Kevin J Vanhoozer, et al. Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005. 896 pp. $64.99.
To understand the purpose of the Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (DTIB), it is best to go straight to the editor’s words: “DTIB provides a Christian theological evaluation of the contemporary issues and approaches pertaining to biblical interpretation with a view to assessing how they enable the church better to hear what God is saying to church and world today” (22).
Let’s start unpacking this by saying what this dictionary is not. This dictionary does not push readers to adopt a particular confessional theology, though many readers have and will. DTIB does not impose its general hermeneutic principles upon readers. Finally, DTIB does not reduce itself to a mere study of the world “behind”, “of”, or “in front of” the biblical text – though it is not less than this either.
So what is it? Basically, if you’re looking for an introduction or refresher on hermeneutics (study of interpretation), schools of interpretation, theological arguments of books of the Bible, or aspects of systematic or biblical theology, then this book will be a game changer for your studies. DTIB contains an article on every major biblical theological motif, the major branches of systematic theology, and every book of the Bible, plus much more.
DTIB’s aim is to go beyond providing head knowledge. The editors say, “This is perhaps the ultimate aim of theological interpretation of the Bible: to know the triune God by participating in the triune life, in the triune mission to creation” (24). To this end the editors of DTIB worked to provide over 250 articles by at least 170 contributors for the purpose of education, edification, and spiritual formation.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
I’ve been traveling around with DTIB for a couple weeks now. DTIB has proven to be a go to guide for my research. I like ISBE and the IVP Bible Dictionaries. I use these two resources all the time. Yet, they are not one-volume resources. It is so helpful to have a solid one-volume resource on your shelf. DTIB is the one for me. Editors Kevin Vanhoozer, Craig Bartholomew, Daniel Treier, and N T Wright thoughtfully selected and paired the articles and contributors for DTIB. The contributors selected for each article are the first-rate scholars in that field of study. You won’t doubt the quality of scholarship here.
And there are a number of ways to make use of this dictionary. Do you want to study through a particular category, like let’s say hermeneutics? Use the List of Articles by Category index beginning on page 867. Or do you want to read all the articles from a particular scholar? Go to the contributor list beginning on page 7. After each contributor’s concise vitae are the boldened article titles that contributor wrote. Or do you want to study the theological argument of each book of the Bible? Begin with Genesis and work your way to Revelation.
As for me, so far I have studied the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, the Temple, Haggai, each of the Pastoral Epistles, and Karl Barth – all prompted by discussions, studies, or teaching/preaching opportunities. DTIB provided a robust supplementation to these other studies and exceedingly accentuated them.
The bibliography at the end of each article may very well be the greatest value of this resource. These bibliographies push readers to dig deeper and build their libraries by going to the essential resources on each subject.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
The Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible gives pastors access to the best scholarship in one compact place.