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Recommendations for Assembling a Contemporary Theological Library


  • Items with an asterisk (*), or a close alternative, should be regarded as a mandatory starting point for the library of an M.Div. student.
  • Unless otherwise indicated, earlier editions of a volume are also recommended.
  • This is a draft containing choices by some of the faculty of Wycliffe College who are generally named in parentheses.
  • The bibliography is limited to mostly contemporary sources.

General Advice

  • It is best to begin building your library during your course of studies, especially when sales are on.
  • It is preferable to purchase timeless reference material, even if costly.
  • Avoid buying trendy books or those on an obscure subject.
  • Choose books based on recommendations (such as those in this guide), and based on date and publisher.  For example, unless a classic, a book should be published within the past thirty years by one of the following: Augsburg, Baker, Blackwell, Brazos, Broadman, Carta, Holman, Chalice, Clements (Regent College), Continuum, Eerdmans, Fortress, Harper-Collins, Hendrickson, InterVarsity, John Knox, KTAV, Orbis, Paternoster, T & T Clark, Westminster, Word, and Zondervan.  University presses generally produce good (though often technical) books.
  • Support a local bookstore such as Crux Books (www.cruxbooks.com), whose prices are good. Others are faithfamilybooks.ca and www.christianbooks.com
  • Commit now to theological reading and learning as part of your ministry.

Reference Works

 *The New International Biblical Commentary. Hendrickson and/or Baker.

A complete set of commentaries on the entire Bible in paperback.  Best overall commentary value.  NT series ed. W. Ward Gasque, 18 vols.; OT series ed. Robert L. Hubbard et al., 28 vols.

Check availability at Crux Books (www.cruxbooks.com), and www.Christianbook.com

*Bromiley, Geoffrey, ed.  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.  4 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Now hard to find. There are more recent works, but they cost more. No set contains fewer gaps.  This remains a comprehensive, solid, informative encyclopedia of the Bible.  There are topics here on most anything relating to the Bible except for the most recent methods. Though now out of print, this set can be purchased through www.christianbooks.com

Alternative multi-volume bible dictionaries/encyclopedias include the Anchor Bible Dictionary (1991), and the more dated (1976) New Interpreter’s Dictionary (Abingdon).  An ideal up-to-date (thus expensive) alternative is the New Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary, ed.  Katherine Sakenfeld.

Alternatives: The InterVarsity dictionary series below or any recent multi-volume Bible dictionary or encyclopedia. (G. Taylor.)

The Cambridge “Companions” to Theology especially the volumes on general topics. (Mangina.) For example, The Cambridge companion to Reformation theology. ed. David Bagchi & David C. Steinmetz. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Campbell, Jack, et al. New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics. InterVarsity Press, 2006.

*Cross, F. L. and E. A. Livingstone, eds. Dictionary of the Christian Church.Hendrickson, 2007.

 Appears to be a much cheaper alternative to the Oxford edition by the same editors.

*Elwell, Walter, ed.  Dictionary of Evangelical Theology.  Second Ed. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001.

(G. Taylor: I pull this off the shelf more than almost any other book. It is a goldmine of information on all kinds of theological and Bible- or history-related topics, e.g. God, Paul, Charles Simeon, baptism, salvation, deity of Christ, Cranmer, etc.)

 Alternative: Dryness, William, et al. Global Dictionary of Theology. IVP Academic, 2008.

*Erickson, Millard E.  Introduction to Christian Theology.  rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. (G. Taylor.)

*Ford, David, F. and Rachel Meurs, eds.  The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theologians Since 1918.  3rd ed. Blackwell, 2005. (J. Mangina.)

*Freedman, David Noel.  Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Eerdmans, 2000.

*Green, Jay. P. The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew, Greek, English. Hendrickson, 2005.

Coded with Strong’s numbers.

*Hauerwas, Stanley and Samuel Wells.  The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics.Blackwell, 2004/2006. (J. Mangina)

A Bible atlas published by one of the publishers listed above under General Advice. Good choices are, for example:

Beitzel, Barry J. The Moody atlas of the Bible. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009.

Lawrence., Paul. The IVP atlas of Bible history. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006.Rasmussen, Carl G. Zondervan atlas of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. Rev. ed.

*A Bible Concordance such as the Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance  (now called The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. 1999) that lists the Hebrew- and Greek-word numbering system of Strong’s Concordance and its relation to the more recent numbering system of Goodrick-Kohlenberger (G/K).

Alternatives include the Zondervan NASB Exhaustive Bible Concordance.

*Marshall, I. Howard, et al., The New Bible Dictionary. InterVarsity. 1996. (G. Taylor.)

Earlier editions than the third will be even cheaper.  The New Bible Dictionary and its companion, The New Bible Commentary, give solid scholarly information that supports a traditional (evangelical) understanding of the Bible’s inspiration, composition, etc.

*McGrath, Alister E.  Christian Theology: An Introduction. 4th ed. Blackwell, 2007.

*The IVP Bible Dictionary Series.  8 vols. IVP Academic, 1992-present, as follows:

New Testament Background, ed. C. A. Evans et al. 2000.

Jesus and the Gospels, ed. J. B. Green et al., 1992 (Donaldson)

Paul and His Letters, ed. G. F. Hawthorne, et al., 1993. (Jervis)

Later New Testament and its Developments, ed. R.P. Martin & D.G. Reed, 1993.

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, 2002. (G. Taylor.)

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, ed. Bill T. Arnold and H.G.M. Williamson, 2005. (G. Taylor.)

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings, ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, 2008. (G. Taylor)

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets ed. J. Gordon McConville & Mark Boda, 2012. (G. Taylor)

Van Hoozer, Kevin, ed. Dictionary of Theological Interpretation of the Bible.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005. (Radner, Seitz, G. Taylor.)

“A must have.  It covers a vitally important area that many other resources neglect.” (G. Taylor).

Wainright, Geoffrey & Karen B. Westfield Tucker, ed. The Oxford History of Christian

Worship. Oxford University Press, 2005. (D. Mercer.)

*Walker, William O., ed. The Harper-Collins Bible Pronunciation Guide.  Harper SanFrancisco, 1989.

*Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, ed. D. and P. Alexander. rev. ed. 2005 and/or Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible (1992), ed. David Alexander.

A three-million copy bestseller. Contains over 500 color photos, 30 charts and 119 articles.  Available in a flexi-back softcover.

*Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity, ed. Jonathan Hill, 2007 and/or Eerdmans Handbook to the History of Christianity (1985), ed. Tim Dowley.

*Zondervan Handbook of Christian Beliefs, ed. Alistair McGrath & J. I. Packer, 2006, and/or McGrath, Alistair, ed., The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Modern Christian Thought (1993).   (Bowen)

*Eerdmans Handbook to the World’s Religions, ed. R. Pierce Beaver.  2nd ed. 1994, and/or Crim, Keith, ed., The Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions.  Nashville: Abingdon, 1981.

(G. Taylor: “A bit dry, but very informative on other religions, including Christianity.”)

Eerdmans Handbook to Christianity in America, ed. Mark Noll. Eerdmans, 1983.


Four or more of the following:

  1. *The Tanakh. Jewish Publication Society (Old Testament)
  2. *The NIV Study Bible (good notes) or another conservative study Bible.

The MacArthur Study Bible is often helpful in explaining apparent contradictions. The Ryrie Study Bible will help in understanding dispensational theology.

The Life Application Study Bible is extremely popular.

The Geneva Study Bible (featuring Prof. Marion Taylor) is conservative and Reformed in outlook.

  1. *An Interlinear Greek and Hebrew Bible (mentioned above under reference).

For Greek, note: Mounce, William D. and Robert H. Mounce. Greek and English Interlinear New Testament (TNIV/NIV). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.  (G/K numbers.)

  1. The Archaeological Study Bible (NIV). Zondervan, 2005.
  2. *The New American Standard Version.  Lockman Foundation. Nelson.1995.

This is a very literal translation and is thus very useful for careful Bible Study.

  1. The Harper-Collins Study Bible, with The New Revised Standard Version and/or The Oxford Study Bible.

Bible Related

*Achtemeier, Paul, Joel Green and Marianne Meye Thompson. Introducing the New Testament.  Eerdmans, 2001. (Jervis.)

A recommendation from the website of Booth College reads: “Unlike other New Testament introductions that are primarily concerned with historical-critical issues or with what scholars have said, this book gets directly to the business of explaining the New Testament’s background, content, and theology. The authors do not presume that readers need to be familiar with scholarly debates about the New Testament, nor do they assume those debates have necessarily raised the most important issues. Instead, this book is aimed at putting the message of the Christian Scriptures back within the reach of general readers. Although informed by the current scholarship in the history, traditions, and literature of the New Testament, this book is primarily designed to induct readers of the New Testament into sensitive appreciation and serious awareness of its major figures and concerns.”

Childs, Brevard.  A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments.  Fortress, 1993.

Danker, Frederick W.  Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study. rev. ed. Fortress, 1993. (G. Taylor).

Covers much academic, technical material.

Duvall, J. Scott and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting and Applying the Bible. 3rd ed. Zondervan, 2012.

*Fee, Gordon and Douglas Stuart.  How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. 3rd ed.Zondervan, 2003.

Goldingay, John.  Old Testament Theology.  3 vols.  Inter-Varsity, 2003–2009.

Greidanus, Sidney.  Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.  Eerdmans, 1999.

Klein, William W. et al.  Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. rev. ed.  Thomas Nelson, 2004.

Kohlenberger, John R. Edward Goodrick and James A. Swanson, The Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament.  Zondervan Greek Reference Series. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.   (G/K numbers.)

An update of the classic Wigram’s, The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament. (Strong’s numbers.)

*Kreoger, Catherine Clark and Mary J. Evans.  The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary. InterVarsity, 2002. (M. Taylor.)

Ladd, George E.  A Theology of the New Testament. rev. ed. by Donald A. Hagner. Eerdmans, 1993.

*Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.  2 vols. Chicago: Moody, 1980.  (Abbreviated: TWOT)

Coded to Strong’s numbers. (G. Taylor.)

King, Philip J. and Lawrence Stager.  Life in Biblical Israel.  Westminster John Knox, 2001.

The high-quality production makes this a goldmine of information, hard to get elsewhere, expensive.

*LaSor, William Sanford et al. Old Testament Survey.  2nd. ed. Eerdmans, 1996. (M.Taylor.)

*Mounce. William D.  Mounces’ Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.  Zondervan. 2006.  (G.Taylor.)

Words have meaning mostly in relation to their context and not alone.  Nevertheless, this book provides accurate, brief, accessible information on the meaning of key words, whether in Greek or Hebrew, in the Bible.  Best of all, no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew is required to use this very helpful resource. Mounce contains these sections:

1) English word dictionary that gives the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek equivalents to that word (along with the Strongs and K/B number);

2) Scripture index that directs the reader to pages where a word found in a particular verse is discussed;

3) Hebrew English dictionary that lists words according to the G-K number (which obviates the need to recognize and know Hebrew);

4) Greek-English dictionary that also lists words according to the G-K number (which obviates the need to recognize and know Greek).

The discussion of the meaning of Hebrew and Greek words is more up to date than the old Vine’s.

*Mounce, William.  Interlinear for the Rest of Us.  Zondervan (G. Taylor) or  Mounce, Robert and William Mounce, eds., The Zondervan Greek and English Interlinear New Testament.  Zondervan, 2008.

Provan, Iain, et al.  A Biblical History of Israel. Louisville: John Knox, 2003.

Walton, John, ed.  The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary.  5 vols. Zondervan, 2009. (G. Taylor)

Quite expensive (ca. $250 but good value due to its layout and many photos) until it appears in paperback. Peter Enns, says, “I recommend this set without the slightest hesitation and with great enthusiasm. I cannot think of a better place for interested readers to begin familiarizing themselves with the tremendous and pervasive impact that extra-biblical data has had on our understanding of the Old Testament.” Important source on historical and archaeological background, all the more necessary because there is no IVP Dictionary on OT Background.

Cheaper one-volume alternative: Walton, John, et al. eds. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Inter Varsity, 2000.

Wright, N. T. The New Testament and the People of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, Part 1. Fortress, 1992. (Bowen).

Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God, Part 2. Fortress, 1996. (Bowen).

Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God, Part 3. Fortress, 2003. (Bowen).

Wright, N. T. Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God, Part 4. Fortress, 2012.


*Collins, Gary R. Christian Counselling: A Comprehensive Guide. 3rd ed. Nelson, 2007.

*Johnson, Dr. Sue. Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008. (Glen and Marion Taylor).

Though not a Christian book, this work is vital to identifying what is going on in hurting marriages. A pioneer in what is a revolutionary breakthrough makes accessible for the first time an approach called emotion focused therapy that has very dramatically increased the success of marriage counseling.

Development and Mission

Corrie, John, Dictionary of Mission Theology: Evangelical Foundations. Inter Varsity, 2007.

Dryness, William, et al. Global Dictionary of Theology   IVPAcademic, 2008.

Martin, Paul. The Christian Charities Handbook: The Essential Guide for Trustees and Managers.  Inter-Varsity, 2008.

*Weston, Paul, ed. Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary Theologian: A Reader. Eerdmans, 2006.

Wright, Christopher J.H.  The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative.  InterVarsity, 2006.

*Wright, Christopher J. H. Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission. Zondervan, 2010.


Evangelism and Mission

Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991.

“[For this field] I refer to this more than any other book” (Bowen).

Bowen, John.  Evangelism for “Normal” People. Augsburg Fortress, 2002.

“Contains useful material for preaching and teaching on this subject” (Bowen).

The DARE series of booklets available through John P. Bowen and the Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism:

Newbigin, Lesslie, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society. Eerdmans, 1989.

A close second to Bosch (Bowen).


Christian Education and Discipleship

See www.christianedwarehouse.com for a wealth of resources on Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, etc.

An Anglican resource is www.anglicansonline.org/resources/ce.html

Information on Sunday School resources and choosing the right curriculum is available in the your church section of the website www.christianitytoday.com

McGrath, Alister E. Theology: The Basics. Blackwell, 2004.

Promotional description reads: “designed for students taking a first short course in Christian theology or for lay Christians who wish to find out more about their faith. Accessible and lively . . .  introduces readers to key theological issues, such as God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, faith, creation, salvation, atonement, [etc.]”

Video series of faculty presentations available through Wycliffe College (e.g. Marion Taylor on Old Testament, Glen Taylor on Lay Preaching, John Bowen on C. S. Lewis,etc.)[ Request from Paul Patterson: paul.patterson@wycliffe.utoronto.ca]

Wald, Oletta.  The New Joy of Discovery in Bible Study.  Augsburg Fortress, 2002.

Church History

In addition to the reference works above:

Dowley, Tim. Introduction to the History of Christianity.  Philadlephia: Fortress, 2006. (Hayes).

MacCulloch, Diarmaid, The Reformation: A History. New York: Penguin Group, 2003. (Hayes).

Culture and Apologetics

See Campbell under Reference above.

Bowen comments: “C.S. Lewis always understands how the non-theologically trained think, and offers useful ‘translations’ of technical ideas as well as marvelous illustrations.”

Wright, N.T. Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. New York: HarperOne, 2006. (G. Taylor.)

Theology and Ethics

Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word.

Downloadabe pdf or available free online at CCEL or here.

Augustine, Saint. Confessions.  Translated by Henry Chadwick Oxford, 1991.

Other editions include the Augustinian Heritage Institute, 1997, the Penguin Classics.

Barth, Karl. Dogmatics in Outline.  Harper Torchbooks. Harper & Row, 1959.

Barth, Karl. Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. Harpers, 1963.

Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics. 14 vols.  Hendrickson, 2010.

This set can be found at a very reasonable price of under $175.

Berkman, John and Michael Cartwright, eds., The Hauerwas Reader. Duke University Press, 2001.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (aka Discipleship).  New York: MacMillan, 1959/ Touchstone Edition by Simon &Schuster, 1995.

Hauerwas, Stanley. The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics. 3rd ed. London: SCM Press, 2003.

Hauerwas, Stanley. God, Medicine, and Suffering (aka Naming the Silences). Eerdmans, 1990.

Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics.  HarperOne, 1996.  (Mangina.)

Lull, Timothy F. ed., Martin Luther: Basic Theological Writings. 2nd ed. Fortress, 2005.  (Mangina.)

McGrath, Alister E., ed.  The Christian Theology Reader. 3rd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

McKim, Donald M., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther. Cambridge, 2003.

Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy. 1997 (original 1970).  (Mangina.)

Mangina comments: brief, readable guide to sacraments from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.

Worship (Anglican)

Begbie, Jeremy. Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music. Engaging Culture Series. Baker Academic, 2007. (D. Mercer.)

*Hefling, Charles and Cynthia Shattuck, eds. The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer. Oxford, 2006. (D. Mercer.)

*Holeton, David et al. Let Us Give Thanks: A Presider’s Manual for the BAS Eucharist. Toronto: The Hoskin Group, 1991. (D. Mercer.)

*Klein, Patricia S. Worship Without Words. Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2000. (D. Mercer.)

Michno, Dennis G. A Priest’s Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church. 3rd ed. Wilton, Connecticut, Morehouse-Barlow, 1998. (D. Mercer.)

Price, Charles P. and Louis Weill. Liturgy for Living. rev. ed. New York: Seabury Press, 2000.  (D. Mercer.)

Readiness and Decency (a ceremonial manual for the Canadian Book of Common Prayer, Canada, 1959). Bracebridge, ON: SSJE, Cowley-Bracebridge Press, 1961.

            Sermon Illustrations

Many experts discourage the use of such books.  True, the quality differs and some are tacky or even downright inappropriate, but having a collection of mixed quality beats having none!

Larson, Craig Brian and Phyllis Ten Elshof. 1001 Illustrations that Connect: Compelling Stories, Stats and News Items for Preaching, Teaching, and Writing. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.  (J. Bowen).

Tan, Paul Lee.  Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.  Signs of the Times. 1979.  (G.Taylor).

Green, Michael P.  Illustrations for Biblical Preaching.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996 (G. Taylor).


Online Resources

See the listing under the Pastor’s Electronic Library.


Compiled by Prof. G. Taylor. Edited and formatted by Thomas Power.  January 2014.