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The Oxford Companion to the Bible ed. by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. (review)
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BOOK REVIEWS347 envelops us... At such a moment, astounding though it seems, we experience wonder before the world; we experience the sacred in the world" (p. 180). This is accompaniment. LaSaIIe CollegeFRANCIS BERNA, O.F.M. Philadelphia The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. vi + 874 pp.+ Bible Maps. $49.95. The same professional and scholarly standards that have produced The New Oxford Annolaled Bible and The Oxford Bible Alias one now sees reflected as well in Oxford University Press's: The Oxford Companion ?? the Bible (hereafter abbreviated as OCB), edited by Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan. It contains more than 700 informative articles written by 250 scholars, many of whom are renowned in their respective fields of study. The nicely bound, one-volume OCB offers the Franciscan family interested in biblical sources a scholarly, and for the most part balanced, gender-sensitive, critical view of entries, most of which one finds in your standard bible dictionary of its type. There are, however, a number of more unfamiliar yet exciting and interesting articles that distinguish this bible dictionary from the rest of comparable size in its field. These entries include: "Computers and the Bible," "Curious Bibles," "Everyday Expressions from the Bible," "Family Bible," "Jung and the Bible," and "Politics and the Bible." Moreover, another distinguishing feature of the OCB is the thoroughness with which a one-volume dictionary has analyzed such subjects, among others, as: "Canon," "Jesus Christ," "Myth," and the "Synoptic Problem." However, the OCB's modest length does have its drawbacks. Smaller topics that one would like to see treated are unfortunately absent; e.g., Bronze Age, Copper, Kidron, Lampstand, Pella, and perhaps even more unfortunate, many important larger topics are treated not under their own respective headings, but as part of other 348BOOK REVIEWS articles, and as a result, do not receive adequate coverage in the opinion of this reviewer. Some of these would include: Beatitudes, Documentary Theory, Exegesis, Hellenism, Millenarianism, Palestine, Reconciliation. The Index provides valuable information on where to find topics that are not treated separately, but are covered in other articles. In general, the length of the topic entries corresponds well to the importance that most would give to the respective topics. However, a few of the topics in the volume receive what seems to be an exaggerated treatment in comparison to other equally important subjects that are given less space. These would include: "History of Interpretation," "Jerusalem," "Literature and the Bible," and "Translations." Some of the articles, too, display an unevenness of development. For example, in the article on "Biblical Theology," the Old Testament section dealing with Wisdom and Apocalyptic is too briefly treated when compared to the analysis of other sections of the same article that are more thoroughly presented; e.g., the Pentateuch. Likewise, it is important that one use the OCB in conjunction with one or another critical bible dictionary to supplement, further balance, and even correct the slant or point of view developed in various articles. Five examples are worth mentioning here. (1) In the article on "Marriage," one can come away with a rather negative picture of St. Paul's understanding of marriage that is inadequately nuanced by the article's author. Moreover, there is no consideration of Gen. 1.27-28, and only a passing reference to Ephesians 5. (2) In the article on "Eschatology" little or no consideration is given to the possibility of extra-biblical influence on the development of Old Testament eschatological belief. (3) In the Ethics section of the article on "Covenant," little if any consideration is given to the differences of form and ideology between covenant and extrabiblical treaties. (4) The treatment of inspiration in the article "Inspiration and Inerrancy" insufficiently considers a thoroughly Catholic position of inspiration that appreciates a dynamic interplay between the divine and human author(s) of the Bible. (5) In the entry on "Creation," the author is insufficiently critical concerning the existence of a royal enthronement feast in Israelite religion. BOOK REVIEWS349 In sum, the OCB adds another to the number of relatively recent and very recent bible dictionaries, the best of which...