James "Interpreting the Text "(Whitfield, Spring 2013)

last modified 2016-04-28T16:30:21-04:00

Note: This guide focuses on the "Interpreting the Text" paper on a passage from James.  Additional course-specific resources are available on the Christianity Subject Librarian page. Take advantage of the anchor links that will take you directly to the types of sources and any tips to assist you in your research.


1. Check the date. Remember to check the publication date for items to make sure you are using the most current sources that will provide the most recent insights.

2. Consider the source. Stop and ask yourself if this is a recognized, scholarly source. The sources on this guide have been reviewed by Dr. Whitfield. Of all the resources on the web, the commentaries typically available for review are the least helpful. Most online commentaries are older, devotional works that do not reflect the gains of modern scholarship. You are better off using the printed volumes available at Tarver Library.

3. Follow the process.

  • read the text through several times and write in your own words what you think the text is saying
  • analyze the text by using a dictionary to identify words or phrases that are unclear
  • compare the text in several translations

Bible Dictionaries

These reference sources are useful for looking up unfamiliar words or phrases and also for ensuring that you are using the biblical use of commonly used words or phrases. Sources include:

Anchor Bible Dictionary
REF BS 440 .A54 1992 (another copy on the third floor)

Mercer Dictionary of the Bible
REF BS 440 .M429 1991 (other copies on Reserve and on the third floor)

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible
REF BS 440 .I63 (another copy on the third floor)

The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible
REF BS 440 .N445 2006

Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible
REF BS 440 .E44 2000

Bible Translations

Varying translations of the selected text can assist you in identifying textual problems, "hot spots," that impact the understanding of the text.  Many of these are in the Tarver Reference collection but others are accessible 24/7 via the web.

The new Oxford annotated Bible : New Revised Standard Version : with the Apocrypha : an ecumenical study Bible
REF BS 191.5.A1 2010 O94 2010

The English Standard Version Bible : containing the Old and New Testaments with Apocrypha
REF BS 195 .E64 2009

The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version
REF BS 191 .A1 2002 .N43

The Layman's Parallel Bible
REF BS 125 .B5 1991 c.2

The Bible Gateway

Parallel Bibles

The Unbound Bible

Scholarly Commentaries

Commentaries are an excellent source to answer questions about what things were like when the book was written as well as what social or institutional setting might have been in place. General background information on the book as well as specific verses is often included, so don't automatically go straight to the specific verses. Also remember to check any bibliographies listed and follow up on those sources.  Dr. Whitfield has placed the following titles on reserve for your use:

The Epistle of James (Sophie Laws)
Hebrews and James (Gench)
Hebrews-James (McKnight)
New Interpreter's Bible (volume 12)

Other sources include:

Mercer Commentary on the Bible
REF BS 491.2 .M47 1995

REF BS 491.2 .M47 1995 (Macon reference)

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
REF BS 491.2 .N485 1990

Scripture Search Using ATLA

ATLA has a scripture search to assist you identify scholarly articles written about the text. Selecting an entry at the book, chapter, or verse level executes a search for all records indexed with that book, chapter, or verse.  You can also expand your search to focus on a particular chapter.

Start by selected the Scriptures search (as indicated in the following screen shots) and select James.  Clicking to expand chapter 3 returns all records indexed that include James 3.

1. click on the scriptures tab near the top of the screen










2. click on expand link next to James:

3. click on expand link to Chapter 3

4. click on any verse to retrieve records for all verses in that citation

5. review ways to narrow the results in the box to the left of the search results

Finding Articles not Available in Full Text

Many of the articles you find will be available in full text, if they are not, there are other options for finding these articles, so don’t give up!

e-Journal Locator

  • list of all electronic journals available to Mercer students
  • make sure you have the complete citation (title, volume, number, date, and page numbers) before searching
  • enter journal title and click search
  • follow the links (journals often appear in more than one database) to identify full-text
  • if specific volume/year is not available online, click on the link to view print holdings of the title

Library Catalog

  • the library might have a subscription to a print copy of the journal
    * remember you can use the "Check the Library Catalog for print copies of this title" link and go directly to the catalog without leaving the eJournal list
  • click on the option to search by journal title and type the journal name in the Journal Title browse box
  • journals are arranged alphabetically by title on the first floor of the Tarver Library
  • you can also limit a journal title search to a specific location which can be a bit confusing, so ask for assistance if you get confused.
  • articles in journals only available from Swilley (Atlanta campus) can be requested using Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary Loan

  • if all else fails, we can order a copy of the article for you through Interlibrary Loan--this takes time (up to 2 weeks!), so don’t leave it to the last minute
  • the pre-populated form prepop.jpg in the database makes this a quicker process
  • we can also identify libraries who subscribe to the journal--perhaps a road trip can be planned?

Tips, Tricks, & More Help

1. Remember to click on the [Expand] link in ATLA to specific a chapter and/or verse.

2. Style matters. Remember to use Turabian format.

3. Ask for help.  Use the links above to ask for help or to schedule a Research Consultation with the Christianity Subject Librarian.