The Encyclopedia of Christianity

Erwin Fahlbusch, Jan Milic Lochman, John Mbiti, Jaroslav Pelikan, Lukas Vischer, editors Brill Academic Pub, Grand Rapids November 1, 2000
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The Encyclopedia of Christianity intends to present a global perspective of Christian faith and tradition within its historical and current expressions. Volume two continues a five-volume project of translating into English the third edition of Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon. With over three hundred articles, volume 2 is a delight to peruse. A “List of Entries” to each volume and the extensive cross-referencing system help the researcher locate appropriate articles with ease. Subjects spread from “Ebionites,” “Ecclesiastes,” “Eckhart, Meister,” “Ecology,” and “Ecstasy” to “Iraq,” “Irrational-ism,” “Islamic Philosophy,” and “Ivory Coast.” As in volume 1, Barrett’s statistics are current and the most reliable available anywhere.

As an alphabetically divided set volume 2 has noticeably fewer countries and regional surveys than volume 1, yet once again these reports (e.g., of “Egypt,” “France,” “Guatemala,” “Iran”) are broad-based and well balanced. Topical entries and interreligious studies are more prevalent. Discussions of Hinduism and Islam and their relationship to Christianity on various fronts are most helpful. “Heaven,” “Hell,” and “Evil” get light treatment, while “Ethics,” “Eucharist,” “European Theology,” “God,” and “Israel” receive appreciable surveys. Biblical books (e.g., Genesis, Exodus) typically are one-page overviews with bibliographies. Sparse biographical entries include Jonathan Edwards, Charles Grandison Finney, and Hildegaard of Bingen. Articles on the “Electronic Church,” “Evangelical Missions,” “Evangelical Movement” (in the narrower North American sense), and “Faith Missions” may prove interesting for many readers. Even James Barr’s “Fundamentalism” (pp. 363–65) is an even-handed presentation of the multiform movement, including the prophetic millennarianism (Scofield) and recent charismatic emphases.

While most authors are northern European, some names (e.g., Peter Beyerhaus, Jonathan Bonk, Kenneth Mulholland, Bruce Reichenbach, Gerhard Sauter, and Peter Stuhlmacher) will be familiar to evangelicals. The “Publishers’ Note to Volume Two” mentions additional editorial staff who supplemented articles and bibliographies for English-speaking readers—an appreciated improvement over the first volume.

The Encyclopedia of Christianity is an extraordinary achievement, highly recommended to all serious students. Once again, however, one observes the paucity of third-world scholars. One puzzles why Branko Nikolistsch (Berlin) and Ekkehard Zipser (Hamburg) were selected to write on “Guatemala,” or Michael von Brück on “India” and “Hinduism.” Of the more than three hundred authors fewer than ten are noted as living outside Europe and North America, although John Mbiti from Kenya and Emilio Castro in Switzerland do represent their continents. Likewise few Eastern Orthodox scholars are included. A more representative participation remains a challenge in future editions for this exceptional resource, already the most comprehensive encyclopedia of Christendom available. 

—J. Scott Horrell

January 1, 2004
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Jan-Mar 2004 vol. 161 no. 1 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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