Book Notes

I. I was recently overjoyed to learn that a revised edition of J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism was released a short few weeks ago by Eerdmans. Thus far, all available copies of this work have been simple photostatic reprints of the 1923 edition. Not so here: the full text has been reset for this revised edition, and a short but informative foreword by Carl Trueman has been added. To view a PDF sample of the new edition of this classic work that includes Trueman’s Foreword and Machen’s Introduction, please follow the link.

II. Readers of this blog already know that I often lie awake at night wondering what kinds of projects the infallible Moisés Silva may be up to from his retirement in Litchfield, MI. Well, just yesterday I discovered some exciting news in this regard. For some years now, Zondervan’s “author bio” for Moisés Silva has noted that he is serving as the revising editor for the  5-volume Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (originally published in 1975; ed. Merrill C. Tenney). I have never before been able to find news on this project, but yesterday a simple Google search lead me to, where I learned that all five volumes of the new edition are slated to appear in October 2009! I eagerly look forward to acquainting myself anew with this helpful resource, soon to be re-published under the able editorship of our infallible hero.

24 responses to “Book Notes

  1. It is absolutely necessary to point out that the first edition of Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible is available from Christian Book Distributors for the shockingly low price of $39.99.

    Even though the new edition is coming out, both Esteban and I agree that this resource is extremely well-done and very useful, particularly in a pastoral context, which Esteban knows firsthand. We both admire its consistency, as well, a quality that is sorely lacking in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, now the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. The Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible is precisely the tool that a believer needs, one not overburdened with the kind of scholarship that should be qualified but seldom is, preferring rather to see itself as axiomatic. This is the kind of resource that will be an excellent addition to any church’s Sunday School or Adult Education program, and particularly as a tool in catechism for those who are unfamiliar with the Bible. While the viewpoint is conservative, it is not overtly any particular “flavor” of conservative. It’s a great set. And so inexpensive!

    Like Esteban, I am a fan of the indefatigable Moisés Silva. His academic fingers are everywhere, always surprising me with his interests, to which he devotes a consistent intensity and quality. I look forward to this new edition of the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, and even moreso to Silva’s rumoured multi-volume commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

    Esteban, you should simply appear on the good professor’s doorstep to announce to him that you will not leave that spot until he has completed the commentary on Galatians! Call it a “commentary-in” or something.


  2. Anytime any of you want to start a long-term protest at Silva’s door until he agrees to finish the Galatians commentary, let me know! I think it would without a doubt be the most important commentary on Galatians out there for decades; alas, when I emailed the infallible M. Silva about this aforementioned commentary a few years ago he implied that he had given up on it. Where did you hear rumors about a multi-volume effort?


  3. Kevin: So would you suggest picking up the first volume of the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia at the low cost from CBD with the revised edition so close to publication? Or would it be more prudent to wait for the new edition?


  4. Kevin> Thanks for writing this! I intend to turn the bulk of your comment into a post in the morning, as an expansion of this post.

    Regarding the multi-volume work on Galatians, unless you’ve chanced upon information not yet known to me, I’m afraid that our friend Nick is right: our infallible hero, beset by time, the awesome competitor (as he himself put it), seems to have given up on his youthful project (see Interpreting Galatians, p. 11). But your suggestion of a “commentary-in” in Litchfield is fantastic, and I started to plan the logistics of such an endeavor as soon as I read your comment!

    Nick> Excellent, comrade! I live in Flint, MI, which according to Google Maps is some 2.5 hrs from Litchfield. Meet me here and we’ll set out on our pilgrimage!

    As I’ve noted before on this blog, what I’m hoping for is to hear some day that Silva hasn’t given up on the Galatians commentary that he was writing for the BECNT series. I don’t think I could go on living if I came to find out it will never see the light of day.

    Oh, and thanks for stopping by The Voice of Stefan, the internet’s #1 center for the propagation of the good news of Moisés Silva’s infallibility. ;-)


  5. Oh silly boys: Faith is the substance of things unseen!

    Have faith!

    And have a “commentary-in” so show your solidarity with the Spirit!

    Nick, I’d go ahead and wait for the new edition, since it’s so close, anyway. And at that point, I’m sure the price for the old one isn’t going to go up. If anything, it might drop even more, and you could get it even cheaper. $40 for five thick volumes of about 1,000 pages each is an absolute steal, though. I doubt the new one will be so affordable. But it’ll certainly be good.

    Esteban, it’ll be good to see what you have to say! As always! And what you have to say on Baur, too, when you get to it.


  6. Yes, it will be good to see what Esteban has to say on Baur! Kevin, Esteban told me that if you called him a chicken he’d get started on that, so go ahead and let the name calling commence!


  7. You asked for it. Esteban, you chicken!

    Try to use guilt! We’ll all be deeply disappointed if he doesn’t continue the project to completion. Such anticipatory excitement for such a treatment from such a scholar should not be disappointed.

    And now I’ll share with you my own experience with the scholar who thinks he isn’t going to do something. In the last semester that Jacob Milgrom was teaching (which was also my last undergraduate semester), I asked him if he was going to complete his Leviticus commentary, the first volume of which had just been published, to all our delight. He replied, “Well, Kevin, it took me fifty years to write the first volume.” Left hanging was his then-poor health and his age of 86, I think it was. However, his health improved (he is indeed living in Israel now and still writing articles!), and as we can all appreciate, he did complete the commentary, in well under 100 years.

    Hope springs eternal! Professor Silva may yet surprise himself, and the rest of us, quite pleasantly.


  8. I find your praiseworthy sentiments for Silva very interesting. I once emailed him a decade ago, back when he was at GCTS. I asked him about a second edition of the Philippians commentary, but at the time he said that will wait until the Galatians volume was completed. So we’re still waiting on the Galatians volume, but at least I’m glad to have the revised edition of Philippians. Wasn’t Hoener’s commentary on Ephesians taken out of BECNT because it was too long? I doubt they would really publish multiple volumes on Galatians even if it was written by the venerable Silva.


  9. Nick> Thanks a lot, man. Now I’ve been publicly called a chicken on my own blog. ;-)

    Kevin> Stick and stones, etc.! Well, we’ll see. As you know, you I’m in the middle of a translation project right now, but once that’s finished, I might tackle Baur — with a little help from our infallible hero.

    Your story about Milgrom is most inspiring. May Silva also live to be a 106, and may he give us the Galatians commentary! Meanwhile, my heart has started to hope for something new recently. Greg Beale has given up the Wessner Chair in Biblical Studies at Wheaton to go to Westminster Seminary, and a search committee has been formed to fill the vacancy. Would that Moisés Silva were hired for it! I would apply there at once. It’s not impossible, you know — his star student, Karen Jobes, teaches at the Wheaton Grad program. Arise from retirement, O infallible one!

    Brandon> I too emailed him a decade ago at GCTS, not to ask anything important, but to offer a swooning sacrifice of thanksgiving. He was most gracious. ;-)

    Yes, that is precisely what happened with the Hoehner commentary, as I mentioned in a previous post. Noting that the BECNT commentary on Galatians would now be written by Moo (and not by Silva, as previously announced), I said there that my hope is that SIlva’s commentary had just grown too large for the series (like Hoehner’s) and that it will be published as an independent volume. Once again, here’s hoping!


  10. So, Esteban and Kevin — is the Z. Pictorial Encyclopedia actually good, in your estimation? I have to tell you that the images I saw on Amazon and CBD made it look like it was for high-school students. Is it a set that you actually use?

    I bought the Anchor Bible Dictionary right after it came out as a complete set, and it was at that point the most expensive book set I had ever purchased (back then, I was more cautious about buying expensive books). It was worth it — it is still a set I consult regularly. You are right that it has flaws, but I am unaware of anything better in English.


  11. Theophrastus, I do think it is good as an introductory level dictionary. Much of the Anchor Bible Dictionary is too complex for a pastoral setting like Sunday School or church library, for instance. It wouldn’t be sufficient for scholarship, but for “normal people” I think it’s excellent. It’s certainly got excellent coverage in the biographical articles, which simply follow the narrative and present what a reader of the Bible (as opposed to a source critic or other atomizing reader) would learn about a particular character or place.

    In that, I think it plays a valuable role. I would put the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in the same category as Olmstead’s History of the Persian Empire, which latter is basically a compilation and harmonization of all the classical information (and whatever modern archaeology had to say by 1948). Olmstead is necessary reading before one then goes on to read Briant’s From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, which is an extended critique of the classical narrative, of which assumes (and requires!) knowledge. The Anchor Bible Dictionary is like this to a certain degree, though not as strongly, in reflecting a correction (at least in the more articles on various forms of criticism) of a straight narrative reading of the Bible, which it occasionally references, but also doesn’t present.

    At least that’s my take on it. I pop it open every once in a while and use it, but I do use the ABD much more often, as I have the electronic version, which is so much easier to use. I think part of the fun of the ZPEB (le zee-peb!) is that it refreshingly reflects a sturdy faith rather than the tedious studied agnosticism of things like the ABD. Everyone should be required to dive into such on occasion.

    Like you, I think the ABD was the most expensive bibliographic purchase that I’d ever bought to that point (though I always tended to think in terms of cost per volume). I think I got mine in 1998. I bought it from a local bookstore (the, alas, now-defunct Graduate Theological Union bookstore in Berkeley), and carried it uphill to home. They fortunately gave me a big box to carry it in. By the end, I couldn’t bend my arms at first! But what a delight it was to finally have that set. About two or three years later, I got the electronic one from Logos, which is searchable, etc, and which has the added benefit that some of the pictures are actually in color, whereas they were black and white in the printed volumes themselves, and some are much larger (and/or may be enlarged) than in the printed volume.

    I just recently picked up the single-volume Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, edited by David Noel Freedman, and find that to be something of an abridged ABD. It’s a good one, too.


  12. Theophrastus> I was going to say that I regret not being able to answer until now, but I really don’t, since my delay gave Kevin the chance to answer at length. I fully agree with his assessment.

    I no longer own a copy of this set, but back when I had it, I consulted it fairly often to refresh my memory on any number of points without having to turn to more specialized works. This was particularly useful to me in the preparation of sermons and Bible studies, and even in my private reading of the Bible. For this kind of quick reference I now turn to the Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, which Kevin mentioned above, or to another volume that I will mention below. I look forward to obtaining a copy of the new edition of the Pictorial Encyclopedia not only because it was edited by Moisés Silva, but also because, given that there are five volumes, more subjects are included and the articles are often longer than those in the one-volume works. (All at once: “Thank you, Captain Obvious!”)

    I should also mention that I bought a copy of this set for the library of one of the churches I served. Like Kevin, I think it’s an invaluable resource for the non-specialist.

    And speaking of Bible dictionaries, since both of you enjoy the Eerdmans Commentary of the Bible, I thought I’d mention this: there is a companion one-volume Bible dictionary that was published in 1962 under the title New Bible Dictionary and edited by the late J. D. Douglas. (The original title of the Eerdmans Commentary was the New Bible Commentary.) A second edition of it was published under the editorship of F. F. Bruce, J. I. Packer, N. Hillyer, D. Guthrie. A. R. Millard, and D. J. Wiseman in 1982. This is the edition I own. And further, a third edition edited by Millard, Packer, Wiseman and I. H. Marshall appeared in 1996.

    Incidentally, there is also a third edition of the New Bible Commentary, published in 1994. This was edited by G. J. Wenham, J. A. Motyer, D. A. Carson, and R. T. France, and bears the subtitle “21st-Century Edition.” I have never felt the need to replace the delightful second edition, though!


  13. Thanks. I do in fact think that Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible is the best one-volume general commentary. I also own Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, which I think is pretty good; but I generally find myself using the ABD.

    I’m a little confused by your discussion of the Eerdmans Commentary and the New Bible Commentary. Are you saying that at some point the New Bible Commentary split and produced two sequels — one of which was the Eerdmans and the other of which was the New Bible Commentary, 3rd edition? I think it is strange, because I note the Eerdmans copyright page acknowledges no earlier editions, and I didn’t see any reference in the Preface either; also the Eerdmans includes an ecumenical (Protestant/Catholic/Jewish) set of contributors — something I don’t normally associate with IVP (New Bible Commentary) publications.


  14. By the way, you’ve undoubtedly seen the description at Amazon ($176 + free shipping).

    The Zondervan page is here.

    Oddly, the description of both the old and new editions is almost identical:

    Old edition (Zondervan web site):

    An extended reference work with 242 contributors, this encyclopedia includes over 1500 photographs and illustrations and nearly 300 maps. All information is cross-referenced and cited along with bibliographies and references to significant Greek and Hebrew words.

    The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, the result of more than ten years of research and preparation, provides Bible students with a comprehensive and reliable library of information. Varying viewpoints of scholarship permit a well-rounded perspective on significant issues relating to doctrines, themes, and biblical interpretation. Well-organized and generously illustrated, this encyclopedia will become a frequently used resource and reference work because of its many helpful features: – More than 5,000 pages of vital information of Bible lands and people – More than 7,500 articles alphabetically arranged for easy reference – Hundreds of full-color and black-and-white illustrations, charts, and graphs – Thirty-two pages of full-color maps and hundreds of black-and-white outline maps for quick perspective and ready reference – Scholarly articles ranging across the entire spectrum of theological and biblical topics, backed by recent archaeological discoveries – Two hundred and thirty-eight contributors from around the world. The editors have brought to this encyclopedia the fruit of many years of study and research.

    New edition (Zondervan web site):

    The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible has been a classic Bible study resource for more than thirty years. Now thoroughly revised, this new five-volume edition provides up-to-date entries based on the latest scholarship. Beautiful full-color pictures supplement the text, which includes new articles in addition to thorough updates and improvements of existing topics. Different viewpoints of scholarship permit a wellrounded perspective on significant issues relating to doctrines, themes, and biblical interpretation.

    The goal remains the same: to provide pastors, teachers, students, and devoted Bible readers a comprehensive and reliable library of information. • More than 5,000 pages of vital information on Bible lands and people • More than 7,500 articles alphabetically arranged for easy reference • Hundreds of full-color and black-and-white illustrations, charts, and graphs • 32 pages of full-color maps and hundreds of black-and-white outline maps for ready reference • Scholarly articles ranging across the entire spectrum of theological and biblical topics, backed by the most current body of archaeological research • 238 contributors from around the world

    It’s all very strange — the old edition description claims at one place 242 and at another 238 contributors — and the latter number is the exact same for the new edition description.


  15. You’re very welcome, Theophrastus!

    I found the New Bible Dictionary history puzzling, too. I’m not familiar with that one. I think perhaps that the old Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary (which I saw when searching for the Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible) is what Esteban has in mind. It sounds more like the kind of dictionary that would fit with IVP.

    Perhaps the Zondervan Blurb Production Team was all on vacation, so Courtney the Office Manager took over on this one.

    I would much more have enjoyed the number being 318.


  16. Gentlemen, you are quite right (of course)! I had the earlier Eerdmans Bible Commentary (=New Bible Commentary, 2nd ed.) and the more recent Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible mixed up. My apologies for the confusion! And all this time I thought you were talking about the same book — well, this only means that I have to add another title to my wish list.

    Kevin jokes about Courtney the Office Manager, but alas, I’m afraid he’s closer to the truth than he imagines. It was once my lot to work with a lovely young woman who eventually went to work for Zondervan. Now, again, she was truly a delightful person, but she had zero training (or interest) in biblical and theological studies, and her general approach to critical and theological issues was the “just give me Jesus” of the mega-church variety. Well, this same young woman ended up working at the Zondervan Bible department, where she was one of the people entrusted with editing study Bible notes. She told me, in her pristine innocence, that it was her job to go over the notes before they went to the editor, and that if he she didn’t like or understand the note, she just got rid of it or rewrote it. I was speechless. Now, I’m sure that doesn’t happen with high-profile study Bibles like the (T)NIVSB or the Archaelogical Study Bible, but that did put the fear of God in me.

    TC> You’re welcome!


  17. Wow. My jaw dropped open at that “she just got rid of it or rewrote it.”

    Now, I’m sure that doesn’t happen with high-profile study Bibles like the (T)NIVSB or the Archaelogical Study Bible….

    (snort) Wanna bet?


  18. For the record, I wish to state that it is Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible and Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible which I own, and which I recommend for those desiring single-volume editions. (I can see that I was sloppy in my recital of titles above.)

    I am with Kevin on the topic of Zondervan study Bibles. While many Zondervan study Bibles are spectacular examples of the art of layout (no doubt due to the fact that many of these, as well as most Evangelical study Bibles, are now prepared by the Livingstone Corp. — a perfect triumph of form over content) the publisher appears indifferent to the editorial content.

    In particular, the Archaeological Study Bible, with which I have spent some time, is a simply horrible volume. I have found multiple errors on almost every single page and regard it as a terrible choice for pedagogical purposes (including autodidactic purposes) — it is actually worse than nothing since giving misinformation (and highly selective information) is worse than giving no information at all.

    I must recount the story told by Rick Mansfeld — after a commenter “Larry” pointed out to him that the ASB had the Rosetta Stone upside down, Rick complained to Zondervan. In subsequent editions, Zondervan printed a different image of the Rosetta Stone — in mirror image.

    As a very simple example, I do not think that anyone reading only the ASB can properly understand what a mikvah is (which, by the way, is spelled in various ways in the ASB with absolutely no indication to the reader), its archaeological or religious significance to ancient or contemporary Judaism, or its relationship with the ritual of baptism.

    I further note that my comments apply irrespective of whether one is a fundamentalist, conservative, liberal, or atheist, and applies regardless of whether one wish to approach Scripture from an academic, spiritual, literary, or historic perspective. It is simply, an often incomprehensible work full of contradictory expository passages that proposes positions that no serious scholar — orthodox or agnostic — holds to. Its editor has faced multiple serious accusations of plagiarism (and, although he was happy to put his name on the book, obviously did not bother to read the text), and a selection of notes from the NIV Study Bible assembled in a hodgepodge without regard for meaning (or harmonization with the added materials of the ASB.

    My goodness, it has spelling errors on almost every page.

    But it does look pretty.


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