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Religion: A Research Guide: Encyclopedias
& Dictionaries

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Major Encyclopedias of Religion

Comprehensive Encyclopedias of Religions
For more help locating reference sources, contact the reference staff.

Encyclopedia of Religion. Lindsay Jones, editor in chief. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan, 2005.
(Online; print version (15 volumes) in Olin Reference BL 31 .E57 2005 +)
The standard work "treating theoretical (doctrines, myths, theologies, ethics), practical (cults, sacraments, meditations), and sociological (religious groups, ecclesiastical forms) aspects of religion; includes extensive coverage of non-Western religions.... Signed articles, many quite substantial, by an international group of contributors conclude with extensive bibliographies.... This [2nd] edition includes 14 "visual essays" on such topics as sacred time, which are scattered out of sequence throughout the volumes. An alphabetical list of entries appears in v. 1. Vol. 15 provides a synoptic outline of contents, an extensive general index, and a group of 21 articles received too late to be included in the main set." [Guide to Reference]
Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, [2016]- .
(Online​ only)
"Substantive, peer-reviewed, and regularly updated, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion combines the speed & flexibility of digital with the rigorous standards of academic publishing... All articles are written and peer reviewed by certified experts of the topic... Reference articles are monitored by experts to ensure fresh and timely updates reflect new insights." [from the catalog record]

Core Encyclopedias of Individual Religions

Brill's New Pauly: Encyclopaedia of the Ancient World. Robert E. Buswell, Jr., editor in chief. Leiden: Brill, 2007- .
(Online​; print version (6 volumes) in 604-605 Olin: DE 5 .P33213 2006 +)
An excellent source on the religions and cultures of the ancient world. The online version includes the recent volumes on the classical tradition. "'Originally published in German as Der Neue Pauly. Enzyklopdie der Antike.  In Verbindung mit Hubert Cancik und Helmuth Schneider herausgegeben von Manfred Landfester. Title Page, Verso... Wide coverage of the classical (Greco-Roman) world and its interactions with other cultures in antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Alphabetically arranged. Includes extensive bibliographical references. Plans of sites and maps are included with the texts of articles." [Guide to Reference]
Encyclopaedia Judaica. Fred Skolnik, editor-in-chief. 2nd edition. Detroit: Macmillan in association with Keter Publishing House, 2007.
(Online; print version (22 volumes) in Olin Reference DS 102.8 .E496 2007 +)
"The definitive reference work for Judaic studies. Includes about 22,000 entries on people, places, events, topics, concepts, and texts. More than 2,600 entries are new to this edition; over half of the remainder were substantially revised. Note that this edition of the EJ includes an entire volume providing extensive coverage for the state of Israel and expanded coverage of women; it is also a rich resource on the Holocaust. Entries range from a paragraph to very substantial essays; all include bibliographies. Every volume includes a list of abbreviations and a glossary.... Some items found in the earlier edition [16 volumes, copies shelved in Olin 602 and in the Olin stacks, DS102.8 .E558 ++] have been omitted, so it is sometimes worth consulting both editions." [Guide to Reference]
For a shorter entry reference source on Judaism, see the Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, online and in print (Olin Reference BM 50 .O94 2011).
Encyclopaedia of Islam. H.A.R. Jones, editor. 2nd ed. Leiden: Brill, 2004-2005.
(Online; print version in Olin Library Graduate Study Center, Room 501: DS 37 .E56 1954 +)
"[O]ver 15,000 signed articles covering the entire Islamic world, past and present. Entries include biography, history, geography, religion, institutions, manners and customs, tribes, industries, science, and terminology. The new edition places greater emphasis on social and economic topics. Geographical entries include towns, the larger political divisions of the Ottoman Empire, and other countries in which Islam is a major religion. Entries include bibliographies. Numerous cross-references. The on-line edition includes v. 1-12 of the new edition plus all new material from the 3rd ed. (2007) as it becomes available." [Guide to Reference]
For a more approachable work at the undergraduate level, see Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States, 2 volumes, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007. (Olin Reference BP 67 .U6 E53 2007 +)
For broader and deeper coverage of Islam, see Oxford Islamic Studies Online--3,500 entries from 11 Oxford reference titles. More information.
Encyclopedia of African Religion. Molefi K. Asante and Ama Mazama, editors. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage eReference, 2009.
"Asante... elevates the African religious experience above its common Western identification with primitive or tribal religions found in much broader works. Featuring nearly 500 entries ranging in length from a few paragraphs to several pages, this epic work illuminates the depth of African religious diversity through essays on topics such as circumcision, ontology, oral traditions, vodou, and zin.... Numerous titles focusing on particular beliefs in Africa exist, including Marcel Griaule's Conversations with Ogotemmeli, but this one presents an unparallelled exploration of a multitude of cultures and experiences. It is both a gateway to deeper exploration and a penetrating resource on its own. This is bound to become the definitive scholarly resource on African religions." [Choice review, 01 April 2009]
Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Robert E. Buswell, Jr., editor in chief. New York: Macmillan, 2004.
(Online; print version (2 volumes) in Kroch Asia Reference BQ 128 .E62 2004 +)
"Over 400 signed articles with bibliographies cover history, doctrines, texts, persons, schools, and practices. A number of entries extend to contemporary Buddhism and its influence in the West. Also includes coverage of Buddhist art. Synoptic outline of entries. Numerous black-and-white illustrations; some maps and color plates. Appendix includes timelines of Buddhist history in India, Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea, and Tibet and the Himalayas. Users should refer to the index, as coverage of many individuals and topics is found within larger articles. Most comprehensive general reference work on Buddhism in English. " [Guide to Reference]
Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
The first English language multi-volume account of the key historical, liturgical, doctrinal features of Eastern Orthodoxy, including the Non-Chalcedonian churches. Explores of the major traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy in detail, including the Armenian, Byzantine, Coptic, Ethiopic, Slavic, Romanian, Syriac churches.
Encyclopedia of Religion in America. Washington: CQ Press, 2010.
Covers the significant denominations and movements that have originated or flourished in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, from the beginning of European settlement to the present. This broad, multidisciplinary work includes coverage of religious life among indigenous peoples; specific aspects of religious life; and the relationship of religion to the political, social, economic, and cultural spheres.
New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. plus 2009 supplement. Washington: Catholic University of America, 2003.
(Online; print version (15 volumes) in Olin Reference BX 841 .N532 2003 +)
"The second edition of this standard reference work updates some of the articles contained in the first edition and its supplements to reflect current canon law and recent scholarship yet includes many articles from the former edition verbatim. New entries have been added, particularly on such topics as gender and reproduction, and many of the 3,000 photos, maps, and other illustrations are new. Emphasis is on the Catholic Church in North America and the English-speaking world, but scope is international. Biographies of living persons are excluded, with the exception of Pope John Paul II. Articles are signed and include short bibliographies. Brief subject overview articles and cross-references lead to related articles. Vol. 15 is an index. To make space for new entries, many articles from the earlier edition were cut, and libraries may wish to keep the first edition [Olin Stacks BX 841 .N532 +, 17 volumes] and its supplements. Those with historical interests are well advised to also consult the original Catholic encyclopedia [Olin Stacks BX 841 .C36, 15 volumes] as well. " [Guide to Reference]. The 2009 supplement is available only online.

Selected Encyclopedias on Specific Topics in Religion

Brill's Encyclopedia of Sikhism. Boston: Brill, 2017.
(Kroch Asia BL 2017.3 .B75 2017)

Series: Handbook of oriental studies = Handbuch der Orientalistik, Section two, South Asia; volume 31.
Volume 1 of a projected multi-volume set. Organized thematically, rather than by the usual dictionary entry approach. "Sikhism is one of the most important religious traditions of South Asian origin.... Brill’s Encyclopedia of Sikhism aims to make available in-depth critical scholarship on all the main aspects of the Sikh traditions...." [Publisher]

The Coptic Encyclopedia. Ed. Aziz S. Atiya. 8 volumes. New York: Macmillan, 1991.
(Olin Reference BX 130.5 .C66x 1991 +)

"Provides a wealth of information on early Christian history; saints and other important Coptic church figures; art and architecture; and archaeology of the lands currently called Egypt, Nubia/Sudan, and Ethiopia. An international group of scholars contributed 2,800 signed articles, ranging in length from a brief paragraph to several pages and including cross-references, bibliographies, and many illustrations. More than 400 entries are devoted to monasteries. Vol. 8 consists of an appendix of articles on the current knowledge of the origins of the Coptic language and its dialects, 12 maps, and the index." [Guide to Reference]

The Encyclopedia of Caribbean Religions. 2 volumes. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, [2013] .
(Africana Reference BL 2565 .E54 2013)

"[P]resents Caribbean religions in a way that combines the breadth of the comparative approach with the depth of Caribbean spirituality as an ever-changing and varied historical phenomenon." [Introduction]

Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Ed. Norman A. Stillman [et al.]. 5 volumes in print version. Leiden [Netherlands]: Brill, 2010.
(Online. Print: Olin Reference BM 150 .E53 2009 +)

The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World is the first cohesive and discreet reference work which covers the Jews of Muslim lands particularly in the late medieval, early modern and modern periods. The online edition is updated with newly commissioned articles, illustrations, multimedia, and primary source material. [adapted from the publisher's description]

Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States. Ed. Jocelyn Cesari. 2 volumes. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2007
(Olin Reference BP 67 .U6 E53 2007 +)

Sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard. Volume 1 is an A to Z sequence of articles on Islamic culture, religion, and people in the contemporary U.S. Articles cover major events, organizations, religious practices, and gender and family issues, and end with timely bibliographies. Volume 2 reproduces primary documents on these issues.

Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Ed. William M. Johnston and Claire Renkin. 2 volumes. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000.
(Olin Reference BL 631 .E63x 2000 +)

"Offers 625 signed articles with bibliographies, written by an international group of scholars, on all aspects of monastic life in Eastern Christianity, Western Christianity, and Buddhism.... Well illustrated with photographs and diagrams in color and black and white." [Guide to Reference]

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Ed. Hans Hillerbrand. 4 volumes. New York: Routledge, 2004.
(Olin Reference BX 4811.3 .E53x 2003 +)

"Covers the history and theology of Protestantism, which Hillerbrand essentially defines as any Christian denomination not Roman Catholic or Orthodox, thus including some that many (including themselves) would not define as such. Over 1,000 signed articles include denominations, people, places, events, texts, doctrines, and topics. Entries range from a column to several pages; each has a short bibliography. Alphabetization is problematic, with some headings inverted and others not; readers will need to use the thematic list of entries or the index to be sure of finding relevant articles...." [Guide to Reference]

Encyclopedia of Religious and Spiritual Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage eReference, 2006.

"Notwithstanding all the controversies associated with the notions and practices of religion and spirituality, they both permeate practically every sphere of human culture, from literature and music to health and scholarship. Concepts associated with them are ubiquitous in the language; religious names and symbols enrich and inspire human culture and societies.This compendium of brief essays on some of the major topics associated with religion and spirituality is informative and erudite, but by no means exhaustive in its selection of topics or complete in their treatment. Practically all the scholars included are of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The list of leading religious and spiritual figures consists only of those associated with the Abrahamic faiths and Buddha. Not all Christian denominations have an entry. On the other hand, there are articles on some major organizations, such as the Sierra Club and UNICEF; places of religious significance; and key concepts and practices, like rituals, yoga, and prayer." [Choice review, 01 June 2006]

Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Ed. Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Ruether. 3 volumes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.
(Online. Print: Olin Reference BL 458 .E539 2006 +)

Extensive articles on women's experiences with a wide variety of religions represented in North America--African traditions, Catholicism, Protestanism, Orthodox, Judaism, Asian religions, and new religious movements. Covers ordination, social reform, women-centered theology, religious education and other contemporary issues. Substantial bibliographies.

Evangelical America: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Religious Culture. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2017.
(Olin Reference BR 1642 .U5 E86 2017 +)

An overview of evangelicalism from World War II to 2016. "...coverage of the many dimensions of and diversity within evangelicalism and... documentation of the specific contributions evangelicals have made in American society and culture.... [I]llustrates the Evangelical movement's influence internationally in key issues such as human rights, environmentalism, and gender and sexuality." [Publisher's web site]

The Oxford Encyclopaedia of South Asian Christianity. 2 volumes. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012.
(Online. Print: Kroch Asia Reference BR 1143 .O94 2012 +)

Covers for the first time the 2000-year old story of Christianity in India and its neighbouring countries. Looking at Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Maldives, alongside India, as well as Myanmar, Afghanistan, and the global South Asian diaspora, the Encyclopaedia celebrates the trans-cultural, migratory, and unique nature of South Asian Christianity. [Publisher's description]

Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014 .
(Kroch Asia Reference BQ 130 .P75 2014)

"[T]he most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of Buddhism ever produced in English. It is also the first to cover terms from all of the canonical Buddhist languages and traditions: Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.... [B]ridges the major Buddhist traditions to provide encyclopedic coverage of the most important terms, concepts, texts, authors, deities, schools, monasteries, and geographical sites from across the history of Buddhism." [from the publisher's description]

Religion and.... (Cross-Disciplinary Encyclopedias)

Encyclopedia of Law and Religion. Leiden: Brill/Nihoff, 2007.
(Online. Also in print, 5 volumes: Law Reference K 3280 .E53 2016)
Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion. 2nd edition. Washington: CQ Press, 2007.
(Online. Also in print, 2 volumes: Olin Reference BL 65 .P7 E53 2007)
Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. 2nd edition. Boston: Springer, 2014.
(Online only)

Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. 2 volumes. New York: Thoemmes Continuum, 2005.
(Mann Stacks BL 65 .N35 E53 2005)
Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 1998.
(Olin Reference BL 60 .E53x 1998 +)
Encyclopedia of Religion and War. New York: Routledge, 2004.
(Olin Reference BL 80.3 .E53 2004 +)
Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan, 2003.
(Online. Also in print, 2 volumes: Olin Reference BL 240.3 .E53 2003 +)

Scarecrow's Historical Dictionaries series

Scarecrow Press has published an extended series of one-volume historical dictionaries of religions. To browse the list search for Search for "History Dictionary of" and the name of the religion in the Library Catalog. For the newer editions search for, "A to Z of" as a phrase in Guided Keyword AND the name of the religion. Example:

The A to Z of Hinduism. Bruce M. Sullivan, editor. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001.
(Asia Reference BL 1105 .S847x 2001)
Rev. ed. of the Historical Dictionary of Hinduism [Asia Reference BL 1105 .S85x 1997]. Covers events, individuals, texts, sects, and concepts of this varied complex of beliefs and practices. A chronology and an introduction provide broader context for individual entries. While entries have been updated, this work lacks the substantial bibliography of its earlier manifestation. [Guide to Reference].

You can also browse the Historical Dictionaries list by searching "Historical Dictionaries of Religions Philosophies and Movements" as a title.

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Michael Engle
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