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REVIEWS A DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE. By W. F. R. Browning. Pp. xv + 412. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Cloth, $25.00. This dictionary is designed for students interested in acquiring a deeper knowledge of the most prominent peoples and places found in a Christian Bible translation. Thus, "Old Testament" replaces "Hebrew Scriptures," and entries that could apply both to the Hebrew Bible and to the New Testament typically focus on the New Testament. When looking up "divination," for example, one learns that it was practiced widely in Greece, but finds none of the numerous references to divination in the Hebrew Bible. (One must consult the entry "magic and sorcery" for this.) The entry "resurrection" focuses on Christian perceptions of Iife-afterdeath , but makes no mention of Elijah's resurrection of the widow's son in 1 Kings 17. Under the term "analogy" one fmds that it is "much employed in the Bible" (p. 15), but a discussion of its use begins with Paul's remarks in 1 Cor 10:4. Comparative sources and manuscripts pertaining to the New Testament also are cited more frequently. Thus, one can consult "Nag Hammadi," "Didache," "Byzantine Text," and "A" (for Codex Alexandrinus), but not "Aleppo Codex," "Enuma Elish," or "Gilgamesh (Tablet XI)." Unique to this dictionary are entries outlining scholarly and theological terms, issues, themes, and hermeneutics. Students can acquaint themselves inter alia with historical and narrative criticism, narrative ethics, liberation theology, structuralism, rhetorical criticism, and the proposed Q-source. The inclusion of various hermeneutics is the dictionary's greatest asset, for it synthesizes in a general way information normally found in scattered sources and allows quick access to the diversity of interpretive approaches which the Bible has elicited over the centuries. Nevertheless, two areas of historical critical inquiry are less represented: Jewish exegesis and the most recent trends in biblical hermeneutics. While the author makes clear that his point of departure is a Christian Bible translation and the world of biblical scholarship, entries devoted to Saadia Gaon, Abraham Ibn Ezra, Rashi, and references to peshat, remez, derash, and sod would have provided a historical point of comparison both for some of the early Christian approaches to the biblical text and for many modem hermeneutics as well. This is especially noticeable since space is given to other early exegetes, including Miles Coverdale, Theodore Beza, and William Tyndale. Similarly, while the reader acknowledges the author's "grateful indebted- Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 192 Reviews ness to the achievements of modern critical scholarship" (p. ix) and finds it affirmed in the entries "reader-response criticism" and "deconstruction," entries do not exist for "intertextuality," "inner-biblical exegesis," "folklorist approaches," "ethnoarchaeology," "psychoanalytical criticism," "sociolinguistics," "discourse analysis," or even "philology." One area in which the dictionary is particularly weak is in its treatment of relevant material from the ancient Near East. While one can locate entries for "cuneiform," "Mesopotamia," "Egypt," and even "Ebla," the information provided is far too cursory. For example, the entry "Mari" informs the reader that the 20,000 Akkadian tablets discovered there "give information about the surrounding culture in the time of the Old Testament patriarchs of Genesis" (p. 241), but makes no mention of the similarities between the Mari and Hebrew Bible's prophetic texts. Some sites, like Emar and Nuzi, do not appear at all, despite their relevance for Bible scholars. A lack of reference to Nuzi is particularly glaring since the Nuzi tablets, when coupled with the biblical evidence, place Abraham in the fifteenth century BCE, and not the eighteenth, as asserted by the chronological table at the end of the book. (See conveniently, C. H. Gordon and G. A. Rendsburg, The Bible and the Ancient Near East [4th. ed; New York: Norton, 1997], pp. 109-130.) Similarly, when one consults "exorcism," one fmds the well-known references in the New Testament, but none to its ubiquitous practice as found in Mesopotamian and rabbinic literature. A lack of references such as these regrettably severs the Bible from its Near Eastern context and blurs the relationship between the New Testament and ancient Judaism. The Christological perspective of this material begs the question whether doctrinal concerns underlie the treatment of the information...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 191-193
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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