The bottom line: A priceless and complete tool whose scope seems limitless and whose breadth excels beyond that of a regular dictionary.
The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary is a fantastic go-to resource for anyone who has a need to learn more about a Biblical word, term, idea, concept, place, person, or topic of interest. Other Bible dictionaries exist, but most fall short of this volume. Why? Because this text breaks through the constraints of a term and definition based dictionary and dives into history, sociology, politics, Biblical interpretation (while also providing context, mission, purpose and analysis of all of the Bible’s books), archaeology and culture, just to give a few examples. The book covers both Testaments and the Apocrypha.
It goes without saying that this is not the type of book that one tends to read cover to cover (I certainly didn’t) so my honest review stems from how useful the dictionary has proven to be as a reference. My only critique is that some terms are given much less attention and space than others, so if you’re looking for a mind-blowing insight on that arcane term mentioned only once, you may leave feeling unfulfilled. On the other hand, it only makes perfect sense that, for example, “The Temple” gets several pages while “Tishbe” gets only a short paragraph.
Potential buyers should keep in mind that the “new and updated” 2011 edition of HarperCollins Bible Dictionary actually contains less information than this version (1996). The former book is also about 100 pages shorter and omits several helpful articles on topics that aren’t really “terms” but derived concepts. Example includes the sociology of both testaments and the field of Biblical criticism.
I think the group that will benefit the most from this book is best stated in the publisher’s description: “Whether you are a pastor, layperson, or a student of scripture, you will find every important name, place, and subject that makes Bible study come to life. From Aaron to Zurishaddai, here are all the people, events, and ideas of biblical times.” If you are a Bible teacher or preacher, this book is a must-have along with a Strong’s Concordance and your favorite commentary on the verses you are studying.
As of February 2015, the fact that this book is available for less than $3.00 (used) is a bargain beyond comparison.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal