The Bible is recognized as the world’s best-selling book, the foundation of faith, an essential guide to daily life, and a formative influence on Western culture. It can be, nevertheless, difficult or puzzling for the modern reader, separated over many centuries by language and culture. To that end, Eerdmans has long been devoted to providing helpful resources for studying the biblical text—a broad array of commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works. Recent contributions include the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, the Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, and volumes in the New International Commentary series (Old and New Testament), the Two Horizons commentary series on the Old and New Testament, and the Pillar New Testament Commentary series.
Now we are proud to offer the new Eerdmans Companion to the Bible, edited by Gordon D. Fee and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. By its very nature as a Companion, this volume is by no means intended as a substitute for reading the biblical text itself. Rather, we envision the reader approaching Scripture with the Bible in one hand and the Companion in the other. In this way the Companion may serve as a guide to the Word, a practical resource for studying and reflecting on the biblical account. It is designed to be used with any translation of the Bible.
When preparing a resource of this type, one does not think in terms of days or months, but of years, and in some cases decades. The seeds for the Companion were sown in 1998, when members of the Eerdmans biblical studies team met with potential editors at the annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Orlando, Florida, to brainstorm content and format. The intervening years saw not only changes in participants but a growing realization that, despite alarming reports of biblical illiteracy, today’s readers display an increasingly sophisticated hunger for the insights of responsible, current biblical scholarship, curiosity about the Bible’s ancient setting as illuminated by recent discoveries, and a heightened concern for the implications of Scripture for the world today.
A comprehensive work of this type depends on many talented persons who generously share their knowledge of the riches of the Bible. To oversee this venture we enlisted two preeminent biblical scholars as general editors — Robert L. Hubbard Jr. and Gordon D. Fee, coincidentally the general editors of the NICOT and NICNT, respectively. They in turn were aided by a team of six consulting editors, first-rank scholars in their own right, who collaborated on choosing topics, recommending and inviting contributors, and reviewing the various entries as well as writing introductory articles. Serving in this capacity were T. Desmond Alexander, Joel B. Green, Richard N. Longenecker, Tremper Longman III, Marianne Meye Thompson, and Willem A. VanGemeren.
The editors and some sixty contributors garnered a vast array of useful information, making a concerted effort to present it in clear, reader-friendly fashion. Recognizing that some readers may be new to the Bible, with no previous background in biblical studies, the challenge has been to keep technical matters to a minimum, focusing fully on the content and meaning of the Bible and sensitively reflecting readers’ concern for issues directly relevant to the quest for greater understanding and appreciation of what the Bible has to convey.
In keeping with its aim of stimulating and guiding the Bible reader who seeks to grow in understanding what the text has to say, the Companion opens with an introductory essay, “What Is the Bible?” by the general editors. Further setting the scene for studying the Bible as a whole are discussions of inspiration and authority, the formation, transmission, and translation of the biblical text, and surveys of the physical world of the Bible and aspects of daily life in its ancient setting.
The main focus of the Companion is the Bible itself. Each section dealing with the Old and New Testament begins with an introduction to the individual collections or genres — for the Old Testament, the Five Books or Pentateuch, the Historical Books, Poetry and Wisdom Literature, and the Prophets; for the New Testament, the Gospels and Acts, the Letters, and Revelation. A knowledgeable and lucid commentary by Connie Gundry Tappy summarizes and explains each book of the Bible, section by section, with fascinating insights into customs, natural phenomena, words and phrases, and more, as recorded in the accounts. Articles by a host of foremost biblical scholars provide additional information on the setting and use of the Bible, with details of important historical, literary, and cultural interest that the student may encounter in reading or discussion. The range of subjects includes “Creation and Modern Science”; “Women in the Early Church”; “Disease, Illness, and Healing”; “Worshipers of Other Gods”; “Holy, Clean, and Unclean.” Concluding the Companion are articles applying the sacred text to Christian faith and Christian living today. Handy reference tools include glossaries of terms, people, nations and groups, and places mentioned in the Bible.
An essential though often unheralded feature of reference works is the presentation — page layout and type design, creatively and painstakingly implemented by a talented production staff. To this end, the Companion is fully enhanced with illustrations, maps, and other graphic aids, including resources from the extensive Pictorial Archive graciously provided by Richard Cleave. These are included not simply to decorate the text, but serve to illuminate its meaning.
Of course, we hope this book may become another example of what proves to be, in keeping with the venerable Eerdmans slogan, an “enduring standard.” Our desire is that it will truly be a treasured companion, serving its readers in fruitful understanding of what the Bible has to say to our age.