The NIV is accurate, reads well, communicates clearly, and is selling briskly.

The outstanding publishing event of 1978 was the completed New International Version (NIV) of the Bible (Zondervan). Produced by an interdenominational, international, evangelical committee under the auspices of the New York International Bible Society, the NIV has already received wide publicity in the pages of this journal (October 20, 1978, issue) and elsewhere. While it is certainly true that this or any other translation of the Bible will have some deficiencies, we believe that the NIV should and will be widely accepted. Many have felt the need for a standard new translation for the English-speaking world, and it is the prayerful hope of the sponsors that the NIV will meet this need. Whether this happens will not be determined by church officials—or book reviewers—but by the Bible-reading public. In our judgment the NIV is accurate, reads well, communicates clearly, and we hear it is selling briskly.

The Eerdmans’ Family Encyclopedia of the Bible (Eerdmans) edited by Pat Alexander is as beautiful as it is useful. Chock-full of color illustrations—photographs, maps, charts, drawings, and other material—it contains accurate and up-to-date information on a variety of subjects which helps you understand events, people, and customs of Bible times, and hence understand better the Bible itself. The material is arranged in ten sections: the environment of the Bible, archaeology and the Bible, the story of the Bible, key teaching and events, religion and worship, people of the Bible, home and family life, work and society, places, and an atlas of the Bible. Three of the sections are organized alphabetically for easy reference. The section on home and family life in biblical times, for example, discusses the structure of the family in Old Testament days; births, weddings, and funerals; clothes and fashion; town and city life; life in the villages; housing; food and meals; and social activities, such as games, athletics, and music. The style is entirely readable and free from technical language or jargon, and therefore can be read with interest by any member of the family from about the age of ten upward. The quality of production is unsurpassed and the price for all of this is modest. We take pleasure in commending this attractive and helpful reference work.

Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life (Harper & Row), edited by Madeleine and J. Lane Miller, is a completely revised version of a long-time standard reference work. Though the material contained is comparable to that in the Eerdmans’ Family Encyclopedia it is intolerably dull by comparison.

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Similar in purpose but designed primarily for young children rather than teenagers and adult family members is The Family Bible Encyclopedia (David C. Cook) edited by Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen. In two volumes of just over two hundred pages each, the contents are arranged alphabetically in the normal encyclopedic sequence. The entries are brief and simply written. There are just enough illustrations to keep the child’s interest high and to help him visualize what is written in the text. Many entries are accompanied by a list of major biblical references.

A lavishly illustrated and comparatively inexpensive new book is The Natural History of the Land of the Bible (Doubleday) by Azariah Alon. It is set against the background of the land of Israel of the present day, where you see so many images that could have been taken straight out of biblical times and where many features of land and life have remained unchanged. Alon’s work is brimming with photographs of plants, animals, geographical features, and vistas of the land of the Bible. Although the majority of the pictures are taken from the present, the text focuses on the Old Testament and is replete with references to and interpretations of individual texts.

Two years ago Moody Press published the New Testament section of The Ryrie Study Bible. Now the Old Testament section is complete and is published together with the earlier material in one volume. This Bible is available in the King James or New American Standard versions. The annotator is Charles C. Ryrie, professor of systematic theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. The theological orientation of this study edition is dispensational, though this does not affect the vast majority of the comments one way or the other. Following the general pattern of other study Bibles, each biblical book is introduced by a brief discussion of title, authorship, date, and contents. This is followed by a rather detailed outline of the book. The notes at the bottom of each page are primarily exegetical and explanatory, though they are occasionally theological. The outside and inside margins contain the usual cross references to other relevant scripture passages. There are also several useful tables, charts, essays, and other helps for Bible students. (Also now available for the same two versions is a similar study Bible called The Open Bible from Thomas Nelson.)

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The Children’s Bible (Collins) is not a translation but rather a selection by David Edwards of stories (mostly) from the Good News translation together with splendid full-page, full-color illustrations by Guido Bertello. The older story Bibles were so popular because they were supplements to the King James. Now that we have translations that children can truly understand there is no reason to rely on some modern retelling. May The Children’s Bible (and its counterparts) flourish! (Also take note of The Comic-Strip Bible in three volumes and now in full color from David C. Cook. The treatment is reverent, faithful to the text of Scripture, and sure to captivate the attention of its intended audience.)

What is biblical criticism? Is it a friend or a foe of faith? A new book from Zondervan entitled simply Biblical Criticism seeks to answer both questions. “Criticism” is not understood in negative terms, implying that autonomous human reason takes its stand over against the biblical text and sits in judgment upon it, though admittedly this sometimes takes place. Rather, biblical criticism seeks to come to intelligent conclusions about historical literary and textual matters that are vital for an accurate understanding of Scripture. In the views of the publisher, “The evangelical community has done well … to abandon the view that all criticism of the Bible is negative and destructive. Reason … should be considered a tool for sharpening discernment and understanding. As such, it is in no way opposed to faith, but complements and enhances it. Having accepted the Bible as God’s inerrant Word, it remains for us to discover, insofar as possible, the original form of the text.… It also remains for us to examine the historical and literary structure of Scripture.”

In this spirit, four distinguished evangelical Bible scholars—R. K. Harrison, B. K. Waltke, D. Guthrie, and G. D. Fee—turn their attention to the historical, literary, and textual criticism of each Testament. But in spite of the positive emphasis of the preface, and in spite of some of the specific statements of the individual authors, the impression gained by reading the treatments of historical and literary criticism is almost entirely negative. While the authors affirm the task of criticism, they mostly fault the liberal critics for their misuse of cricitism rather than state positively how evangelical critics should do their work. The articles on textual criticism are excellent in their treatment of the materials but are weak in dealing with the practice of the discipline. Still, this book offers a clear and concise account of the subject.

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Knowing Scripture (InterVarsity) by R. C. Sproul begins with common sense answers to the question, “Why study the Bible?” and goes on to discuss the “how” questions that arise in the course of such study. The author is firmly rooted in the Reformed, evangelical tradition, and is one of the leaders of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. His short, practical book is a model of good hermeneutical discussion. A few minutes’ reading would dispel false notions about what is included in an evangelical commitment to biblical inerrancy, currently a subject of hot debate. Sproul rejects any notion of wooden literalism, is fully aware of historical conditioning in the formation of Scripture and in its interpretation, affirms the values of a moderate source and form criticism, and generally avoids the standard stereotypes inferred from the doctrine of inerrancy. This little book should be required reading for any beginning student of the Bible. His work is fairly representative of what evangelicals believe and we, both as reviewers and evangelical theologians, are happy to be associated with his conclusions.

Up to the time of the Reformation there remained a significant body of Jewish writings, which informed the religious and cultural heritage of Christendom. With the Reformers’ rejection of these writings—which came to be known as “the Apocrypha”—as edifying but noncanonical, they became less and less familiar to Protestants. Today, scarcely anyone but a few devout Catholics and a small band of scholars study these writings. Yet it remains true that the Apocrypha and related Jewish documents are extremely important for a better understanding of the Bible and the histories of the church and synagogue. Nicholas de Lange has provided the general reader with an introduction and selections from this important body of literature. Apocrypha: Jewish Literature in the Hellenistic Age (Viking) covers not merely the traditional Apocrypha but also the whole body of anonymous Jewish literature of the period from about 300 B.C. to A.D. 200. There are seven sections: accounts of Bible preservation or translation, elaborations of biblical stories, moral tales, apocalypse, philosophy and wisdom, history, and prayers and psalms. Much of the material is not easily accessible to the nonspecialist. Some of the selections are translated into English for the first time. Especially useful features are a chronological table with the approximate dates of the more important writings, a list of the principal apocryphal works accompanied by descriptions and notes on their origin, and a guide to further reading.

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ARCHAEOLOGY Of perennial interest to many both inside and outside the church is the study of how the events of the Bible are illuminated by the modern science of archaeology. In this area the publication of greatest lasting value is the final two volumes of the four-volume Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (Prentice-Hall) edited by Michael Avi-Yonah and Ephraim Stern. Resplendent with line drawings, photographs, and charts, and complete with up-to-date bibliographies, the various articles supply the student with almost everything about excavated sites.

Two books that take opposing stances are Magnus Magnusson’s Archaeology of the Bible (Simon and Schuster) and Kenneth A. Kitchen’s The Bible in Its World (InterVarsity). Magnusson, a British journalist, entertained and infuriated viewers with a series of television programs in Britain on the archaeology of Palestine. (The series is not yet scheduled for the States.) Much of the visual and textual material from the series is now available in this attractive, coffee-table volume. Kitchen disagrees with Magnusson’s frequent suggestion in the series that the archaeologist’s spade has undermined the veracity of the biblical record. Kitchen records data from a wide variety of sources and geographical areas, showing how often archaeological discoveries have been helpful in illuminating a particularly difficult aspect of ancient Near Eastern or biblical study. Kitchen concludes: “It is not the basic purpose of orientalists or archaeologists either to prove or disprove any particular ancient document, the Bible included. It is their purpose to obtain the fullest and clearest possible picture of antiquity (biblical and otherwise) for the common benefit of all.… When problems arise …, usually from incomplete or defective information, then they should be treated alike in all cases (biblical and otherwise)—critically, sympathetically, thoroughly, drawing only provisional conclusions when lack of data makes final ones impracticable.” It was the feeling of many who viewed the television series that the “high measure of agreement” was consistently underplayed and the inevitable problems overplayed. Kitchen’s book—which incidentally contains a wealth of interesting and useful information, including a discussion of the new material at ancient Ebla—sets the subject in a much more balanced perspective than does Magnusson’s.

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Also helpful is Howard F. Vos’s Archaeology of Bible Lands (Moody). Following a section on the nature and techniques of biblical archaeology and on the implications of archaeology for textual study, Vos draws a brief picture of the results of archaeological investigation in each of the lands of the Bible. Similar in purpose and scope is Biblical Archaeology in Focus (Baker) by Keith N. Schoville. Sections dealing with methods and history of archaeology, the rise of writing, and the relationship of the Bible to archaeology are followed by a comprehensive survey of significant sites throughout the entire Near East. Both books, accompanied by a wealth of photographic and illustrative material, would be suitable as undergraduate textbooks on the subject. (Of more restricted scope is Jerusalem: The Tragedy and Triumph [Zondervan] by a South African journalist, Charles Gulston. It is a fascinating story of Israel’s capital from the days of David through the 1976 war.)

Sometime in the spring of 1947 the first of the celebrated Dead Sea Scrolls came to light in the wilderness of Judea. As these discoveries came to be known to the general public, they were hailed by the media as “the greatest manuscript find of modern times.” Literally hundreds of books were written about them, most of them responsible, but a few wholly misleading. Though the media appeal seems to have abated, scholarly interest in these documents continues to be unquenched. Geza Vermes, who teaches Jewish studies at Oxford University, has not only produced many scholarly studies on the Scrolls but he has provided the most accessible translation of them into English (published by Penguin). Now after the dust of the original studies has settled, Vermes offers a general account and scholarly assessment of the discoveries and their significance in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran in Perspective (Collins). The text is readable by the nonspecialist but there are also copious bibliographical notes. For those who have read nothing (or nothing recent) on the Scrolls this would be a good place to begin.

SURVEYS Background to the Bible (Servant) by Richard Murphy is the best in the stack of surveys that has come into our hands this year. Murphy has doctorates from two Catholic schools in Rome. Evangelicals will appreciate the thoughtful and reverent handling of the biblical text and the attempt to avoid the obscurantism of extreme conservatism and the unbelief of contemporary liberalism. Subjects covered include the nature of the Bible, text and canon, principles of interpretation, archaeology and Scripture, and the relation of faith and reason in the study of the Bible. These Things Are Written (John Knox) by James M. Efird is described in its subtitle as “an introduction to the religious ideas of the Bible” and combines materials from the areas of biblical history and biblical theology in order to provide the beginning student of Scripture with a primary text. Richard H. Hiers’s Reader’s Guide to the Bible (Abingdon) offers a bird’s-eye view of the content and emphasis of each book of the Old and New Testaments and of the Apocrypha. The level at which the material is pitched is rather more elementary than are the introductions by Murphy or Efird. A Layman’s Bible Digest (Revell) by Leslie Peyton is an enthusiastic real estate developer’s sharing of what he has learned about the Bible with his fellow businessmen. People Just Like Us (Moody) by J. Oswald Sanders contains twenty-one popular expositions based on the lives of a variety of Bible personages and stresses the lessons that can be applied to contemporary Christian life and witness.

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But rather than just taking others’ words for what the Bible contains, be sure to study it for yourself, with the help of a guide such as Food for Life (InterVarsity). Authors Peter Lee, Greg Scharf, and Robert Willcox write about the context of Bible study (individual and group), offer samples of various types of study, and outline basic principles of interpretation.

INTERPRETATION In addition to Knowing Scripture by R. C. Sproul, a significant number of additional volumes devoted to “hermeneutics” (the principles for interpreting Scripture) have come to hand. How to Understand the Bible (Standard) by Knofel Staton and Toward Understanding the Bible (Faith and Life) by Perry Yoder are elementary introductions to the subject. There is a revised edition and new title and publisher for a long-time favorite by Alan Stibbs, How to Understand Your Bible (Harold Shaw). Leander E. Keck’s The Bible in the Pulpit (Abingdon) is a stimulating attempt to relate biblical hermeneutics to biblical preaching, which will be of interest to pastors. At a much more technical level are three books from Fortress: The Biblical Interpreter by Richard Rohrbaugh, Story, Sign and Self by Robert Detweiler, and Meaning in Texts by Edgar McKnight. Rohrbaugh deals with the subject from the perspective of the sociological context of Scripture; Detweiler takes a look at phenomenology and structuralism, applying the insights gained from this to the literary-critical study of the Bible; and McKnight’s important but difficult monograph attempts to rescue the biblical text from the irrelevant historicism characterizing much contemporary scholarship and adapt insights from modern structural analysis into a program that he dubs “narrative hermeneutics.” Visions of Hope (Augsburg) by Donald Sneen and Daniel and Revelation (Judson) by James M. Efird apply hermeneutical principles to the apocalyptic parts of the Bible.

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ON TRANSLATIONS We had hoped that by now everyone would have accepted the general principles of modern Bible translation, but that is not the case. Not only does the King James apparently continue to outsell any of the other translations, but it also has its defenders on textual, theological, and literary grounds. The King James Version Debate (Baker) by D. A. Carson is an attempt to deal sympathetically with those who continue to prefer the KJV, but the author eventually comes down emphatically in favor of some modern translations. The Future of the Bible (Nelson) by Jakob van Bruggen argues for a common, officially recognized translation of the Bible and against the “dynamic equivalence theory” of translation (which underlies the Good News Bible and other similar versions). He concludes that the KJV is the most reliable translation currently in use. Putting the whole subject into perspective without really becoming involved in the debate is History of the Bible in English (Oxford) by F. F. Bruce, an updated edition of a standard work published previously under a different title.

THE BIBLE AND LITERATURE There are a growing number of books to enhance the teaching and study of the Bible in literature classes in high schools and colleges. Introducing Bible Literature (Prentice-Hall) by Leonard L. Thompson is intended to serve as a college textbook. The author deals with his material creatively, producing a very attractive introduction for the student. The text is illustrated by a series of appropriate works of art. However, Thompson’s tendency to use jargon distracts the reader. Thayer S. Warshaw, who has, in association with James S. Ackerman, done more than anyone to aid teachers of the Bible in American high schools, has now produced a Handbook for Teaching the Bible in Literature Classes (Abingdon). Warshaw deals with alternative approaches and emphases, and the problem of religious sensibilities, using a variety of teaching aids. All English teachers who have the responsibility for teaching even a short unit of the Bible in/as Literature will rise up and call the author blessed. Byron and the Bible (Scarecrow) by Travis Looper is a compendium of biblical usage in the poetry of Lord Byron.

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SCHOLARLY ESSAYS The Festschrift type of book—a collection of essays published in honor of some notable scholar, often upon his retirement—continues to come out at an unabated pace. In the past year, two senior professors at Fuller seminary were honored. Scripture, Tradition and Interpretation (Eerdmans) edited by W. Ward Gasque and W. S. LaSor brings together essays by former students and colleagues of Everett F. Harrison, that seek to address the current debate concerning Scripture both inside and outside of the evangelical community. Biblical and Near Eastern Studies (Eerdmans) edited by Gary A. Tuttle is dedicated to William Sanford LaSor. It features contributions not only by former students but also by some notables among Bible scholars. In honoring the veteran Reformed scholar, Johannes G. Vos, editor J. H. White chose fourteen scholars of similar theological persuasion who cast their nets over a wide area of biblical, theological, and even philosophical concerns; the result is entitled The Book of Books (Presbyterian and Reformed). A fourth collection honors the distinguished student of Jewish backgrounds to the New Testament, David Daube. Donum Gentilicium (Oxford) is edited by C. K. Barrett, E. Bammel, and W. D. Davies; the essays, in German or English, focus on the Jewish contribution to early Christianity.

G. Douglas Young is founder and president of the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem. He has lived there since 1963.

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