Handbook of Biblical Criticism. 3rd ed., revised and expanded

By Richard N. Soulen and R. Kendall Soulen
Louisville, KY : Westminster John Knox (2001). xiii + 234 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Grisanti
13.1 (Spring 2002) : 141-142

 Twenty years after the second edition came into print, Richard Soulen (a NT scholar) has been joined by his son (a systematic theologian) to produce the third (revised and expanded) edition of this handbook of terms, ideologies, and movements in the realm of biblical criticism. Although the third edition does represent a significant number of changes, the book is only 10 pages longer than the second edition. The primary structural change in the third edition of this book was the deletion of an appendix dealing with a guide for writing an exegesis paper and the addition of a diagram of biblical criticism at the very end of the volume. Among other things, this chart categorizes critical methodologies by asking three questions: Whence? (the world behind the text), What/What About? (the world of the text), and Whither? (the world in front of the text). The chart provides a helpful overview of how a critical scholar views the various interpretive methodologies impacting the interpretive process.

After a brief introduction, the major body of the volume (211 pages) provides a discussion of numerous key terms, critical methodologies, significant individuals in biblical studies, and various points in interpretive debate. The entries appear alphabetically and conclude with a few cross-reference hints and sometimes a brief bibliography. The book concludes with abbreviations that are commonly used in biblical studies (those used in textual criticism and abbreviations of a selection of works commonly cited in biblical/theological studies).

The entries from the “h” part of the volume will serve as an example of the changes made by this edition. The present volume added entries dealing with “Hebrew Bible,” “Hillel,” and “Hittite.” It divides the essay on “Hermeneutics” into three entries (the total of these three entries exceeds the length of the one entry in the second edition). At least 10 of the entries in this part of the volume were expanded significantly.

A book like this offers great help to anyone trying to navigate through the reading of various biblical and theological reference tools by giving a concise explanation of a number of relevant terms and methodologies. To be sure, it will not treat all the terms or methodologies that one wished it did. However, this reviewer has turned to it on numerous occasions to receive a thumbnail sketch of a certain key term, individual, or critical approach. A reader of this volume must also know that these writers come from a non-conservative perspective, a bias that will come through in some of the entries.