I appreciate Pastor Armstrong's thorough explanation of the cultural background of the Bible. What study resources does he use to obtain that information?
In addition to the Bible itself (primarily the New American Standard version, 1995 edition), Pastor Armstrong relies on a wide variety of study resources depending on the nature of his teaching, especially works of history and culture.
Steve follows an inductive study approach that uses scripture to interpret scripture, and he relies heavily on a knowledge of history to follow a literal, historical hermeneutic. In fact, Pastor Armstrong often says that the single most important resource for any Bible study (other than the Bible itself) is a good history book. Knowing the times and culture in which biblical events took place will often clear up confusion in the text and lead to greater insights.
In the past, he has consulted the following theological, cultural and historical works from time to time, though his list is always growing:
- Dictionary of Biblical Theology
- Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary
- Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon
- NAS Hebrew Dictionary
- Kohlenberger/Mounce Concise Hebrew–Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament
- Dictionary of Place Names
- Early Christian Biographies
- Various Systematic Theologies including Ryrie’s, Fruchtenbaum’s, Hodge’s, Strong’s, etc.
- Calvin’s Institutes
- Sketches of Church History
- Bible History of the Old Testament
- Religion of Babylonia and Assyria
- History of American Christianity
- Spurgeon's Commentary
- Constable’s Notes
- The works of Arnold Fruchtenbaum
- Works of Luther, Milton, Murry, Pink, Whitefield, Edersheim
- Sketches of Jewish Social Life (Edersheim)
- Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Edersheim)
- Manners and Customs in the Bible (Matthews)
- Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen (Ramsay)
- The Works of Flavius Josephus
Finally, there is simply no “one” resource to handle all situations. Any student of scripture who desires a full understanding of the text must be prepared to invest the time necessary to conduct research and background study on biblical culture and times, which will require perseverance and a curious mind. Build a personal library over time, invest in study software, and focus on trusted sources. Resist the temptation to rely on a single commentary, since it will always leave you short of a full understanding.