Essential Tools for Exegesis
1. The English Bible
The debate over which is the best version of the English Bible still rages (see The King James Only Controversy: Can you Trust the Modern Translations? by James R. White [Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995]). My personal preferences, in order of priority, are:
The English Standard Version – Published by Crossway Bibles (Wheaton, IL). This is the finest English translation I know of. It maintains the accuracy of the NASB (see below) and the fluid and readable style of the NIV. I encourage you to visit http://www.desiringgod.org/, the website of John Piper, for an excellent endorsement of the ESV.
The New American Standard Bible (NASB) - Published by the Lockman Foundation in 1971, this is a revision by evangelical scholars of the American Standard Version of 1901. It is the most literal of all English translations. Some people believe it reproduces too mechanically Greek word order and verb tenses.
The New International Version (NIV) - This freer translation was produced by over 100 evangelical scholars. In my opinion, whereas it is good for devotional reading (and preaching) it is too much of a paraphrase to be helpful in exegetical study.
The King James Version (KJV; also referred to as the Authorized Version or AV) - This version was released in 1611. It is prized because of its literary beauty, but is generally believed to be based on inferior Greek manuscripts. The New King James is much easier to read.
Revised Standard Version (RSV) - According to Black, "the Revised Standard Version . . . sought to combine the accuracy of the English and American revised versions of 1881 and 1901, the literary quality of the KJV, and the style and idiom of contemporary English" (39). Although some fundamentalists have criticized it for allegedly diminishing the deity of Christ (cf. Mk. 15:39 ["a son of God" rather than "the Son of God"]; but see Titus 2:13), it is generally quite good.
The New Living Bible (1996), The Living Bible (1971) and The Phillips Translation (1958) are both paraphrased rather than strictly translations.
2. The Greek New Testament
Most NT scholars use either of the following:
The Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (now in its 26th edition; 1979).
The Greek New Testament (GNT), also called the UBS text (United Bible Societies), now in the Fourth Revised Edition (1983).
Both volumes contain the same Greek text, the only significant difference being in the textual apparatus (UBS cites fewer variants but does so with considerably fuller evidence).
3. An Exegetical Guide
Some use this more than I do. If you find it helpful, the best available is Fritz Rienecker's Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, translated and edited by Cleon Rogers (Zondervan, 1980). It proceeds book by book through the NT with parsing of verbs, basic definitions of important words, and occasional insight from Greek grammars.
4. A Greek-English Lexicon
The standard lexicon is,
Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press). It goes by several names: Arndt and Gingrich, BAG, BDAG, or BAGD. Be sure and obtain the second edition, released in 1979.
A small, but handy, lexicon is A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament by G. Abbott-Smith (T. & T. Clark). See also the standard work by Joseph H. Thayer, The New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Hendrickson).
5. A Greek Exegetical / Word Study Dictionary
There are several excellent dictionaries:
Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Eerdmans) in 10 volumes, ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley - Also known simply as TDNT or Kittel. A one-volume abridgment is also available (known as "Little Kittel"). Unfortunately, the articles are a bit out of date and tend in many cases to the liberal side of the theological spectrum.
New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. by Colin Brown, in 4 volumes. This is preferable to Kittel, being easier to read, more conservative, and considerably cheaper!
Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, by Ceslas Spicq; transl. and ed. by James D. Ernest (Hendrickson) is in 3 volumes.
Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. by Horst Balz & Gerhard Schneider (Eerdmans, 3 vols.).
6. Greek Concordance
Whereas lexicons provide us with vocabulary and definitions, a concordance contains an alphabetical index of words together with references to the biblical texts in which each instance of a word occurs.
A Concordance to the Greek New Testament by William F. Moulton and Alfred S. Geden has been the standard work for decades. First published in 1897, it was revised by Moulton in 1978.
I highly recommend The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament by John R. Kohlenberger III, Edward W. Goodrick, and James A. Swanson (Zondervan). This volume is considerably less expensive (and more durable) than Moulton & Geden.
The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament by Wigram and Green (Hendrickson) differs primarily from the above two volumes in that the verses are written in English instead of Greek.
7. A basic Greek Grammar
A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by Friedrich Blass and Albert Debrunner (Univ. of Chicago Press) was the standard for many years. However, the volumes by William Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek (Zondervan) and Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Zondervan) are being used more and more.
8. A Textual Commentary
Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger (published by the United Bible Society).
9. A Synopsis of the Gospels
Everyone has their favorite, but mine is
Synopsis of the Four Gospels, ed. by Kurt Aland (7th ed., 1984). This contains parallel columns of the Greek text of the 4 gospels as well as the English translation. Don't ever attempt to study or preach from the gospels without it!
10. An Analytical Lexicon
The best is The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament by William D. Mounce (Zondervan).
There is also the older The Analytical Greek Lexicon published by Zondervan (1973).
11. The Septuagint
Although perhaps not "essential", it is helpful to have an edition of the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX).
The standard edition is the Septuaginta, ed. by Alfred Rahlfs (American Bible Society). Less expensive versions are also available, the best being the edition published by Zondervan (1972; this provides an English translation, something Rahlfs omits).
12. Bible Enclyclopedia
Several are available:
The most recent and up-to-date, as well as the most expensive, is The Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.) published by Doubleday. Shop around to get a good price (it retails for @ $350). The articles are excellent and informative, but frequently liberal.
Next in line is the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (popularly known as ISBE), updated and revised by Geoffrey Bromiley (4 vols.).
At a more popular level, but still helpful, is The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (5 vols. from Zondervan).
13. A Computer Bible Program
Take your pick! Also, there are now available grammatical analysis programs, the two most helpful of which are:
Bible Works (for both PC and Mac)
There are, of course, countless other tools and reference volumes that should be used in the study of the NT. Only your bank account will determine how many you ultimately purchase.