I’ve had this post half written for a while, and one of the changes in the new LDS scriptures has prompted me to emerge from my cave to finish it. The introductory section to the Bible Dictionary has been rewritten with some interesting twists. The old version is still available at the “classic” scripture site, classic.scriptures.lds.org. The oft-ignored disavaowal of the BD as an official position or revelation therein remains, I’m happy to report, as does the statement that the BD represents (light) scholarship, and is subject to scholarly revision. It seems few people know that the original BD was a revision of the Cambridge Bible Dictionary, as reported in the Ensign back in 1982 and perhaps elsewhere. As the Bible Chronology and Harmony of the Gospels have become their own Help/Aid, they no longer merit mention.
Much more interesting is the excisal of a recommendation to use another Bible Dictionary.
The old read, “The topics have been carefully selected and are treated briefly. If an elaborate discussion is desired, the student should consult a more exhaustive dictionary.” The new introduction similarly describes the treatment as “concise” but alas, fails to suggest turning to a supplement for more lengthy discussion. The suggestion is still a good one. For LDS who are interested, what Bible Dictionary should they acquire to supplement?
It’s a bit of an understatement to describe the BD as “concise” and “brief.” My first recommendation is the Oxford Companion to the Bible, which has more topics, but is still legitimately “brief” at 900+pages. The OCD is broader than a typical Bible Dictionary, in that it includes articles outside the usual scope of a Bible Dictionary, e.g. the translation, reception, and interpretation of the Bible. This means less space devoted to minor Biblical people/places/things, but more context into which these all fit. A more traditional BD would be Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Both can be found relatively cheaply in hardback.
The next tier up moves us into multi-volume territory. I recommend the IVP Black Dictionaries, an eight-volume set aimed at interested non-specialists. The volumes are Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, DOT: Prophets, DOT: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings, DOT: Historical Books, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Dictionary of Later New Testament & Its Developments, Dictionary of New Testament Background. As you might guess from IVP Press, these lean conservative, but not as much as I’d assumed. They do a fair job laying out alternatives on the scholarly field while remaining very accessible. Volumes can be bought individually, but (as you might guess) I recommend buying the electronic versions, which turn out to be cheaper, include some useful bonus volumes, and added functionality. The NT+bonus volumes are available for a steal here as The IVP Reference Collection, and the OT volumes in two chunks (here for the first two volume, and the last two volumes just became available today, at pre-publication pricing.) In response to inquiries, IVP has denied having any plans to release an updated Reference Collection with the OT volumes added, so these are the best electronic prices you’ll find.
Lastly for the hardcore, is the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Yale recently acquired and rebranded it the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. The primary difference between AYBD and the IVP Dictionaries lies in the audience; AYBD plumbs the scholarly depths in its content, approach, and bibliographical choices. At six volumes and 7200 pages, it covers everything. It also has a scholarly price. CBD, which offers such a great price on the electronic IVP, lists the AYBD at over $600. I recommend (shocking, I know) the electronic version, which at $269 will also fit on your iPad, Android phone, cross-links and scripture pop-ups, etc. It does go on sale from time to time; I bought mine for about $180 in 2003, I think. AYBD has the added cache of having been cited in General Conference way back in 2006 (when I blogged about it at M*!)
I don’t own the Oxford in electronic format, but I’ll upload a ZIP file with pdfs from IVP and AYBD on The Flood, so you can compare. I’ll update with in 24 hours, when I get back to my computer.