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The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford Companions) Hardcover – October 14, 1993

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Companions
  • Hardcover: 932 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (October 14, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195046455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195046458
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.8 x 2.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This latest Oxford Companion contains more than 700 signed entries treating the formation, transmission, circulation, sociohistorical situation, interpretation, theology, uses, and influence of the Bible. Despite its dictionary arrangement and the encyclopedic nature of many of its entries, this volume does not fit the mold of standard Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, which focus primarily on the Bible and on means of understanding it in context. Unlike them, this companion aims to "trace the Bible's ongoing significance in such areas as the arts, law, politics, and literature." Entries written by over 250 leading international scholars reflect the current state of biblical scholarship. Topics are generally well selected, though it is not clear why Mormonism and Christian Science are the only nontraditional Christian groups treated, nor why the Scofield Reference Bible is the only special edition of the Bible considered separately. Still, this well-written, authoritative work will be particularly useful to general readers and to students and scholars working in non-biblical fields.
- Craig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

After covering most of the world's major national literatures and literary genres, with this volume the venerable Oxford Companion series finally addresses perhaps the most famous literary work of all. According to the introduction, The Oxford Companion to the Bible (OCB) "is an authoritative reference for key persons, places, events, concepts, institutions, and realities of biblical times." Taking what is called a "maximalist position," the volume treats "any book or part of a book that is recognized as canonical by any religious community." Editors Metzger, coeditor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha (1991), and Coogan, an associate editor of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, have compiled a work that will stand for some time as a definitive one-volume treatment of the Bible.

The Oxford Companion to the Bible opens with a list of the 267 contributors, most academically affiliated, who come from a variety of religious backgrounds. The volume is arranged alphabetically by topic, with cross-references within articles noted by an asterisk before the word, and many see references scattered throughout the work. All articles are signed. The volume concludes with a bibliography, an index, and 14 color maps (each a two-page spread) with an index. Entries vary greatly in length, from some 200 words for Blasphemy and Fear to more than 22 pages for Literature and the Bible and more than 29 pages for the longest entry, Translations. Many entries are subdivided into separate articles, each with a separate contributor (e.g., Interpretation, History of). Taking into account these separate articles, OCB features 706 articles within 668 entries.

As with other Oxford companions, the work features readable articles that the educated layperson can understand. Although the introduction states that it can be used by "students and teachers in high schools," some articles such as Ecclesiastes, The Book of, which describes the book as "less ecclesial than sapiential," may be difficult for the high school student.

Given the relatively low number of entries compared with other one-volume works on the Bible, it would be unfair to compare OCB with works such as Harper's Bible Dictionary, which contains some 3,700 biblical terms with entries on every name used at least three times in the Bible. OCB goes into greater detail on topics than Harper's but avoids an entry for every person or event. Unique to OCB are such thematic entries as African American Tradition and the Bible, Children's Bibles, Freud and the Bible, and Popular Culture and the Bible. Whereas Women receives 21/2 pages in Harper's, OCB devotes 12 pages to the topic. Traditional entries, such as those on most of the books of the Bible, are dealt with in equally notable fashion.

The one drawback to this volume is the lack of bibliographies at the end of entries. While this is not an unusual practice in Oxford companions, the concluding 114-entry bibliography seems downright meager when confronted with the breadth of the work. Although the subdivision by 13 topics ("History," "Textual Criticism," etc.) within the bibliography helps, one wishes for more. On the other hand, the detailed index is a welcome enhancement (a feature missing from Harper's), allowing the reader to note where, for example, Moses is mentioned throughout the volume. The index also includes each contributor's name with the page numbers written.

Even for libraries that already seemingly have their fill of reference works on the Bible, OCB provides a significant addition to the reference literature, providing a substantial amount of depth at a reasonable price. While Harper's still is adequate for ready reference, The Oxford Companion to the Bible provides more substance on many topics.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Omissions aside, this book lives up to its name.
J. Lindner
If you are looking for a great resource that is reader friendly and yet top scholarship that provides good and accurate information then this book will help you.
Erin J.
A Bible College or Seminary student will probably find this book of great value.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If I had known how much information was in this, I could have skipped all those books I bought on specific bible topics. This is much more than single paragraph summaries of people, places and things in the bible. There are many long, detailed articles on Israeli history, ancient Jewish and early Christian beliefs, all the different sects of Judaism and early Christianity. Most useful are the related articles on different subjects: what does the bible say about death, heaven, hell, women, homosexuality, capitol punishment? Next time you hear someone quoting the bible to support their politcal agenda, you can, in a minute, see what the bible REALLY says about that subject. Objective, thorough, invaluable!
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Oxford University Press has a reputation second to none in the production of scholarly reference works, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. It has certainly upheld that fine reputation for scholarship, objectivity, and authoritative research with its latest 'Oxford Companion to the Bible', edited by Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan.
Pulling together a worthy group of researchers and scholars (the directory of contributors spans seven pages of rather small typeset print), the 'Oxford Companion to the Bible' represents a major work of reference useful in any biblical endeavour. 'Interpretation of the Bible has of course not been consistent, and throughout history the Bible has been used to support contradictory positions on such issues as slavery, the role of women, war and peace, forms of government, and finance. The Companion reflects this diversity: it is consciously pluralistic, and its more than 250 contributors, as well as its editors and editorial advisory board, encompass a wide spectrum of intellectual and confessional perspectives.'
In keeping with the diversity of authorship, the Companion is meant to be useful to a diverse range of Bible readers and religious. The Companion includes systematic treatment of the use, development, and role of the Bible in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions, as well as the influence and significance of the Bible in thematic areas such as the arts, literature, politics, law, history, and culture.
This is not a simple Bible dictionary -- it has encyclopedic entries with in-depth analyses that go beyond mere definition, and contains more than 700 articles, each with authorship noted (so that the perspective can be known from whence the essay's asssertions come).
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. Lindner on January 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Of all the "companions" to the Bible available, this is the most comprehensive. The editors have done a fine job compiling most topics referenced in the Bible into a concise single-volume tome. Each book of the Bible is covered, as well as books of the apochrypha; the list of characters covered is nearly complete; and the many themes of modern religious scholarship is, at least to the novice, very comprehensive. There are a number of maps at the end to rival Biblical atlases.
There are at least two omissions that perhaps should not have been left out. There is no individual entry on Caesar Augustus (though he is mentioned within the context of the Roman Empire). Augustus dominated his world, in fact Herod and Pilate were mere role players within the greater Roman imperial framework. The fact that Herod and Pilate gain more attention in both the Oxford Companion and the Bible, reflects the regionality of the Bible, but for comparison purposes, a specific entry on Augustus would have helped gain perspective. The other omission is the town of Emmaus. In itself this is insignificant, but considering the resurrected Jesus chose this town to first appear is no small matter.
Omissions aside, this book lives up to its name. This is indeed a fine companion to the Bible that any interested person should consider purchasing.
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55 of 67 people found the following review helpful By efftee on November 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
You'd expect a 'companion' to the Bible to be something that you would read or use alongside the bible, perhaps as a guide with background data, some commentary, and other pertinent, salient or supplementary information. That is, however, not at all so with The Oxford Companion to the Bible, which is more a dictionary than anything else, with wide and varied entries concerning biblical topics and other issues laid out in a -- you guessed it -- dictionary format (alphabetically arranged).
Having said that, The Oxford Companion to the Bible is a great referential source of considerable scholastic weight. Articles range from half-page biographies on biblical characters and multi-page synopses of biblical books to a 3-page precise on 'Jung and the Bible' and a massive 21-page entry on 'Literature and the Bible'. Nonetheless, I have no regret buying this title even though it was a misconceived purchase.
As a dictionary, The Oxford Companion to the Bible would have received a 4-star rating, but I must subtract a star for the misleading title -- something you wouldn't expect a reputable and respectable publisher like OUP to err on. I'd recommend The Cambridge Companion to the Bible (Howard Kee, Eric Myers, John Rogerson, Anthony Saldarini; ISBN 0521343690) to anyone who, like me, expects a 'companion' to keep up with a trek through the Bible in a sequentially logical, systematic and unobstrusive manner.
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