Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary: New and Enhanced Edition. Ronald F. Youngblood, General Editor. Consulting Editors, F.F. Bruce and R.K. Harrison. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2014. 1,280 pp. $49.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.
The Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary was first published in 1986 with Herbert Lockyer , Sr. serving as the first general editor. This enormous resource was revised and updated in 1995 with R.K. Harrison serving as general editor and now again in 2014 with Ronald F. Youngblood as general editor. The reason for the massive update is so that Christian teachers, leaders, and laymen can have the “most current, dependable findings and insights” literally at their fingertips.
This is a fairly exhaustive Bible dictionary that can double as a teaching planning and resource guide.
With well over 1,200 pages this resource is full of information. The Table of Contents indicates one way in which this resource can be used first glean a solid and thorough overview of the Bible in merely the front matter! They begin with 5 easy steps to study the Bible better (perhaps the only criticism I have with this resource since it relies heavily on the resource as its selling point for this particular method of study). The editor then offers an approximate 40 page visual survey of the Bible complete with an introduction and overview. They next give a history of the early world and then move into a study on the history of Israel, the poetic books and the prophetic books.
Next they look at the remnant before jumping right into the life of Christ and the history of the early church in Acts. Staying with the Scripture they look at the epistles (1 Corinthians – Revelation) and then the themes of the individual letters of the New Testament. Finally, they close out the “front matter” with a chart of Bible history.
They then include a Table of Contents articles and teaching outlines on the books of the Bible according to canonical order. One will quickly note that these are not in numerical page order in the body of the book. The body of the book is arranged in alphabetical order with a “Fan-Tab” clearly indicating the about where the reader is in the alphabet.
Let me first say, “Whoa!” This is an amazing resource. For only $50 (less on-line), one can have as complete a resource for general Bible study ever. Everything, and I mean everything, is cross-referenced either to a text in Scripture or within the dictionary itself.
There are numerous outlines that are extremely helpful to arrange one’s thoughts and even kick into gear one’s thinking on a topic. Hardly a page goes by without a full color photograph. Furthermore, they intentionally set the type at a large enough font that one does not have to strain at reading the text.
One example of how this works: let’s say you want to look up Job. So, you flip to the J’s and find Job. You will then see “JOB[jobe]” and some information on two men in the Old Testament. After that entry, in bold, offsetting font, you will see “JOB, BOOK OF-” followed by subheadings that give you its structure, authorship, date of writing, historical setting, theological contribution, and special considerations.
One can use this resource in a myriad of different ways. It can serve as a Bible commentary (though it does not go into exegesis). It can serve as a supplement to Bible study. It can actually be used to design a Bible study. In the end, this resource easily becomes a “must-have” for any student of the Bible.
At $50, one may think this resource too expensive. As a pastor and teacher and father and husband, I honestly believe $50 is a steal of a deal. Do not hesitate to purchase this resource as it will quickly become one of your primary resources in your theological library.