Probably most readers of this blog already have a large number of books (myself included). I have inherited books from relatives and friends who are pastors and scholars, and I am currently deciding what to keep and what to give away as I know I have an overabundance of books. That being the case, how does a book lover decide if a new book is worth purchasing? If the book is superlative in some way, it merits consideration.
As I write this, I have one Bible dictionary sitting on the left side of my desk, while the glossy new Baker illustrated Bible dictionary sits on the right side. Here is why the new Baker dictionary is worth purchasing: like any Bible dictionary, you will find entries on topics, places, events, and people in the Bible. Greek and Hebrew terms in the entries are transliterated, making this an approachable text. What sets the new Baker dictionary apart from my other dictionary are the quality of illustrations and photos in the book. Where my older dictionary lacks color, favors hand-drawn illustrations, and contains lower quality pictures, the new Baker dictionary greatly assists in bringing the biblical world to life. For visual learners, this is significant. For pastors and teachers, this will be helpful personally and in their teaching. For example, there is an excellent photograph of the Valley of Hinnom which would complement teaching about the foreign gods around Israel. (One disappointment here: separate entries on ‘Ben Hinnom’ and ‘Hinnom, Valley of’ are not cross-referenced, so a person could easily miss this picture’s presence in the book.)
Pictures of biblical locations enable a person to better imagine the setting for an epistle, making the biblical texts seem less abstract and distant. It would be careless to underestimate the value of these images of artifacts and artwork related to the biblical world. The stark photograph of a tabernacle replica at Timnah, in Israel, for instance, would surely enliven discussions about the temple and consecration.
This is a book you are justified in buying. Dictionaries (theological ones and illustrated biblical ones) are a basic element of a solid personal library, in my opinion. I own only a few of these types of dictionaries, so I want to be sure what I have are among the best in their respective categories. Baker’s offers a higher quality of illustrations than what most currently have in their library, and will be a useful tool in various teaching contexts and for various types of students (college, seminary, or lay person). Though I have some sentimental attachment to my old Bible dictionary, it is time to say ‘farewell’ to that in favor of Longman’s beautifully edited book. I have a feeling I will be using this one for decades to come.
Thank you to Baker for the review copy.