New Bible Dictionary — Book Review
D. R. W. Wood, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, D. J. Wiseman, I. Howard Marshall, editors, New Bible Dictionary. 3rd edition. Downers Grove/Leicester: InterVarsity, 1996, xix + 1298 pp.
I have long considered the New Bible Dictionary (NBD) (1st ed., 1962; 2d ed., 1982) to be the best one-volume Bible dictionary available. It was a scholarly treasure-trove of information about almost every conceivable subject relating to the Bible. I have constantly used it for quick reference, as well as to compare information from longer entries in multi-volume Bible encyclopedias. Its list of contributors was a veritable "Who’s Who" in evangelicalism of the British Commonwealth.
This third edition follows in the same tradition and it will now occupy the same position of prominence on my shelf as its predecessors. The new edition adds 20 new contributors (including several Americans), yielding a total of 182; the second edition had 165 contributors, but three are dropped in the third edition.
One finds articles on almost every word or concept in the Bible. If not, the helpful index at the back points readers to places within other articles where such information may be found. The articles are written from an informed evangelical viewpoint, and traditional interpretations are consistently and ably defended. The articles consistently deliver vast amounts of information in a short, concise space.
While one would have hoped for more updating over earlier editions, the editors do state that "a number of fresh entries have been written for this volume" (p. vii), and this is true. This appears to mean that several entries were re-written (I could find no new entries for which none existed in the second edition, although I may simply have missed them). Examples I found of completely re-written entries, by new authors, include "Chronology of the New Testament," "Clean and Unclean," "Ebla," "Essences" and "Law." Some articles are updated by a second contributor (e.g. "English Versions of the Bible"). These new and updated entries are well done, following the same high standards of earlier articles.
For those who own the second edition, I’m not sure that the third edition is an indispensable replacement. However, for those who do not own the NBD at all, the third edition certainly is a must. It is a fine reference tool, providing erudite, irenic evangelical scholarship throughout, and it will richly repay those who consult it.