The Continuum Dictionary of Religion

By Michael Pye, ed.
New York : Continuum (1994). 319 Pages.

Reviewed by
5.2 (Fall 1994) : 227-228

Michael Pye has edited a tool which may prove helpful to pastors and teachers of all sorts. Over 5,000 entries by 43 internationally respected contributors are in this volume. "Entries include definitions of terms from various religious traditions that have entered into current English usage, as well as a wide variety of semi-technical terms from related fields such as philosophy, sociology and social anthropology" (front dust cover).

Entries are usually short and concise with a helpful cross reference system. But further reading–cf. "Reduction"–if cited, would give a reader the wrong idea and is selective in citing sources. It is difficult to determine how the seventeen-page bibliography relates to the individual entries. Also, aside from the seven editorial advisors listed, it is impossible to determine which of the 43 contributors –only 41 are named– wrote (or contributed collectively to) a given entry. The primary editor acknowledges "considerable editorial correlation, conflation and supplementation has been necessary" (xi).

In short, the tool is helpful for quick reference work in sermon or lesson preparation. But it will not be usable for research where precise documentation is critical. The following exemplifies the editors' disclaimers:

Contributors should be credited with all the merit which the entries in their known fields of work display. At the same time they should not be blamed speculatively for any imperfections which may have crept in (xi).

This work is helpful except for the problem with documentation.