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Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Premier Reference Series) Hardcover – Illustrated, February 6, 2011
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From the Back Cover
The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary provides a visually stimulating journey for anyone interested in learning more about the world of the Bible. Through the articles, sidebars, charts, maps, and full-color images included in this volume, the text of the Old and New Testaments will come alive for you as never before. As a condensation of the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, the information contained within this reference work is solid and biblically sound. The material is based completely on the NIV and cross-referenced to the King James Version, and it contains over 600 entries, 400 four-color photographs, charts, and illustrations, 50 four-color maps, and a Scripture index ... making this wonderful Bible study resource a must-have whether you're a general reader of the Bible, a pastor, or a student.
About the Author
J. D. Douglas was the revising editor of The New International Dictionary of the Bible and editor of The New Bible Dictionary. He was editor-at-large for Christianity Today.
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So, since my two favorite dictionaries (above) didn't meet the need, and since, I wanted an actual "hold it in your hand" resource, I started looking carefully for a practically oriented Bible Dictionary. After looking at all of the Bible Dictionaries here (Unger, Nelson, Tyndale, Baker, Holman, etc), I became highly frustrated because there are so many and it seems impossible to tell the difference. They don't say what kind of unique spin or benefit they have, aside from how many illustrations or articles. So I drove over to the library of the nearby seminary and browsed through every Bible dictionary on the shelf for an afternoon (including the classics). I took several example articles (Aaron, Shechem, Midianites, Jericho) of things I was interested in and compared the quality of the articles. Honestly, for the most part the differences were not significant, and when they were, it was unpredictable which dictionary would be best.
Eventually, I started to narrow down the choices to just the The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary and this one. Both are comprehensive resources which feel great in your hand and to read, with good coverage of all important subjects. By contrast the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, while well illustrated, feels a bit like a toy. Coverage is shallower, articles are shorter. I might pick that one for homeschool use. The old ISBE (Orr not Bromiley), Smith, and Easton are all great resources, which you can and should use on e-sword or some similar online program, but for the hold in your hand use, it was this or Baker.
So eventually, to break the tie, I started paging through the two books, looking at what was covered, and what was said. Over time it became clear that Zondervan was just deeper. On the whole the articles are more substantial. Baker occasionally has a really good literature insight (such as pointing out the recent literary discovery that Haman was an Amalekite) but these were more like window dressing on a dictionary that is not as strong. Perhaps this is because the Zondervan is actually an abridgement of the longer The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible: Revised Full-Color Edition I looked at that as well, also. I concluded that the main difference was that the Dictionary leaves out some of the major multi-page type articles in favor of staying on "dictionary" topics, which are what I wanted anyway.
I'm saying all of this to save you the intense work that I went through. If you are looking for a modern one-volume Bible dictionary, this is the one.