Donald K. McKim, Ed.
Reviewed by: Danny E. Olinger
Date posted: 06/15/2008
Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, edited by Donald K. McKim. Published by IVP Academic, 2007. Hardback, 1,106 pages, list price $45.00. Reviewed by CCE's general secretary, Danny E. Olinger.
With over one thousand large (7- by 10-inch) pages and weighing nearly five pounds, the Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters is a massive book. It is also rather expensive. But it is a helpful reference book for those who desire a quick glance at the theological presuppositions and particular interpretative approaches of the leading biblical interpreters of the last two thousand years.
Although editor Donald McKim laments that a longer list of interpreters could not be included, the book contains entries for 230 theologians from the ancient church to the present. In explaining the criteria for the selection of writers, McKim states: "Many of the writers are particular experts on the figures on whom they have written. All are highly competent to provide the strong pieces that enable this book to be used as an authoritative reference source" (p. xii). Each entry follows a standard format of looking at the life of the person, his historical and intellectual context, his primary works, his interpretive principles, and his broader historical significance. Each entry concludes with an extensive bibliography.
Two Orthodox Presbyterians have entries: J. Gresham Machen (written by OP elder D. G. Hart) and E. J. Young (by Tremper Longman). There are also entries on Princeton Seminary professors J. A. Alexander (by M. A. Taylor), Charles Hodge (by Mark Noll), and Geerhardus Vos (by OP minister Richard B. Gaffin) and Westminster Seminary professor O. T. Allis (by J. Alan Groves). Nearly all the theologians that roll immediately off the tongue in thinking about any century are covered.
As helpful as these entries are, the book's hidden value for the Reformed and Presbyterian reader is in the entries on those about whom we know little, but should know more (e.g., Colet, Cocceius, Perkins), or are curious about (e.g., Keil and Delitzsch, Goppelt, Metzger), or with whom we disagree (e.g., Schleiermacher, Harnack, Briggs, Bultmann).