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The Oxford Companion to the Bible opens with a list of the 267 contributors, most academically affiliated, who come from a variety of religious backgrounds. The volume is arranged alphabetically by topic, with cross-references within articles noted by an asterisk before the word, and many see references scattered throughout the work. All articles are signed. The volume concludes with a bibliography, an index, and 14 color maps (each a two-page spread) with an index. Entries vary greatly in length, from some 200 words for Blasphemy and Fear to more than 22 pages for Literature and the Bible and more than 29 pages for the longest entry, Translations. Many entries are subdivided into separate articles, each with a separate contributor (e.g., Interpretation, History of). Taking into account these separate articles, OCB features 706 articles within 668 entries.
As with other Oxford companions, the work features readable articles that the educated layperson can understand. Although the introduction states that it can be used by "students and teachers in high schools," some articles such as Ecclesiastes, The Book of, which describes the book as "less ecclesial than sapiential," may be difficult for the high school student.
Given the relatively low number of entries compared with other one-volume works on the Bible, it would be unfair to compare OCB with works such as Harper's Bible Dictionary, which contains some 3,700 biblical terms with entries on every name used at least three times in the Bible. OCB goes into greater detail on topics than Harper's but avoids an entry for every person or event. Unique to OCB are such thematic entries as African American Tradition and the Bible, Children's Bibles, Freud and the Bible, and Popular Culture and the Bible. Whereas Women receives 21/2 pages in Harper's, OCB devotes 12 pages to the topic. Traditional entries, such as those on most of the books of the Bible, are dealt with in equally notable fashion.
The one drawback to this volume is the lack of bibliographies at the end of entries. While this is not an unusual practice in Oxford companions, the concluding 114-entry bibliography seems downright meager when confronted with the breadth of the work. Although the subdivision by 13 topics ("History," "Textual Criticism," etc.) within the bibliography helps, one wishes for more. On the other hand, the detailed index is a welcome enhancement (a feature missing from Harper's), allowing the reader to note where, for example, Moses is mentioned throughout the volume. The index also includes each contributor's name with the page numbers written.
Even for libraries that already seemingly have their fill of reference works on the Bible, OCB provides a significant addition to the reference literature, providing a substantial amount of depth at a reasonable price. While Harper's still is adequate for ready reference, The Oxford Companion to the Bible provides more substance on many topics.
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