The Unexpected Benefits of a Well-Rounded Library
As a longtime Accordance employee, I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to all the resources in my personal Accordance Library. I have more Bibles, original language texts, dictionaries, commentaries, and books at my fingertips than I know what to do with; and I get new toys to play with all the time. Yet even though I have access to all these materials, I tend to consult a handful of trusted resources over and over again. After all, who has time to read 100 commentaries on the same passage?
Nevertheless, there are times when some of those lesser-used resources come in handy. Here are a couple recent examples:
I recently taught through the story of King Saul and the medium of Endor in Sunday school, and I pointed out that when the spirit of Samuel was called up, he was incredulous that Saul would disturb him. When Saul complained that the LORD no longer spoke to him, Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy?” (1 Samuel 28:16). Today my wife paraphrased Samuel's words to Saul as, “Why have you disturbed me? Are you crazy?” Laughing, I did my best Yiddish accent—which sounds remarkably like Billy Crystal in A Princess Bride—and said, “What? Are you a meshuggener?” When my wife asked me what meshuggener means, I said, “I think it's Yiddish for a crazy person.” Of course, I then felt compelled to make sure I was using the term correctly, so I opened a little known Accordance resource, The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words. This handy resource is great for translating the numerous Jewish concepts and Yiddish words which have worked their way into English vernacular. I don’t necessarily use it often, but I’ve been surprised how many times I've turned to it over the years. In case you’re wondering, I had used meshuggener correctly. Not bad for a goy!
The other day I stumbled across a Facebook discussion in which a friend (actually, our own Rick Mansfield) mentioned an Eastern Orthodox theological term with which I was unfamiliar (theosis). Desperate to avoid Rick knowing something I don’t know, I turned to Accordance and searched all my Theological resources for that term. I very quickly found articles on theosis in various theological dictionaries, as well as an interesting discussion in Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith. The latter is a systematic theology which I’ve long thought looks interesting, but which I’ve never really had the time to dig into. On this occasion, I was glad to rediscover it. (Oh, and I’m kidding about not wanting Rick to know anything I don’t know. He knows lots…he knows some…well, he knows a few things I don’t know!)
While I typically consult a handful of favorite all-purpose commentaries and dictionaries, I find that there are lots of specialized commentaries and dictionaries which come in very handy. As I’ve been teaching through various Old Testament narrative books, I often consult the relevant volumes of IVP’s Dictionary of the Old Testament, which tends to cover recent scholarship on questions many general Bible dictionaries pass over. When I was teaching through the book of Genesis, I found Waltke’s one-volume commentary particularly helpful, and I've written elsewhere about how helpful I’ve found the Gospel According to the Old Testament series.
I could give numerous other examples of works I consult less often than my go-to resources, but which I am nevertheless glad to have when I need them. If I could distill these anecdotes into a word of practical advice it would be this: when building your Accordance Library, concentrate first on buying the must-have resources you need to cover the bulk of your research needs. Invest in a few go-to commentaries and all-purpose dictionaries. Once you’ve got those covered, consider adding more specialized resources which may never be the first place you’ll turn, but which may prove to be the best place to turn in certain cases. Build a well-rounded library, and you’ll be delightfully surprised at the questions Accordance can help you answer.
Best of all, you’ll avoid looking like a meshuggener!