A Bible Dictionary


by Wayne S. Walker

     When we want to know the meaning of a word, we go to a dictionary. The word "dictionary" is defined as "a book of alphabetically listed words in a language, with definitions, etymologies, pronunciations, etc….any alphabetically arranged list of words or articles relating to a special subject." Therefore, it stands to reason that if we want to find out more information about some Bible subject, we would go to a Bible dictionary. I have several Bible dictionaries in my library, including those by William Smith, F. A. Peloubet, John D. Davis, and John Brown. However, the one that I have undoubtedly used the most over thirty plus years of preaching is The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary.

     This book was published in 1963 and 1964 by the Zondervan Publishing House of Grand Rapids, MI. The edition that I have is one reprinted by The Southwestern Company of Nashville, TN, in 1966 which my parents obtained when I still lived at home. The General Editor was Merrill C. Tenney, Dean of the Graduate School of Theology at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL. Those who are familiar with the history of theological fundamentalism and evangelicalism in the United States during the twentieth century will readily recognize the names of some of the contributors: Oswald T. Allis, Gleason L. Archer, E. M. Blaiklock, George W. Bromiley, F. F. Bruce, James Oliver Buswell, Ralph Earle, Joseph P. Free, R. Laird Harris, Everett F. Harrison, Roland K. Harrison, William Hendrickson, Kenneth S. Kantzer, George Eldon Ladd, Russell L. Mixter, Charles S. Pfeiffer, Wilbur M. Smith, Edwin R. Thiele, Merrill F. Unger, John W. Walvoord, John C. Whitcomb, and Edward J. Young.

     There are 916 pages of entries arranged alphabetically, beginning with Aaron and ending with Zuzim, accompanied by copious black and white photographs, drawings, charts, maps, and other kinds of illustrations. Following this, there are 185 pages of "The Scripture Sourcebook," a topical index of Bible persons, places, and subjects, originally published by the American Tract Society under the title "The Bible Text-Book" and then copyrighted by Zondervan in 1962. The book ends with a sixteen page Bible atlas with complete index. While we recognize that only the Bible itself is inspired of God and that any work of man is subject to error, the breadth and depth of the scholarship that forms the basis for The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary generally mitigate against a great deal of bias.

     Any attempt to define and describe all the persons, places, and subjects in the Bible in a single volume must of necessity be limited, and there are larger works that give much more detail, such as the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Obviously, there are times when one wants to do an in-depth study, but there are other occasions when he does not have time to go through an exhaustive article but needs something quick to provide a fact or illustration. The Pictorial Bible Dictionary well serves that purpose. Also, anything put together in 1964 will undoubtedly be somewhat dated. Zondervan did come out with its five volume Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in 1976, but also updated the single volume Pictorial Bible Dictionary in 1999, and thus it is still available.

     When preparing sermons or Bible class material, I have often turned to the Pictorial Bible Dictionary when I needed a few quick facts related to a Bible person, place, or event. The illustrations, especially the photographs, help one to visualize what something looks like, or might have looked like, and are helpful in Bible classes for showing children how things were. The summaries of the different books of the Bible have been very useful to me in developing outlines for Bible classes on a survey of the Bible. While there may be a few observations with which we would not necessarily agree, the writers generally have a conservative approach to the scriptures that is worthy of our confidence, insofar as we can place any confidence in the works of men.

     While I was still a boy living at home, it was common for me on a rainy day, with nothing to do outside, to pick up one of the volumes of the secular encyclopedias that we had in our library and just start reading it. I guess that I was a bit "strange." There have been times since then when I had a few extra minutes, just picked up The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, and began reading through it. The articles are written in a style that is very easy to understand, without a lot of technical jargon or unnecessary academic minutia. Thus, this book has provided me with an excellent basis for developing a good general knowledge of Bible facts and a wonderful resource for finding specific information on various Bible subjects. It is one that I highly recommend.

     (—taken from Biblical Insights; Oct., 2005; Vol. 5, No. 10; p. 9)


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