The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L.Cross and E. A. Livingstone (Oxford University Press, 1,786 pp.; $125,hardcover). Reviewed by John Wilson.
Yes, $125 is a lot of money, but your college library, your public library,even your church library should make room in the budget for this indispensablereference work. First published in 1957, with a second edition in 1974, thedictionary has been extensively revised for this third edition. The 6,000-plusentries cover church history, theology, and a wealth of related topics, witha particularly wide range of biographical subjects. In sum, this is a resourcedestined to be used often—not a mere dust-gatherer.
A distinctive feature of this dictionary is the extensive bibliographicalinformation it provides. If you're seeking an account of the Coptic church,for example, you will find a concise overview of its history and currentstatus, but this is followed by a bibliography almost as long as the entryitself. Here and throughout, the dictionary is designed to serve both generalreaders and those of a scholarly bent. And while its primary use will befor one-stop reference, the volume is also eminently browsable. Any giventwo-page spread offers a rich cross section of Christian history, belief,and practice.
That said, there are warnings to issue and quibbles to air (though not enoughroom here for either—nor to single out many outstanding entries). This isvery much a British production. American subjects are treated, certainly,but they get short shrift (see, for example, the Anglo-centric entry forEvangelicalism). pc-speak occasionally intrudes, as in the entry for FeministTheology ("Issues about pregnancy-termination, the use of fetal tissue,artificially assisted human reproduction and ethical questions arising fromdevelopments in human genetics are integral to the feminist-theological agenda").
Epigonation? Glad you asked. In the Eastern Church (well-represented throughoutthis volume), this is "a lozenge-shaped vestment, formed of cardboard coveredwith cloth and decorated with a cross (and sometimes also with elaboratelyembroidered icons), hanging from the right side." If you see someone wearingone, he is probably a bishop, an archimandrite, or an archpriest. It's handyto know these things.
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