The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible, edited by Gordon D. Fee and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011. 771 pp.
The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible is a critical tool that should be included in any Bible study routine. If laid side by side with the Bible, the reader can follow the scripture through section titles that are similar to the pericopes within the biblical text. Though some of the section titles may differ from the pericope titles and might confuse the reader, the vast majority are easily matched. In some ways, however, the "companion" title is somewhat of a misnomer since this aspect of the book, while a major function, is just one function that the editors have constructed. The first seventy pages (10%) of the books falls under the title of "Welcome to the Bible." This is a very informative section that everyone should read and not just scan. Titles like: "What is the Bible?" "How was the Bible Passed Down to Us?" and "Archaeology and the Bible" provide a broad baseline of information for the reader. Each article has a short review of the topic containing pictures and a short recommended reading list which by themselves are worthy of reading just for a summary on specific topics. The last thirty-two pages contain a section on Christian life as revealed through the scripture, and several indices and references that the reader can use to understand some aspect of the material presented. Combined, these 100 pages would be a welcome addition to anyone's library of reference books to use in Bible study.
Sandwiched between these two sections is the heart of the "companion" containing information and discussions starting with Genesis and contining through Revelation. They are without doubt a series of thoughtful commentaries on the various books of the Bible. The commentary sections are first divided into various groupings of the Bible with the Old Testament portion comprised of the Five Books, the Historical Books, Poetry and Wisdom, and the Prophets. It is within these groups the biblical books are then discussed. Similarly, the New Testament section has the groupings expected of the Gospels and Acts, the Letters, and the Revelation. However, the first twenty pages in the New Testament section address topics related to the New Testament World, such as, "Judaism at the Time of Jesus," and the "Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament." While these sections are a welcomed contribution to the book, they should have been part of the "Welcome to the Bible" section. The commentaries are extremely well written and convey much more than just a scholastically written analysis, almost coming across in an easy to understand, but factual manner. Again, as was mentioned earlier, the sections closely follow the pericopes within the scripture.
In addition, this book has been electronically published as part of the LOGOS Bible Software library. The scripture and pericope references have been tagged in a manner that provides popup balloons with the corresponding scripture references and the "companion" book is linked to the LOGOs Bible so that when one looks up a scripture reference, the "companion" book automatically jumps to that scripture as well. This provides immediate access to what has been written about the scripture. This feature has already proven its worth in my personal study and I expect it to continue in the future.
In sum, although this book is written for the laymen, scholars can learn from it as well. The introductions to the biblical books, the commentary, the inserted articles, indices, and pictures, etc. all assist in presenting scripture in a manner that is understandable. Definitely, this book should be on everyone's desk and readily available during any reading or studying of the Bible.
Donald C. McNeeley Tidewater Bible College