Over the past few weeks, I have been thumbing through InterVarsity Press’s most recent “Black Dictionary.” For what it is worth, I am impressed! Not only is this a very attractive dictionary (jacketed, cloth bound hardcovers, a crisp font and clear page format), but it is also chock-full of the technical data a researcher requires.
Longman, Tremper and Peter Enns, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. Downers Grove, Ill.; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; InterVarsity Press, 2008. Jacketed Hardcover, xxiv + 967 pages. $50.00
Purchase: IVP | WTS | Amazon | CBD
ISBNs: 0830817832 / 9780830817832
I would like to begin this brief review by expressing my deep appreciation to InterVarsity Press for sending us two review copies of this dictionary. Please read to the bottom of this post to learn how your name can be entered into a drawing for a chance to receive a free copy of this dictionary.
As I have been reading through the articles in this dictionary, I have been challenged and taught by a handful of contemporary, conservative, evangelical scholarship’s sharpest advocates. As one who loves to read through bibliographies, I immediately examined a number of them. I have greatly appreciated the excellent selections offered for each article throughout this volume. These bibliographies are not only up-to-date but also careful to include the best sources on each topic and biblical book. The serious student will have an excellent list of sources (both classic and contemporary works: commentaries, monographs, and articles) with which he ought to be familiar when researching the topic at hand.
According to my count, this volume contains forty-three articles with contributions by ninety-two scholars. Each article is clearly labeled with boldface, all-capitalized letters. The author of each article is identified following the bibliography (a list of contributors is included in the frontmatter). All Hebrew words are transliterated, making this series a little more accessible to those who are unfamiliar with the ancient language.
Note: At best, I am merely an intermediate-level student of Hebrew, so I treasure each opportunity to brush up on my language skills. I wish that the editors would have included the Hebrew forms along with the transliterations. Transliterations can hinder as much as they can help.
Each article is clearly outlined, long enough to adequately cover the subject, and short enough to be read in one sitting. An asterisk system is used to identify topics within articles that the reader can trace to other articles by the same or similar title. Immediately following the body of the article and preceding the bibliography, a listing of related articles (“See also”) is supplied.
As the title of the Dictionary indicates, the articles focus primarily on the Old Testament wisdom books, poetic books, and writings. These books include Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ruth, and Esther. The articles I have read, thus far, have been very careful to limit the discussions to this corpus. The reader must keep this fact in mind and refrain from charging the contributors with narrow-sightedness for neglecting other Old Testament writings and/or New Testament writings. Often the articles acknowledge other biblical perspectives; however, the value of the design of this dictionary series is to supply articles that focus on the individual portions of Scripture.
Each of the biblical books is covered with an introductory article, an article addressing Ancient Near Eastern Background (or Extrabiblical Background), an article addressing the History of Interpretation, and articles on other pertinent issues surrounding each book. Articles on each biblical personality (Ruth, Esther, Job, David, Solomon, and so on) are also included.
In the Preface to this volume, the editors explain that “the topics were chosen to give full coverage to the important tools, concepts and content needed for the study and interpretation of these books” (p. vii). Articles range from those relating to the key books (see above); to key themes such as Afterlife, Chaos and Death, Ethics, Fear of the Lord, Folly, Music, Remembrance, Suffering, and Worship; to key terms such as Acrostic, Chiasm, Ellipsis, Form Criticism, Frame Narrative, Hermeneutics, Imagery, Meter, Personification, Rhetorical Criticism, Textual Criticism, and Warfare Imagery.
It must also be mentioned that these articles are not limited to either lexical, exegetical, historical, or theological matters; but rather to all of these matters. For example, in preparing my review of Chris Wright’s Salvation Belongs to Our God, I read through Scot McKnight’s article “Salvation and Deliverance Imagery.” In this fine article, McKnight identifies and explains the key texts (exegetical) and terms (lexical) while peppering the discussion with insights from a handful of the most respected Psalms scholars (historical interpretation). He outlines his article with a clear logical progression, unfolding the message (theological) of the Psalter. McKnight must be thanked for repeatedly resisting and supplying arguments against those scholars who insist that the Old Testament says nothing about salvation from sin. Near the beginning of his article, McKnight argues that “even if the focus in the psalms is on the psalmists’ more physical dangers and national condition, one psalm stands tall as a focus on personal forgiveness and redemption from sin: Psalm 51” (p. 710). A bit later McKnight returns to this truth and identifies two other key texts: “Naturally, salvation implies forgiveness” (Ps. 79:9; 85:2).
McKnight does not bow to tradition or modern critical biases, but rather clings to the texts and lets them speak for themselves. The outline is superb and very consistent with Wright’s treatment of the subject from the perspective of the entire canon. The bibliography is concise and current: the works cited are key resources in Psalm studies that can be verified when compared to the bibliographies appended to the articles on the Psalms.
Other special features of the Dictionary include a Scripture Index, a Subject Index, and an Articles Index. These are very welcome features that make this volume all the more useful.
This seventh installment in the “Black Dictionary” series has not only maintained the original purpose of the series but also, according to the editors, raised the bar by giving special attention to the ancient Near Eastern (ANE) background and the history of interpretation of each book. This is significant in light of the increased attention liberal scholarship has been giving to the ANE background of the Bible in order to continue to undermine its inspiration and authority. Indeed, this volume “provide[s] a ready summary of the best thinking on the most important subjects in the areas of their coverage, and [it] advance[s] the discussion with fresh insights and ideas” (p. vii).
In conclusion, I would like to do something we have not yet done at SI. I would like to give away a free copy of this dictionary to one of our readers. One reader will be selected by a random drawing on Wednesday, September 17, 2008, at noon (CST). To enter your name into this drawing, send me your comments, positive and/or negative, about the “Black Dictionary” series. Specifically, I want to know, Have you found these dictionaries to be helpful? Why or why not?
If you already own a copy, please feel free to participate. I would like to place this volume into the hands of someone who does not already own it, but I do not want to over-police this event. Please share your comments in the forum (authors of e-mailed comments will not be considered for the drawing). Multiple comments and interaction are accepted as usual; however, I will take note of each individual who shares a substantial comment once. By the way, I am considering a substantial comment to be at least two hundred words long (approximately the length of these final two paragraphs).
|Jason Button received a B.A. in Bible from Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC). He serves as the Book Review Editor for SharperIron and is the creator of TheoSource, a project to compile comprehensive lists of recommended books for Bible study. He is married to Tiffany, and they have two children, Caris Joelle and Asa Livingstone.|
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