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.
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
) "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.