Vol. 1 - No. 8
by Byron Gage
CHRISTIAN WORDS, by Nigel Turner, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers, 1982, is a book designed to give New Testament words their proper flavoring. It is the premise of the author that these words are used uniquely in the New Testament, often with different meanings than in secular or Classical Greek. This is the old "New Testament Greek" in a new book. Rather than taking words in their natural sense coupled with contextual considerations, and LXX usage, the author seems to define words according to theological ideologies down through the years. You have, therefore, in many instances, definitions of words as they are used in the modern seminary rather than definitions that would be understood at the time of the writing of the New Testament.
The foregoing is not to say that there is no value in this book. It gives insight into the actual meanings and how these meanings have been somewhat changed through the years. This, I think, is very valuable. It is valuable in that it allows us to understand what someone else (sectarian, especially the Calvinist) is thinking when he uses Bible words and seems to mean something other than what he says. One example will suffice to illustrate what I mean. From page 40 we read, "An exact definition of baptisma is not possible. We may be sure, however, that the gift of the Holy Spirit ‑‑‑ whether by the water rite or in a separate part of the one baptismal rite, call it Confirmation or what we will ‑‑‑ is what distinguishes St. John's baptisma from the Christian version."
I would not suggest this book for any but the careful Bible student who has access to other reputable Greek language books.
THE NEW WESTMINSTER DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE, edited by Henry Snyder Gehman, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pa., 1970, is what appears to be an excellent addition to one's library. This is an updated version of a standard reference work which has been in use for more than twenty‑five years. It is concise, yet thorough, and easily read. Its features include (from the dust cover) "more than five thousand words, phrases, and proper names ... more than 450 illustrations ... a new series of maps ... hundreds of new entries ... thorough cross‑referencing..." etc., etc.
Every Christian should have a good Bible Dictionary in his home. It is one of the most useful tools of proper Bible study. It can help so much in preparing for class discussions, teaching, preaching, and just general enlightenment on the who, what, and where of the Bible. Descriptions of Bible lands and peoples, places and things, and the times of their existence will vivify and clarify your studies.
There are several good Bible Encyclopedias and Dictionaries on the market so choosing one and only one is sometimes difficult. May I suggest two dictionaries which have slightly different backgrounds and viewpoints? First, the Davis Dictionary of the Bible and, secondly, the book under review, The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, are both excellent and very useful to me. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia would be a good choice for an encyclopedia.
Although commentaries are good (some commentaries) and useful, I believe that one should first seek to obtain a good reference library. If one knows or has access to the language, history, society, and geography of the Bible and its people, he has a great advantage in his studies. No man ought to teach the Bible without knowing somewhat of the circumstances surrounding its writing. May I encourage you to seek out and obtain reference type books for your library and to use them in all your studies?