This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2007 vol. 164 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
The Westminster Theological Wordbook of the BibleWestminster John Knox Press, Louisville September 30, 2003
Besides serving as editor of this book Gowan wrote several of the entries. Contributors to this volume include a number of senior scholars, such as Ronald Clements and I. Howard Marshall, as well as junior scholars, pastors, and translators. All the articles are written by specialists in the subject, which gives the essays significant depth of content and import.
In the preface Gowan explains that this book is distinguished from the many Bible and theological dictionaries now available “by its focus on theology, for it has been defined so that in a volume of modest size theological articles of some depth could be offered. The words theological wordbook define it exactly. It is a ‘wordbook,’ and as such it does not offer articles on broad and general theological topics” (p. vii). Based on the New Revised Standard Version, it includes “all the English words of any theological significance in that translation, with reference to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek terms that those words translate” (ibid.). Knowledge of the original languages is not necessary to understand these entries; they are written for English speakers. Yet those familiar with the original languages will also find these essays helpful. These scholars are skilled communicators, making their work accessible to both experts and novices.
Not every biblical word has a separate entry. However, the volume is carefully cross-referenced, linking together synonyms and related terms in a single entry. This helps the reader who is looking for terms within a semantic field or terms with theological connections to other words. As a result most of the entries are several pages in length. This gives readers significant content as well as biblical context for the topics.
Just about the time a person may think he has enough reference works, along comes one that fills a significant niche. This is that kind of book. It is an excellent resource and worthy to be added to pastors’ and teachers’ theological libraries. It also would be a good first choice if one wants to begin to build a collection of useful theological and biblical dictionaries. Several excellent multivolume wordbooks are available; this book does not replace those more comprehensive works. But this single-volume book is economical and accurate and thus highly recommended. Gowan is Robert Cleveland Holland Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
—Glenn R. Kreider