Uneven Performance

Unger’s Bible Dictionary, edited by Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, 1957, 1192 pp., $8.95.

The book-jacket describes this work as containing “7000 definitions based on all recent discoveries and latest evangelical scholarship.” The natural inference that this represents an entirely new, up-to-date work is somewhat counteracted by the statement in the preface that it is based upon C. R. Barnes’ “Bible Encyclopedia” which first came out in 1900. The revision and rewriting of this earlier work is then stated to be of such a “drastic nature” as to warrant the substitution of Unger’s name for Barnes’. To your reviewer this seems to have been a mistaken decision; the revision does not appear drastic enough to justify this substitution, and the purchaser who relies upon the very considerable reputation of Dr. Unger to find in this work a really first-class and entirely up-to-date Bible dictionary is going to be somewhat disappointed.

Percentagewise there is rather little of Unger’s independent work, and not all of that is (largely because of limitations of space) up to his own best standard. Even in areas where modern research has contributed much of value, the revision and supplementation has been inadequate. For example, the fairly long article on “Nebuchadnezzar” remains practically the same as it was in Barnes, except for the addition of one short paragraph on the archaeology of Chaldean Babylon and the Ishtar Gate. Perhaps the publication of Wiseman’s work on the Neo-Babylonian Archives appeared a little too late for this dictionary, but surely a figure of Nebuchadnezzar’s importance deserved a fresh treatment on the part of an Old Testament expert like Unger. In the New Testament area, it is perhaps more understandable ...

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