into God’s Word you can buy more advanced reference tools. Resources that fall into this category would include: single book commentary sets, Greek & Hebrew lexicons, and more extensive versions of the tools found in Step 3. These are the tools used by pastors, seminary students, and those, like myself, who don’t mind treading through the original languages and academic level terminology. This is an area where you can spend a lot of money, but each resource is well worth the cost.

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology & Exegesis

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology & Exegesis

Build Your Ultimate Study Bible Today

By following the above steps, you will have built your own Ultimate Study Bible and have all the essential tools needed to study the Bible. Start building yours today with our Build Your Ultimate Study Bible sale!

Next week we’ll show you various ways of using these resources to study the Bible.

Introducing the IVP Dictionary Series

Any Bible study library worth its weight must contain good Bible dictionaries. Inevitably you will come across something you don’t completely understand and you’ll want more information than your study Bible or commentary has to offer. Bible dictionaries fill this void with their wealth of knowledge on a myriad of biblical subjects. Today I’d like to introduce you to the IVP Dictionary Series, a new top notch set that you’ll want to own as a part of your Olive Tree library.

The IVP Dictionary Series, known to many as the “Black Dictionaries” because of their covers, is a unique set of reference works that bridges the gap between scholars and those pastors, teachers, students and lay people desiring in-depth treatment of select topics in an accessible format.

When you look at many Bible dictionaries published today, they are typically a single volume and may or may not contain information on your desired topic of study. Given their single volume nature, publishers have to decide what to cover and what gets trimmed down or eliminated for the sake of page count. This is not the case with the IVP Dictionary Series. Instead, you get eight (8) individual dictionaries that target specific areas of Scripture, whether it be the Old Testament prophets or Paul and his epistles. The articles cover traditional and contemporary topics, including cross-sectional themes, methods of interpretation, significant historical or cultural background, and each Old and New Testament book as a whole.

The great thing about having individual volumes that focus on specific areas of Scripture is it allows you to get an in-depth look at the subject as it pertains to the passage you’re studying. As opposed to getting a broad overview that covers the subject over the entirety of the Bible, you can narrow down your study to only see how it relates to your passage. Allow me to illustrate, while showing you how to use them in the Bible Study app.

Let’s say I’m in the gospels studying one of Jesus’ miracles, such as his cleansing of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. As I study this passage, I’m going to want to do more study on the subject of miracles and faith, since it is clearly an emphasis in this passage. The Resource Guide makes it easy to study these topics and suggests them to me. So, I click on faith.

Faith and Miracles in the Resource Guide

Faith and Miracles in the Resource Guide

As I peruse my list of hits I find many dictionaries in my library that discuss the subject of faith. Notice that the IVP Dictionary Series is in my list, and, of the 8 volumes, 6 have entries for faith. Since I’m currently in the gospels I will take a look at the entry in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels.

Articles on "Faith" in the IVP Dictionaries

Articles on “Faith” in the IVP Dictionaries

Looking through the article, I immediately find out just how important faith is in the gospels, and the New Testament in general. I can then see a quick outline of the entry, before drilling down into the subject. When I’m done, I walk away with a greater understanding of how faith relates to the gospels and Jesus’ ministry. Now, if I want to expand my study beyond the gospels, I can read the other IVP dictionaries and see how it is understood in other areas of Scripture, such as the Pentateuch or the later New Testament writings.

"Faith" in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels

“Faith” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels

There are many ways you can utilize these dictionaries in your studies. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, just open up the dictionary and navigate to your subject. Alternatively, if you’re reading the Bible and find a word you want to study, tap it and use the Lookup feature to find hits in these dictionaries. How you use them is really up to you.

Purchase the IVP Dictionary Series today at it’s introductory sale price and start using these dictionaries in your own studies. This is one set of dictionaries you will not regret owning!

What The NIDB Is and How It Has Helped Me

Guest ReviewAbram Kielsmeier-Jones

NIDB Olive TreeAn underrated but really good Bible dictionary is the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIDB). Published by Abingdon, the five-volume set is edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld and includes contributions of nearly 1,000 scholars.

For a short time the dictionary set is $99.99 in Olive Tree Bible software. Below I offer–from my perspective as a preaching pastor and Bible reader–my take on the set, with a focus on Olive Tree’s iOS Bible Study App.

What The NIDB Is and How It Has Helped Me

There are more than 7,000 articles in NIDB. The contributing scholars are diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, and denominational background–a refreshing mix of voices. The dictionary balances reverence for the biblical text with rigorous scholarship–though the dictionary is rarely arcane.
The NIDB has been eminently useful to me in my weekly sermon preparation. Last fall, for example, when preaching through Genesis, I knew I’d have to make sense somehow of the “subdue” command that God gives the first humans regarding their relationship to the earth. The dictionary’s “Image of God” entry helpfully clarifies:

While the verb may involve coercive activities in interhuman relationships (see Num. 32:22, 29), no enemies are in view here–and this is the only context in which the verb applies to nonhuman creatures.

The same article puts nicely the implications of humanity’s creation in God’s image: the “image of God entails a democratization of human beings–all human hierarchies are set aside.”

This sort of blend between technical detail and pastoral application is present throughout the dictionary.

I’ve also found useful background for my Greek reading. This year, for example, I’m reading through the Psalms in Greek with a group of folks (see here). In the “Septuagint” entry in NIDB I find this:

The 4th-cent. CE “Codex Vaticanus” contains all of the books of the Hebrew Scripture or Protestant OT, and the following material that is today classified as deuterocanonical: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Ps 151, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sirach, the additions to Esther (several of which were originally composed in a Semitic language; others of which are original Greek compositions), Judith, Tobit, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, and the additions to Daniel (Azariah and the Three Jews, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon).

The entry goes on to describe other Septuagint manuscripts, with hyperlinks in Olive Tree to related entries.


iOS Features in Olive Tree

Olive Tree logo


Olive Tree is as cross-platform as a Bible study app gets: it runs on iOS (iPhone and iPad), Mac, Windows, and Android. The app itself is free, and you can get some good texts free, too, so you can preview the app before you buy any resources in it.

I’ve got the Olive Tree app on Mac, iPhone, and iPad Mini. It’s one of the best-executed iOS Bible study apps I’ve seen. It is visually appealing, highly customizable (especially with gestures and swipes), and easy to learn.

When reading the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (or anything else), here are a few features that have impressed me:

You can navigate with “flick scrolling” (how iBooks is set up) or “page scrolling” (like Kindle). This will make just about any user feel at home in the app. Flick scrolling (how you’d navigate a Web page) feels more natural to me, so I use that.

Dictionary entries are easy to get to. You can simply tap on “Go To” and type in the entry you’re looking for. The auto-complete feature saves having to type very much on the iPhone’s small keyboard:




You can search the entire contents of NIDB by word. If I wanted to see not just the entry for “Septuagint,” but every time the NIDB mentions the Septuagint, I would simply type that word in to the search entry bar:


NIDB Search


Then I can select a result and read the given entry.

The full-color photos are zoomable. The NIDB contains full-color photographs that help visualize various entries. You can select the photograph and pinch-zoom for more detail.




I’ve noted this before–there is a great deal of customizable “Gestures/Shortcuts” preferences in the “Advanced Settings” menu. Olive Tree is the most versatile Bible study app in this sense. For example:

  • Two-finger swipe left and right takes you through your history within the app. I can swipe between NIDB, and the last NIV Old Testament passage I was reading, and a commentary, and…. No need to go through menus.
  • Two-finger tap gets you from any screen to your library; right away you can get at your other resources.


Concluding Assessment and How to Buy


One of my favorite features of Olive Tree’s apps is that you can view two resources at once that aren’t tied together by Bible verse. It’s like having split windows on an iPad. So you can have the NIDB open in the top half of your screen, and a Bible text or other resource open in the bottom half–even to unrelated topics if you want.

The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible is about as good a Bible dictionary as you’ll find. If you can use it to complement the Anchor Bible Dictionary (also available in OT), you’d be very well set with Bible dictionaries.

Olive Tree has done a great job, especially with its iOS apps. As much as I loved my print copy of NIDB, I unloaded it not long ago since I can essentially carry it around with me now. And getting at its contents is even easier with the enhancements Olive Tree provides.

Abram Kielsmeier-Jones is the pastor of a great church in a seaside community near Boston, a youth ministry consultant, a husband and father, and a follower of Jesus. At his blog Words on the Word he records his thoughts on the Bible (particularly as written in Greek and Hebrew), books about the Bible, pastoring, leading worship, parenting, youth ministry, music, the Church, and more. Read more about Abram here.

Thanks to Olive Tree for the NIDB for the purposes of this review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review. You can find the product here, where it is currently on sale for $99.99.

How to use the NIDNTTE in The Bible Study App

NIDNTTE picA standard and widely-used reference work for nearly 40 years, the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) has been thoroughly revised and updated to aid today’s pastors, students, scholars, and teachers in their study of the New Testament.

The NIDNTTE offers a wealth of background and information on the meaning of Greek words in the New Testament—as well as related usage in classical Greek sources, the Septuagint, Jewish literature, and more

Here are Five ways to use the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) in The Bible Study App (screenshots are from an iPad 2 – click for a larger view).

ONE – Traditional Dictionary

Open the NIDNTTE in the main window. Tap the GO TO button. From here you can search for the word you are looking for as you would another other dictionary through the Table of Contents.

IMG_1476 IMG_1477 IMG_1478

TWO – Traditional Dictionary Search

Similarly, with the NIDNTTE in the main window. Tap GO TO > Browse Dictionary > Enter the Greek Word you are looking for.  The Bible Study App search the NIDNTTE for the Greek word. Tap the word and read the article.


These first two options require a working knowledge of Biblical Greek.  I’m sorry to say that my Greek is a bit rusty. Okay, it’s a LOT rusty. (Apologies to Dr. Walls, my Greek professor)  This is where the Bible Study App’s functionality and integration with original language resources really shines.

THREE – Strong’s Tagged Bible Integration

If you have a Strong’s Tagged Bible, using the NIDNTTE is a snap.  Open your Strong’s Tagged Bible in the Main Window (I’m using the ESV Strong’s Tagged Bible in this example). Tap the word you want to learn more about.  I’ve chosen the word “worship” from Romans 12:1 latreia. From the Strong’s Popup, tap “Lookup latreia”.


There you will find an article in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis.  Tap the NIDNTTE book cover and you can read the article on the Greek word in the popup window.

IMG_1480 IMG_1482

You even have the option to open the article in the Main Window or Split Window.


FOUR - Original Language Integration 

Along the same lines is the integration with Greek Parsed texts like the NA28 with Parsings.

IMG_1483 IMG_1484 IMG_1485

FIVE – Greek New Testament Interlinear Integration

Lastly, the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis integrates well with our Greek New Testament Interlinear titles.


The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis is a great resource for going further in your understanding of biblical Greek.  Thanks to our partners at Zondervan, we’re able to offer a special introductory price for the fully updated and revised 5 volume set, and the 10 volume bundle that includes it’s sister title the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE).  Hurry, because this is a limited time offer and we don’t know when we’ll be able to offer these discounts on these resources again.

Look Inside Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible

The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible has been a classic Bible study resource for more than thirty years. Now thoroughly revised, this new five-volume edition provides up-to-date entries based on the latest scholarship. ios-introandroid-intro

The Zondervan Encyclopedia includes more than 7,500 articles, hundreds of full-color and black-and-white illustrations, charts, graphs and maps from 238 contributors from around the world.

With this much content, how can you sort it all out to see what’s relevant for your Bible study?

Here are three ways The Bible Study App makes the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible even more powerful (screenshots are from an iPad and a Nexus 7 – click on an image for a expanded view):


Open your favorite Bible in the main window. (I’ve got the ESV open in this example.)  Tap the split window handle and drag it to a width or height you like.  As I scroll through the Bible text, the resource guide keeps up with me and searches through all the books in my library for content related to the Scripture passage in the main window.

If you scroll down the resource guide results, you will see the section headings “People,” “Places,” and “Topics.”

ios-split results splitwindow-topics

Tap or click on the person/place/topic you want to learn more about.  I chose “Altar” in this example.  The Bible Study App then brings you results from within the resources you have on your device.  This is where you will find results from the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible.

ios-results android-altar results

You’ll see that the resource has the words “article to altar” underneath the book cover.  Tap/Click on the book cover and The Bible Study App will take you directly to the article within the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible.  After you’ve tapped on the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, you can scroll down and read the entire article without having to leave your Bible text.

ios altar image inline

When you encounter a map, chart, image or photo, you can tap to bring up a closer view.

android-altar android-altar large

If there are scripture references in the article, just tap the verse and it will appear in a pop-up window.

ios-pop-up android-pop-up

You can also tap the top right-hand corner of the pop-up window to bring up the option to open these hyperlinked references in the main window or the split window.


You can also utilize the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible as a traditional encyclopedia in The Bible Study App.  Just Tap/Click the “Go-To” button and scroll through this awesome resource as you would a hard-copy encyclopedia.

ios-traditional  android-traditional


The Bible Study App Search feature takes the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible to another level. Tap/Click the “Search” icon (magnifying glass icon) and type the word you’re looking for to find all the references of that word in the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible.

ios search android-search


In iPhone/iPad app, you also have an additional option.  Tap and hold a word in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up.  From here you get the options to Copy, Highlight, Note, Bookmark, Share, Define, Lookup and More.

ios-word popup

If you tap “Define” you will get the integrated iOS dictionary pop-up.

If you tap the “Lookup” button you’ll get “hits” from your resources on just that specific word. From here you can follow the same steps as you would in the resource guide option above.


Check out this week’s sale on tools for easy word studies including the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible at 35% off its regular price.

Discounts end September 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm PST.

How to Use the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible

The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIBD), complete 5-volume set, is the definitive starting point for research on any topic, place or person in the Bible, with emphasis on the crucial theological concepts. Based on the NRSV the NIBD is a balanced and relevant Bible study resource for any pastor, rabbi, preacher, teacher, or student who is preparing to serve the congregation.

Here are three ways you can use this comprehensive resource in The Bible Study App. (Screenshots are taken from an iPad 2 – click for a larger view)

The first way is through the Split Window and Resource Guide.  Open your favorite Bible translation in the main window and the Resource Guide in the Split Window.  As you read through your Bible text, the Resource Guide searches through all the downloaded resources in your library to find related Bible study content.


You’ll notice that the Resource Guide pulls related content from all of your downloaded resources.  If you scroll down the Resource Guide results, you will see the section headings “People,” “Places,” and “Topics.”  These headings give you the results of articles based on your downloaded resources.


Tap or click on the person/place/topic you want to learn more about. I chose “Nebo” in this example.  The Bible Study App then brings you results from within the resources you have on your device.  This is where you will find the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIBD) within the Resource Guide.


You’ll notice that the resource has the words “Article to Nebo” underneath the book cover.  Tap/Click on the book cover and The Bible Study App will take you directly to the article within the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIBD). As you are reading the article, any Scripture references become hyperlinks that you can tap/click to view as a pop-out window:


The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible was written by 900 scholars from 40 nations. It contains 7,100 original articles and 1,300 distinct cross-reference entries.  Here’s one example from the Mount Nebo article we’ve been reading:


The second way you can utilize the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIBD)  is as a traditional dictionary in The Bible Study App.  Just Tap/Click the “Go-To” button and scroll through this awesome resource as you would a hard-copy dictionary.


The third way is to use the Bible Study App’s Lookup Feature. Tap and hold a word in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up.  If you tap the “Lookup” button you’ll get “hits” from your resources on just that specific word. From here you can follow the same steps as you would in the resource guide option above.

IMG_1375   IMG_1376

If you’re on an iOS device, you can also tap the verse number and a menu bar will appear.  Tap “Guide” and you will get hits from your resources on that specific verse.  Then just follow the same steps as you would in the resource guide option.

IMG_1379  IMG_1380

As you can see, the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible is an extremely helpful resource for studying the Bible.  Right now you can get this amazing resource for only $99.99.  That’s $200 off the regular price!  Hurry because this is a limited time offer!

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