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Religion & Philosophy Research Guide: Backgrounds: Historical & Cultural

This research guide features resources and strategies for finding information and conducting research related to Religion and Philosophy.



The study of Scripture includes understanding the context of the historical, cultural, social, political, and religious backgrounds of each text. The resources outlined here can help with learning about the life and times of the biblical writings. Explore customs and social setting from a variety of resources on historical backgrounds.


Culture and Customs

Here are some popular resources for understanding the cultures, customs, practices, and daily life in biblical times; from both the ANE period and the 1st century G-R period.

Introductions (authorship, date, audience, occasion for writing, etc.)

Many "Introductions" offer extended discussions of the historical background of the biblical writings including the cultural, political, and religious context of Scripture. These four are just a sampling of the many Introductions available.

Background Commentaries

These commentaries focus less on Greek and Hebrew language studies, or interpretive debates, but they do give special attention to culture, customs, and other historical backgrounds. 

An Introduction to the Primary Sources

These resources offer a brief introduction to doing research on ANE, 2TJ, and G-R primary texts. They also offer English translations of selected texts.

Citing from the Primary Sources:

Use the SBL Handbook to identify writings as primary sources, to locate their official abbreviations, and to see examples of Turabian style formatting and citation. 

Roman Law

Church Fathers - Topical Guides

History of the Biblical Times

These resources provide a chronological history of Israel, a survey of the Intertestamental period, and the historical setting of the Greco-Roman world in the 1st century.

Databases for Primary Sources & Achaeology

Open Access Primary Sources

Below are some Open Access sites for English translations of 2TJ literature, early and middle Church Fathers, selections of G-R literature, and some later Rabbinic literature.
For official scholarly translations of many classical works, it is best to start with the Loeb Classical Library above, before citing a general translation from these reference tools.

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