This year, unlike in previous annual book issues, we are surveying only books relating fairly directly to the Bible and to theology and ethics. Other kinds of books, such as those focusing on topics in the history of Christianity, are to be surveyed in the book issue planned for this fall.

These surveys are intended for the serious Bible student, but we have not restricted ourselves to books for scholars. The books are written from a variety of theological stances, which we normally indicate when pertinent. On page 32, we feature a few books that we think are especially noteworthy and that are written from a more or less orthodox perspective. They deserve a wide circulation.

The number of books may seem excessive, but we have in fact been selective (as many pained authors and publishers could testify). Most of the books were first published in North America during 1975, although a few late-1974 titles crept in, and we have mentioned a small number of reprints. We apologize for any unintentional omissions. Although our comments in these surveys must be quite brief, we remind you that many of these books have been or will be the subject of longer reviews in our regular book sections.

Clearly last year’s major publishing accomplishment in the area of biblical studies was the release of two major encyclopedias by evangelicals. Under the editorial hand of veteran New Testament scholar Merrill C. Tenney, the five-volume Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible leads the way. The ZPEB serves as the conservative counter-part to Abingdon’s four-volume Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (1962). Scholarship is generally adequate, bibliographies are extensive, and the format is pleasing, although the overall impression could have been strengthened by more careful editorial attention to accurate visuals.

Shorter but equally comprehensive is the two-volume Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia edited by C. F. Pfeiffer, H. F. Vos, and J. Rea (Moody). Drawing on many of the same contributors, WBE has a slightly different theological flavor, but only the expert would distinguish the difference. Both sets are good buys, but ZPEB at double the price of WBE is for the slightly more demanding reader. And if you think these two sets create a difficulty in choosing, it should be noted that the same list of contributors will eventually be appearing in the long-in-the-works third complete revision of the five-volume International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Eerdmans).

Another reference work was a fairly comprehensive revision of an old standard. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, originally edited in 1952 by M. S. and J. L. Miller (Harper & Row), has been given a facelift, but its lack of consistent bibliographical help, unevenness of revision, generally crowded format, and more liberally oriented theology will keep it from displacing the New Bible Dictionary (1962) for most of the readers of this survey.

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Hard on the heels of the Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible (1973) comes Edward P. Blair’s Abingdon Bible Handbook. Functioning more like an introduction to the various Bible books than a running commentary, ABH follows fairly standard critical conclusions in the Old Testament section (though with continual reference to conservative alternatives and bibliography) but shows less distance from the author’s conservative roots in handling New Testament materials. There is no question about the author’s goal: he wants to lead the inquiring reader into a viable and intelligent faith in Christ through the witness of the Bible. Blair neither ignores nor appears patronizing toward conservative works, an attitude that we can hope will increasingly mark books of all types. A uniformly conservative survey by William Deal is now reprinted in paperback as Baker’s Pictorial Introduction to the Bible (Baker).

Essentially an archaeological history is Harry T. Frank’s Discovering the Biblical World (Harper & Row). Frank’s book, designed to be read by itself rather than simply as a companion to the Bible, is beautifully illustrated, clearly written, and a worthy companion volume to his Bible, Archaeology and Faith (1971).

William C. Lincoln’s Personal Bible Study (Bethany Fellowship) is a “how to” manual, with no attempt to deal with each book of the Bible. In contrast, the Reader’s Companion to the Bible (Fortress) by Ralph D. Heim gives, in highly digested form, key events, personalities, passages, teachings, and motifs of each book.

The Family Bible Study Book (Revell) edited by Betsy Scanlan is a house-wife’s collection of daily devotions for families, set out in a “this is how you go about it” format. A fine new Encyclopedia of Bible Stories (Holman) comes from the British Scripture Union, featuring more than a hundred short narratives retold by Jenny Robertson. Gordon King has provided good illustrations in full color.

Unlike anything else is Getting Straight About the Bible (Abingdon), a short work in which Horace R. Weaver discusses subjects from creation through apocalyptic literature and extraterrestrial travel. Taking on everyone from atheistic Russian astronauts, who didn’t find God in the stars, through Hal Lindsey, who finds fulfilled prophecy in too many places, to Erich von Däniken, who invents gods where they are not needed, Weaver has written a most stimulating and delightful book.

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John R. Link in Help in Understanding the Bible (Judson) provides us with a manual as unhelpful as some of the others are helpful. Beginning with many of the right questions, Link, a Baptist, manages before he is finished to muddy the waters, coming up with such obfuscations as “if archaeological evidence would be found to prove that there was a general flood at the time of Noah, the value of the biblical story would be weakened, to say the least”! As with so many other statements attempting to explain faith in a historical vacuum, how and why this is so is never made very clear.

Probably the easiest way for the average minister or seminarian to learn what is involved in various forms of biblical criticism is through the Fortress Press series of paperbacks, Guides to Biblical Scholarship. As an introduction to the complete series we now have The Historical-Critical Method by Edgar Krentz. The author, a Missouri Synod Lutheran, represents the “moderate” wing of his denomination, and his book reflects a slight defensiveness as a result, but he is fair and complete in considering the issues.

In the tradition of his Crash Go the Chariots (1972), Australian Clifford Wilson has issued another scorcher. That Incredible Book, the Bible (Moody) is designed for the mass-market paperback trade. This time the enemy is not von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? but a variety of attacks on the uniqueness and reliability of the Bible. For a book so trendy and fast-paced, Wilson’s little volume is remarkably well informed. Evangelical apologists, lamentably given to stretching or selectively using archaeological material, would do well to consider the commendable caution Wilson exercises.

A lavishly illustrated coffetable book by the noted Israeli archaeologist Benjamin Mazar is entitled The Mountain of the Lord (Doubleday). Although not a detailed discussion of technical data, this survey of the holy city of Jerusalem through the ages is clear, accurate, and authoritative. Mazar’s own work in the temple area, carried on since 1968, assures a wealth of fresh material. A similar book, but by a non-specialist, focuses on The Temple of Jerusalem. The author is Joan Comay (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston). A brief Historical Atlas of Jerusalem by Dan Bahat (Scribner’s) covers down to the present.

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Two notable paperbacks are designed to help us sort out the mass of available translations. Both give the reader an opportunity to decide for himself. So Many Versions? by Sakae Kubo and Walter Specht (Zondervan) is clearly the more technical, being an extensive review of all the major twentieth-century versions. The authors have taken pains to comment on every major questioned reading, comparing version with version and then with the original text or texts. Their closing section presents helpful comments on the text; it serves as a refutation of current passionate but misleading defenses of Textus Receptus. What Bible Can You Trust? (Broadman) is less detailed, though equally helpful. An excellent chapter by veteran translator Eugene Nida tells why translations are not all the same, and this is followed by a chapter detailing the reasons for each newer translation, in the words of those who did the translating.

The Face of Christ in the Old Testament by Georges A. Barrois (St. Vladimir’s Seminary) interacts with contemporary scholarship and uses the messianic theme as a foundation for an Old Testament theology. Barrois has given us what is one of the first biblical theologies issued by an Eastern Orthodox scholar. Protestants, who will not always concur with his dependence on tradition, will nevertheless find this a useful short introduction to the subject. Another book ties the Testaments together under the familiar rubric of Grace and Torah (Fortress). The well-known Lutheran professor Jacob M. Myers returns to the Old Testament to find that Gospel preceeds law from the beginning, a pattern followed right through to the New Testament.

The Apocalyptic Movement by Walter Schmithals (Abingdon) is the translation of an influential German book that links the Testaments and seeks to understand both the background and the message of biblical apocalyptic (principally Daniel and Revelation). It should be noted that Schmithals’s views are very eccentric and speculative in many details and are not accepted by the majority of other scholars. The book should be used with some caution. Still, it is an important one and should be included in theological libraries.

Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne (Eerdmans) is a potpourri of essays by twenty-eight former students of Merrill C. Tenney of Wheaton Graduate School. Despite the variegated nature and inevitably unequal quality of the contributions, the volume offers exceptionally good value and should be of interest to all serious students of the Bible and the early Church.

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Biblical Images in Literature edited by Roland Bartel (Abingdon) looks at fiction, poetry, and drama, examining biblical motifs in such authors as Melville, Hawthorne, Vonnegut, Kafka, Eliot, Twain, and MacLeish. The editorial interest lies in the use of common biblical themes rather than quotations or allusions, and we have here a most worthy companion to last year’s Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives. These are the first two volumes of a series called The Bible in Literature Courses.

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