With Gordon Fee and Robert Hubbard at the editorial helm, I was anxiously looking forward to the release of The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible. At over 800 pages, it is definitely a “reference” resource, though it does contain a basic commentary on the whole Biblical text by Connie Gundry Tappy. A number of other scholars have contributed to this resource including
Desmond Alexander, Joel Green, Richard Longenecker, Tremper Longman, Marianne Meye Thompson, Bill Arnold, Daniel Block, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Richard Hess, Craig Hill, Howard Marshall, Ralph Martin, Klyne Snodgrass, Frank Thielman, Rikki Watts, H.G.M. Williamson, and many more.
What kind of resource is this? I would say it is a cross between an introductory book for the Bible, a commentary, and a dictionary. Interspersed throughout Tappy’s commentary are various excurses that cover some related theme or issue. For example, under “Genesis” you will find excurses by various scholars on “Creation and Modern Science” as well as “Flood Stories in the Bible and the Ancient Near East.” In Joshua, you will find an excursus on “The Divine Warrior.”
I think one of the most attractive features is the pre- and post-commentary essays. On the introductory end, we have a Welcome to the Bible section that contains a number of preliminary essays such as “Why Are These Books in the Bible” and “How to Interpret the Bible” (the latter by Joel Green, a nice short introduction). At the end of the companion are two very useful essays: “The Guide for Christian Faith” and “The Guide for Christian Living.”
Who is this resource for and at what level is it pitched? It is not a graduate resource, so don’t expect to consult it for exegesis papers. Most essays are very short and, while authored by experts, written at a bottom-shelf level. I think this resource rivals what you will find at many “mom and pop” Christian bookstores as reference books for doing Bible study. I applaud Eerdmans for having a voice in this market. So much of what ends up in bookstores is outdated or “fluffy.” This is a consciously evangelical reference work, but they have collected highly respected scholars to make their contribution.
I think this would work well for young college students (I am toying around with using it myself!). It would work well for church Bible studies or Sunday schools. For pastors, it is a pretty good quick reference for issues in preaching and teaching (though IVP “black” dictionaries are the true standard, as well as the New Interpreter’s Dictionary set). The brevity of the excurses are the most attractive part for me as you can have students spend most of their “homework time” interacting with the Biblical text itself, but use the 1 or 2 page excurses to offer quick interactions with critical, hermeneutical, or application-related issues.