Introduction to Old Testament (Long, Spring 2011)

last modified 2018-01-30T17:55:05-04:00

Finding sources for your papers

This guide identifies library tools to help in identifying scholarly sources for your paper. There are numerous sources available, and it would be easy to get overwhelmed. Following the steps below, checking with your professor to make sure you are on the right path, and asking for help sooner rather than later should make this an easier assignment to complete. Assistance is available from the Christianity Subject Librarian, Theresa Rhodes. If you can't contact Theresa, don't hesitate to use the Tarver Library website to ask for help.

1. Become familiar with your passage

Sometimes it helps to read the text in several translations to get a "feel" for the passage. Electronic access to Bible translations available includes:

Print versions available in the Tarver Library include:

The English Standard Version Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments with Apocrypha
REF BS 195 .E64 2009 (Reference, 2nd floor)

The Layman's Parallel Bible
REF BS 125 .B5 1991 (Reference, 2nd floor)

The new Oxford annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version: with the Apocrypha :an ecumenical study Bible
BS 191.5.A1 2010 O94 2010 (Macon stacks, 3rd floor)

The Text This Week includes the passage in several translations, and the Index by Scripture link on the left side of the page is a handy way to look up your passage

Other sources are also available from this Bible Translations page.

2. Know your context

Reading alone is not enough. You need to unpack your passage in order to learn about the assigned text in terms of its content, background (historical and cultural), literary context and form, theological perspective, and contemporary relevancy. What is underneath the words on the page, what was the context, what is significant about this passage during this point in time?

Two sources can provide the best overview to help you "set the stage" for your passage:

Mercer Dictionary of the Bible REF BS 440 .M429 1991 Reserve - Ask at Circulation Desk

  • each Old Testament book has a separate entry
  • includes an outline of the book as well as an overview by chapter
  • includes references to other entries for additional reading

The New Interpreter's Bible REF BS 491.2 N484 1994 (Reference, 2nd floor)

  • 12-volume commentary covering the Bible
  • lengthy introduction for each book followed by chapter outline
  • each passage breakdown includes an overview section
  • commentary and reflection sections very helpful

3. Define and confirm definitions

Once you are familiar with the passage and have done background reading, make sure that you understand any words or phrases in the context of the time. It is a good idea to look up unfamiliar words or phrases as well as familiar phrases in Bible dictionaries:

Anchor Bible Dictionary
REF BS 440.A54 1992 (Reference, 2nd floor)

Mercer Dictionary of the Bible
REF BS 440 .M429 1991 (on Reserve, check at the Circulation Desk)

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible
REF BS 440.I63 (Reference, 2nd floor)

Mounce's complete expository dictionary of Old & New Testament words
check out the scripture index in the back of this source
REF BS 440 .M63 2006 (Reference, 2nd floor)

4. Dig deeper -- use commentaries

Now that you know your passage, have completed your background reading, and have defined familiar and unfamiliar words and phrases, it is time to identify what scholarly sources have been written about your passage. You will want to use scholarly articles and books.

Several commentaries are available in the Reference section on the second floor of the Tarver Library:

  • Mercer Commentary on the Bible
    REF BS 491.2 .M47 1995 (Reference, 2nd floor)
    BS 491.2 M47 1995 (Macon stacks, 3rd floor)
  • Mercer Commentary on the Old Testament
    REF BS 1151.2 .M47 2003 (Reference, 2nd floor)
  • The Interpreter's Bible: the Holy Scriptures in the King James and Revised standard versions with general articles and introduction, exegesis, exposition for each book of the Bible
    REF BS 491.2 .I55 (Reference, 2nd floor)
  • The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
    REF BS 491.2 N485 1990 (Reference, 2nd floor)

Your professor would like you to consult two major commentaries for your paper. The first is Anchor Bible. Finding these in the Tarver Library catalog can be a bit tricky:

1. click the "Books & more" tab from the Tarver Library website:


2. enter the title of your selected book, add the words "anchor bible," and use the drop down box to limit your search to items available in the Tarver Library; for example, here's a search for an Anchor Bible commentary on Micah that is available in Macon:


If you don't get enough hits, you can broaden your search for commentaries in All Locations as indicated here:



Interpretation is the second series your professor would like you to consult for your paper. You can search specifically for this series similar to the search for the Anchor Bible commentaries. Enter the title of your selected book, add the words "interpretation commentary," and use the drop down box to limit your search to items available in the Tarver Library; for example, here's a search for an Interpretation commentary on Micah that is available in Macon:


Tips and Tricks

  • You can request that a book in Atlanta or one of the Regional Academic Centers be sent to you here in Macon.
  • You can click on a link in a catalog record to find other books on the same subject.
  • Start early, and ask for help before spinning your wheels!

Scripture Search Using ATLA

Your professor also wants you to find scholarly articles for your paper. Many disciplines have specific databases for finding resources, and ATLA Religion with ATLA Serials is one of the best for religion research. This database has a scripture search that will assist you in identifying scholarly articles written about the text.

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


2. click on expand link next to Micah



3. click on Chapter 6 or expand link to list verses


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


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!

Full Text Electronic Journal List

  • 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

Library Catalog

  • the library might have a subscription to a print copy of the journal
  • click on 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 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?

    5. Write

    You have now identified numerous books and articles that are of interest. Remember that your paper is only 5 to 8 pages and requires 5 references. Make sure you leave enough time to write your paper to share your new-found knowledge with your professor.

    You will be using the APA citation format. When searching in ATLA, remember to print the detailed record and the article. This way you should have all the information you need for your list of sources. This detailed record is found on the left side of the page.


    Before you print this, check out the tools menu on the right side of the page.


    Click print and use the database to put the citation in the APA style format.


    Additional information on using the APA format is available from the OWL Resource at Purdue University.


    • Don't put this off until the last minute
    • Using several of the sources discussed above will bring a "scholarly" rather than a personal approach to your paper
    • Help is available, so don't panic!

    Need more help?

    Theresa Rhodes, Subject Librarian for Christianity, is available to assist you with the research for your paper.