Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians

Article excerpt

Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians. Edited by Patrick W Carey and Joseph T Lienhard. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. 2000. Pp. xiv, 589. $125.00.)

This work, quite accurately described by its title, is intended as a reference tool which introduces readers to the lives and thought of more than 400 Christian theologians. Entries prepared by ninety-seven authors, nearly a third of whom live in Wisconsin, range in length from 250 to 2,000 words (depending on the importance of the subject); they follow, in general, a uniform style, summarizing the pertinent biographical information, describing major theological contributions, and concluding with select bibliographies of primary and secondary works. As matters of editorial policy, theologians alive after 1994, exegetes, canon lawyers, and philosophers of religion have been excluded (though there are nonetheless entries on Rudolf Bultmann and Soren Kierkegaard), and special attention is given to the English-speaking world. The result is a highly reliable and informative research instrument. I am not aware of comparable works in English, and the stylistic consistency of this volume makes it superior on the whole (though not in each entry) to its German counterpart, Wilfried Harle and Harald Wagner's Theologenlexikon: Von den Kirchenvatern bis zur Gegenwart (2nd ed.; Munich: C. H. Beck, 1994).

As is inevitable in a project of this sort, contributions vary in quality. Entries of particular value include those on Peter Abelard (Wanda Zemler-Cizewski), Bernard Lonergan (Matthew Lamb), Origen (Joseph Trigg), Karl Rahner (Robert Masson), William of Ockham (Stephen Brown), and Bradford Hinze's contributions on five nineteenth-century German Catholic theologians. …