Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation

By Hurtado, Larry W. | Journal of Biblical Literature, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation

Hurtado, Larry W., Journal of Biblical Literature

Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, ed. John H. Hayes. 2 vols. Nashville: Abingdon, 1999. Pp. 1 + 653; xxxii + 675. $195.00.

As everyone in the field of biblical studies has probably noted, ours is a time of dictionaries and encyclopedias (and there is even a short entry in this work on Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias across the centuries). This recent contribution to the genre provides a wealth of concisely expressed information and will surely be a handy addition to the reference section of any library serving the needs of students in biblical studies, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, and the scholars who teach them. (It is unfortunate, however, that the title is the same as a slightly earlier work edited by R. J. Coggins and J. L. Houlden [London: SCM, 1990, 1994].) It is not possible in this review to do much more than give some basic description of the coverage and to offer a few comments by way of appraisal.

There are three basic types of entries dealing with (1) the history of the interpretation of writings treated as Scripture by various faith communities, (2) biographies of figures important in the history of biblical studies, and (3) "methods and movements." Each entry has a bibliography and cross-references to other relevant entries. Moreover, entries devoted to important figures also have lists of their works.

A number of the entries on figures and on methods and movements provide handy information that is not so readily accessible elsewhere (but cf. Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters [ed. Donald K. McKim; Downers Grove, IL /Leicester, UK: InterVarsity Press, 1998]). For those such as this reviewer with a particular curiosity about the people who have contributed to the field, there are many entries on figures across the ages, from the ancient world (e.g., Hillel, Akiba, Philo, Justin Martyr, Origen, Eusebius, Augustine, Theodoret, Theodore of Mopsuestia) on through the medieval period (e.g., Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, Aquinas) and into later centuries down to the present, including some on still-living figures (e.g., Brevard Childs, James Barr, Moshe Greenberg, William Farmer, Martin Hengel).

With all that is provided, it is almost churlish to complain about what is omitted. But it is not readily clear why there are certain omissions, both among topics and among figures treated. For example, among my own illustrious predecessors in Edinburgh we have William Manson, but not H. A. A. Kennedy (whose studies on the influence of the LXX upon NT language, on the relevance of Philo, and on the mystery cults as background for Pauline Christianity were pioneering and remain noteworthy). There are entries on figures in classical studies whose contribution was essentially to the study of the background of the NT, such as A. D. Nock and Eduard Norden, but no entry on Franz Dolger or Erik Peterson. We have entries on M.-J. Lagrange and J. Bonsirven, but no entry on Jean Danielou, and there are entries on L. Goppelt, H. Lietzmann, and J. Jeremias, but none on Ethelbert Stauffer. Among major Evangelical figures, we have Merrill Tenney, but, very curiously, no entry on G. E. Ladd, arguably one of the most important figures in the post-World War II American Evangelical effort to enter and engage the scholarly mainstream in biblical studies. Among entries on modern Jewish figures, we have, for example, H. Montefiore and S. Sandmel, but Joseph Klausner does not appear.

Missing figures from the ancient world include Valentinus, Heracleon (apparently the earliest commentary on the Gospel of John), and the second-century Christian Ptolemy (whose Letter to Flora is a remarkably noteworthy hermeneutical statement), although there is a modest-sized entry on "Gnostic" interpretation (which mainly consists of observations based on the Nag Hammadi texts). Likewise, I find no entries on Qumran or Pesher; and I cannot divine where else to look in the work for discussion of what is rather widely recognized as an important body of texts in the history of biblical reception/interpretation.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?