Eerdmans have sent along for a test drive the newly published Eerdmans Companion to the Bible. It’s a thoroughly useful work containing everything readers of the Bible need to know in order to rightly introduce themselves to the bible and the scholarship which presently interprets it.
Klyne Snodgrass opines on the opening page – “Given that the Bible is from another time and another culture, all of us need help in understanding the Bible, its culture, and its intent. This Companion will be a valued friend to Bible readers. It is easily accessible and is packed with information and insight from the very best scholars. It provides helpful articles on crucial topics and a pathway through the entire Bible by showing the layout of each book and giving brief explanations of each section in the book. Lay readers of the Bible will love this reference work.”
And he’s right. What he fails to note, however, is that the volume is filled with photos, charts, graphs, maps, sidebars, excurses, and all manner of materials one usually doesn’t find in Handbooks. Fee and Hubbard have done a great job assembling a team of scholars who have, by and large, done a good job themselves with their assignments.
Nevertheless, the volume is, as should be expected, both conservative in its outlook and its contributions. For instance, Claude Mariottini (whom I like very much- he’s a great person and an insightful exegete) writes a piece on history and historiography which, while recognizing the theological intention of the writers of the Hebrew Bible, also wants to assert that the historical tales told are ‘history’. Those who see things otherwise are skeptical and may be more interested in the writers’ ideology than in ‘the historicity of the text or of the sources used’ (p. 89).
Claude certainly will be read sympathetically by the majority of persons who use this volume. And even those who hold to different perspectives will gain from reading it.
When it comes to the biblical text itself, it is ably handled. Each pericope (in both the Old and New Testaments) are briefly explained and that usually without any sort of eisegetical inclination.
The highlight of the volume, though, at least to me, are the many ‘asides’ or sidebars. Interested readers can discover what various theologians/exegetes/historians think about ‘Creation and Modern Science’ or ‘Weapons and Warfare’ or ‘Society and Daily Life in the Old Testament’ or ‘Beginnings of Apocalyptic Literature’ or ‘The Question of Pseudepigraphy’.
Even the Book of Revelation is properly treated, seen, quite rightly, not as some sort of divine roadmap of the future but just as the lead sentence suggests, the unveiling of Jesus Christ.
The maps, I have to say, are crisp and legible, finely detailed and meticulously done. There’s really nothing worse is there than a map one can’t read!
This is an excellent companion volume to the Bible. I’m going to recommend it to my students and the people at our Church. It’s that useful. If it were a car, it would be a very nicely equipped 2009 Mercedes SLS: comfortable, fashionable, reliable, and wondrously made.