Monday 11 August 2008

Dictionary of the Old Testament: wisdom, poetry and writings

Thanks to IVP, this big black beautiful doorstop of a book has just landed with a crash on my desk: Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings, edited by Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns. This is the seventh volume in IVP’s celebrated Black Dictionary series – surely the most indispensable reference work of its kind – and it’s the third volume in the Old Testament series. In 148 articles and nearly 1,000 pages, it covers Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ruth and Esther.

Some highlights include Ernest Lucas’s crisp discussion of Wisdom theology (pp. 901-12); Marvin Sweeney’s helpful survey of form-critical approaches to the Wisdom literature (pp. 227-41); Peter Enns’ incisive entry on the Book of Ecclesiastes, with its firm insistence that Qohelet’s thought cannot be aligned with any conventional biblical teaching (pp. 121-32); and an excellent article on “Chaos and Death” by Frederick J. Mabie: “The imagery of death as a voracious swallower meets an ironic reversal when we learn that YHWH will permanently ‘swallow up death’. Since death is the ultimate opponent of divine order, the death of death represents the establishment of the ultimate divine order” (pp. 41-54).

While the series’ earlier OT volumes include extended articles for each biblical book, in this volume each biblical book also receives two additional long articles: one on its Near Eastern background, and another on the history of its interpretation. This expanded format produces material which is valuable both for raising important contextual-historical questions, and for opening up questions of theological interpretation.

IVP’s Black Dictionaries have set a new standard for biblical reference works. They are meticulously organised, rigorously researched, accessibly written, and beautifully produced. So forget about all those overrated athletes in Beijing – series editor Dan Reid is the one who really deserves a medal.


Anonymous said...

Quite right on the value of these dictionaries. They have virtually sidelined multi-volume Bible Dictionaries for me. This most recent one is a 5 star volume I wish had been done years ago - but then it would now need revision!

Anonymous said...

I had not seen this series, but now have this one on the way. Thanks for the reference.

Anonymous said...

I only have the first four NT ones but I agree, it is always my first port of call concerning biblical when preparing sermons etc.

Anonymous said...

Mental note "read comments before pressing submit" - of course I meant "first port of call concernal biblical matters"

Anonymous said...

Confess, Ben: Did you read the dictionary in its entirety to give a balanced review?

Ben Myers said...

Terry: "Balanced"? Moi?

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