Preaching pastors and Bible students should be thrilled with this update of what already was an exceptional Bible reference resource. Now a five volume work (with the last volume supplying a number of helpful indices), Zondervan and revision editor Moises Silva have produced in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) what could become a go to reference resource for any pastor preparing to preach or teach from a New Testament text. While this is a solid academic work, the updated organization of the materials makes this a most useful work for the pastor’s study.
Indeed, while pastors will look to NIDNTTE primarily for New Testament exegesis, much use could be made of it for preaching from the Old Testament, as well. In providing careful studies of New Testament Greek words, the work covers the use of the same terms in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced in the second century B.C.). Thus, the scripture index takes just over 100 pages to list references in this work to the Old Testament.
Originally published in German, this work first appeared in English in the mid 1970’s under the slightly different title New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Eventually, an additional volume was added to that earlier work. About a decade ago, Zondervan produced an abridged version that incorporated some changes that have now been brought into this full length second edition.
While the original English language version has always been highly acclaimed (one can still find overwhelmingly positive reviews, for example, at Amazon.com), an revised edition was clearly needed in order to update scholarship that had become somewhat out of date. In addition, the earlier edition focused on theological debates (i.e., with Bultmann) that have become somewhat less important with the passage of time. The earlier work, with its multiplicity of authors, also suffered somewhat from an unevenness in the contents.
Thus, in this work, much of the writing has been significantly revised and updated. In addition, significant changes have been made to the structure of the work. The earlier edition was organized around English language “concepts,” and this was criticized even by those who valued the resource, as it was claimed that this structure was hard to navigate. While concept lists are retained at the beginning of each volume, the word studies now appear in alphabetical order in the new edition, based on the Greek spelling. Also, instead of using transliteration, Greek and Hebrew words now appear in their proper forms.
For each article, or word entry, a common format is followed. First, the article summarizes the use of the word in general Greek literature (GL). This may include a variety of classical and other Greek sources outside of scripture. Next, the article will detail the use of the term from Jewish literature (JL). While these references come primarily from the Septuagint, other materials are also referenced, such as Josephus, Philo, and other Hellenistic Jewish writers. Finally, the articles each deal with New Testament usage.
In addition to dealing with exegetical, semantic, and linguistic issues related to context and usage, the articles provide excellent statistical information about various terms, noting not only the total number of times that a term is used, but also showing the spread of that usage. Thus, it can be helpful to know that a term used, say, 20 times in the New Testament is found almost exclusively in the range of a small portion of the New Testament text. The exegetical and linguistic analysis is often illuminating. Most importantly, the pastor using this material correctly can be confident that any exegetical study incorporated into his sermon is biblically accurate. Those of us who have incorporated study into our sermons that we later learn was not correct will appreciate the solid scholarship behind this work.
While the fact that NIDNTTE encompasses five volumes may seem intimidating to some, the strong organization of the material, including the helpful scripture index, makes this a quite usable work. The one question this reviewer is not certain of is its usefulness for someone who has had no training in the Greek language. Certainly, one does not need to be a Greek scholar to access these volumes – this reviewer has been out of seminary for 25 years, and to call his Greek skills “rusty” would be charitable; yet, he found it quite readable. Nonetheless, one would think that someone who cannot at least read the Greek words might struggle to gain utility from this work. Anyone who has had “baby Greek” in Bible college or seminary should be fine.
I would commend these volumes as worthy of the library of any pastor or Bible teacher.