Bible Reference Books for Ministers
A Review of Biblical Reference Tools
I chose one topic (‘Jubilee’) and wrote a comparative assessment of the treatment the topic receives in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary and D. Bruggemann’s Reverberations of Faith.
Anchor Bible Dictionary
In defining the ‘Year of Jubilee’, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (ABD) covers socioeconomics, theology, exegesis, historicity, ethics and eschatology in it applies to the topic. Well researched, (more interesting?) sermons and more thorough exegetical papers can be developed using this source. Of the four dictionaries reviewed, Anchor is perhaps the best source of this type of information, sans analysis of modern implications. A theologically oriented work, aside from uncommonly interested lay readers, ABD will remain the preserve of theologians.
Harper Collins Bible Dictionary
Brief and concise, the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary (HCBD) gives the basic facts, including proper English pronunciation and the Hebrew derivation. The historical function; the what, when, and why ‘jubilee’ was proclaimed, is listed without detail, and the entire entry comprises one summary paragraph. This dictionary might best be used by anyone unfamiliar with biblical scholarship who requires concise definitions, easily understood. Conversely, theologians may find this quick study a simple refresher, convenient when a straight-forward definition is required. In its brevity, HCBD contrasts sharply to the other three dictionaries in this review.
Reverberations of Faith
Reverberations of Faith is a socio-theological work and editorial analysis. The historicity of jubilee, especially when pertaining to the ‘covenantal imagination of ancient Israel’ is admitted to be unverified. So the opinion expressed in this reference work is by definition partly speculative. ‘Reverberations of Faith’ presents Jubilee as potentially relevant to present-day economics, though it submits this ‘requires immense moral imagination’. A weakness is the leap of faith the reader must make in embracing the interpretation. Any disagreement on their part means the work is potentially less valuable, however, this can also turn to advantage if there is agreement. Regardless, the utility of the work is much in evidence when deadlines are looming. Very useful for crafting sermons, exegetical interpretations and all efforts relating the bible to the present-day, in ways perhaps the unchurched and weekly congregants alike can (often) relate to.
New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible
The New Interpreter’s Dictionary (NID) expends an extra paragraph explaining the evolution of Jubilee as amplified in Isaiah 61 and the synoptic gospels, intimating an eschatological element in the subject. Brief explorations in socioeconomics, exegesis, historicity and ethics are also offered. Like ABD, NID is principally for theologians and is a theological work. Using NID and ABD jointly may comprehensively verify information. NID is much shorter, making it perhaps more useful when time is of the essence.