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RTS-330: Understanding the Old Testament (Wray): RTS330-Home

Research guide for Understanding the Old Testament

Catalog search tips for the Bible

Searching for information about books in the Bible is much easier if you know a few tricks. (Do not worry about precisely typing the punctuation in the examples below.  The catalog works without it.  I am including it here to make these ideas clear.)

First, you'll want to use the Advanced Search catalog option.

Once you are on the Advanced Search page, choose the option for Subject:


(I am going to use Genesis as an example, but this applies to all books in the Bible.)

Some subjects are basic, like:

Bible. Genesis

Some are 'subject strings', which means that the subject (topic) of the work is a little more particular.  Examples:

Bible. Genesis--Antiquities  (This is a great subject string for students interested in archaeology.)

Bible. Genesis--Authorship

Bible. Genesis--Commentaries

Bible. Genesis--Comparative studies

Bible. Genesis--Criticism, interpretation, etc.

Bible. Genesis--Feminist criticism

Bible. Genesis--History of Biblical events

Bible. Genesis--Sources

We call the part after the double dash the 'subtopic'.  Keep an eye out for those!

You can also add subtopics directly to the subject "Bible. Old Testament", so if you don't want to look at a particular book, but want to look at the Old Testament as a whole, you can use:

Bible. Old Testament--Antiquities

Bible. Old Testament--Criticism, Interpretation, Etc.

(and so on.  This works for "Bible. New Testament" too.)

There's even more:

Some books that we own have such a specific topic that they refer to particular books (i.e., chapters) of a book in the Bible.  For instance, you can find this subject string in the catalog:

Bible. Genesis I (This refers to chapter 1 of Genesis.)

and even

Bible. Genesis I, 1-27--Criticism, Interpretation, Etc.  (This one is even referring to particular verses of chapter 1 of Genesis.)

The point is this:

If you search for "Bible. Genesis" in the Subject search, you do not want to stop browsing the page when you find "Bible. Genesis".  KEEP READING.  Subjects are filed in alphabetical order, so after "Bible. Genesis", you'll find subjects referring to particular books and even verses in Genesis.  You don't want to ignore those.

What if you are interested in more than one book?

There are also some subject headings that refer to groups of books in the Old Testament.

If you're interested in all of the books taken as a whole, then try:

Bible. Old Testament 

(This also works for "Bible. New Testament")

There are also more specific groupings of books. For example, you might be interested in the Pentateuch.  There's a subject heading for that:

Bible. Pentateuch

There are other groups of books, such as:

Bible. Apocrypha

Bible. Five scrolls

Bible. Former prophets

Bible. Historical books

Bible. Hexateuch

Bible. Minor prophets

Bible. Octateuch

Bible. Prophets  (sometimes referred to in scholarly texts as the Latter Prophets; it's just called Prophets in the catalog)

Special topics

If you are interested in archaeology, you definitely want to look for these subjects:


Bible--Evidence, authority, etc.

or, as a more specific example:

Bible. Genesis--Antiquities  (or whichever book you prefer)

Other useful subjects and subtopics are:

Assyro-Babylonia literature--Relation to the Old Testament


Bible--History of Biblical events

Bible--Concordances  (These are massive indexes that list every instance of a word being used in the Old Testament.  This is great for text analysis.)


Bible--Extra-canonical parallels (This is for parallels between the Old Testament and other texts written close to the same time and place)






Bible--Rites and ceremonies

Bible--Textbooks (These often have really extensive bibliographies to help you get started in your research)


Egyptian literature--Relation to the Old Testament

Gnostic literature--Relation to the Old Testament

Middle Eastern literature--Relation to the Old Testament

Myth in the Old Testament

Ten commandments

Testament of Job

Testament of the twelve patriarchs

Ugaritic literature--Relation to the Old Testament

On the trail...

Sometimes you may find that it is hard to research a topic, particularly when it crosses disciplines/majors.

Here's a little trick you can use:

Find one item, such as an article or book.  Start looking at the entries in the footnotes and the bibliography.  The author had to find resources in order to write the article or book, and you can mine that information for your own research.  This is "following a citation trail" or "citation chaining."  One footnote might lead you to another article, and that article might have a footnote to another book, and that book might have a bibliography that lists an article that is really helpful... 

You can even get started using the footnotes and bibliography of the books you used in class.  You just need one item to get you started, and then you should be able to follow trails in many directions.

Find journal articles

To find articles, search in the library's research databases. These databases index articles in thousands of journals by topic, and allow you to search for articles by keyword. (If you are in a dorm or off-campus, you will be asked to enter your firstname.lastname and email password in order to access these databases, immediately after you click on the link to access the database through the library website.)

These article databases are the best for searching for starting your search:

ATLA Religion  (EBSCOhost)
Provides indexing and articles from religion and theology journals.

JSTOR is a collection of full-text scholarly journals and is particularly strong in the humanities, such as religion and philosophy.

Academic Search Complete (EBSCOhost)
Provides full text for more than 5,000 scholarly publications covering a variety of academic areas of study.


Finding or Browsing Journals by Title

If you know the name of a journal, you can see if we have it in paper or online here.

You can get to that same link on the library homepage by going here:

Bible Commentaries