Book Review: NIDNTTE

NIDNTTETitle: New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis Set

Editor: Moisés Silva

Bibliographic info: 3552 pp (5 vols).

Publisher: Zondervan, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon or Zondervan

With thanks to Zondervan for the review copy.

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) is a thorough revision of the original New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT; ed. Colin Brown; Zondervan 1975-78), which itself was based on the German two-volume dictionary, Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testamentum (1970-71).

The NIDNTTE consists of five volumes (four dictionary volumes and an index volume) that contain about 800 entries, covering 3000 Greek words. As to be expected, nouns and adjectives are listed in the nominative case and verbs are in the first-person singular. The word entries contain useful statistical data on its usage, as well as exegetical and semantic information. There is a consistent format for each word entry. It begins with a discussion of the word in Greek literature (pre-classical to Roman times), followed by the same for Jewish literature (LXX, Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus), and, finally, with the usage in the New Testament (with occasional references to non-canonical early Christian literature). Where possible, relevant Hebrew and Aramaic words are discussed including their usage in the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and rabbinical texts. Each entry then closes with a bibliography listing other sources that can be consulted for further study (which, of course, have been updated from the original edition).

The first four volumes are the dictionary proper, with the fifth volume containing a handy set of indices, including scripture indices for the Old and New Testaments, indices for Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words, and an index for Greek literature. There is also a  conversion chart for converting from Strong’s numbers to Goodrick-Kohlenberger.

As I mentioned earlier, this volume edited by Silva is an updated version of Brown’s original edition. The original edition had the drawback of being organized according to English words, whereas Silva’s new edition organizes the entries alphabetically by Greek words. A useful feature that organizing by English provides is that it groups together New Testament words that are semantically related to one another. This feature is retained in this new edition, however, by providing a list of various words related to particular concepts (the list is found at the beginning of each volume). An example is the concept of “love,” for which there are six Greek words that fall under this concept. This feature is quite useful and if you study each word listed under a concept, then you gain a greater appreciation for how the different words all contribute towards a particular concept.

There are various differences one will notice between the editions by Brown and Silva. One example is that due to the original edition being published in the 70s, some of the articles focus on issues dealing with Bultmann’s theological interpretations (this was a time when Bultmanns’s work was still being interacted with in NT studies). The examples I compared have the discussions on Bultmann noticeably shortened in Silva’s new edition.

There are other theological and exegetical dictionaries of the New Testament. A classic is Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament which, while still very useful, is a bit outdated at this point. Apart from being an up-to-date set, the NIDNTTE also has another useful feature that places it above Kittel’s TDNT, which is that each entry discusses the Greek word along with other words that are in its semantic field. That is quite a handy feature in my opinion. In fact, I think the whole method of organizing in Silva’s NIDNTTE is a step up from Kittel’s TDNT as it circumvents any confusion that may arise between lexicography and conceptual analysis.

The NIDNTTE will be a very useful tool for pastors and students of theology/biblical studies. This set is well-suited to help one understand the meaning of a Greek word in relation to its semantic field and to broader concepts. I imagine the NIDNTTE will become the standard New Testament theological dictionary.

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