Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times

By J. Daniel Hays, J. Scott Duvall, and C. Marvin Pate
Grand Rapids : Zondervan (2007). 512 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
19.2 (Fall 2008) : 265-267

The world of biblical and theological reference works has for some time needed a new, updated reference source on biblical prophecy. J. Barton Payne’s excellent Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1973) is now severely dated and not formatted to deal with specific terms. Rather it treats prophecy by prophecy in the text. John Walvoord’s Every Prophecy in the Bible (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor, 1999), was much along the same line, but was a decidedly disappointing production.

This current volume is arranged along the lines of a normal reference work, dealing with terminology (both biblical and theological), prophecy within individual books of the Bible, and concepts. The authors have presented this work as “conceived with the purpose of helping lay people in the church study and understand biblical prophecy” (7). The authors state that they have “no theological agenda to push or prophetic viewpoint to champion, other than a strong commitment to the Scriptures and a passion to interpret the biblical texts in accordance with the intention of the biblical writers” (ibid). The phrase “strong commitment to Scripture” as opposed to inerrancy strikes this reviewer as an interesting choice of words.

As laudable as the authors’ intentions were, the end product presented in this work is a disaster. The individual article headings are a mish-mash that obviously had no input from any editorial hand experienced in reference subject headings. For instance, instead of listing all of the views of the rapture under a standard and easily understood heading such as “Rapture, Views of” (with individual “see” listings for the names of each view placed alphabetically, for example, “Mid-Tribulational Rapture: See Rapture, Views of” pointing to the single main article) each view of the rapture is given a separate entry. The problem is that the entries for the Pretribulational Rapture (348-51) and Prewrath Rapture (351-52) follow each other with no break. This gives the appearance to the target audience that these are the only two rapture views. The Midtribulational Rapture (284-86) and Posttribulational Rapture (337-40) entries are lost. Even more oddly, an actual entry for “Rapture” (362-64) has much of the same material as in the scattered articles. The same problem plagues several subjects such as those related to the millennium and the Book of Revelation (where articles related to the interpretive options of Revelation are scattered throughout the volume). A lengthy article has charts for the “Seven Churches of Revelation” (416-24), but then the work has individual articles for each of the seven cities. The “see” references that are used at the end of the articles are not set off adequately in terms o f type font or style to catch the eye. The authors decided not to use “see also” references, simply using “see,” apparently not knowing the difference or being unaware of standard reference work formatting.

Though choices for entries are also a question for any reference work, some of the omissions are egregious. Entries exist for the Abrahamic, the Davidic, and the New Covenants, but no entries for or even references to the other b iblical covenants (e.g., Noahic, Palestinian, Mosaic, and Priestly). By comparison, an entry does occur for the entirely insignificant and obscure individual named Noadiah in the OT (314). Some of the “see” entries are distracting. On page 416, an entry for “Servant of the Lord” appears with the line “See Servant Songs.” That “see” line is followed immediately with the entry for “Servant Songs” making the “see” entry rather pointless. Actually, the first entry “Servant of the Lord” would have been the stronger and more logical heading for the entry. Though the volume has an entry for “Heaven” (200-201), it has none for “Hell” or even “Eternal Punishment,” not even a “see” reference that would point the reader to the inadequate entry for “Lake of Fire” (246). A one-paragraph entry for “Second Advent” (409) is followed immediately by a lengthy entry for “Second Coming,” clearly rendering the previous entry superfluous since no meaningful distinction exists between the two.

Another confusing choice is listing Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as “Book of” instead of “Gospel of.” This is most problematic with the Gospel of John. Under the heading of “Book of John” (231-32) one is left wondering exactly what is meant, the Gospel account or one of the three epistles. In fact, it is not until the second paragraph of the entry that the reader is informed that the Gospel account is being discussed. As one progresses through the article the question arises over whether the epistles will also be discussed at all; they are not. Some biblical books, despite their obvious importance in biblical prophecy (e.g., The Book of Romans, especially Chapters 9–11) are left untreated. The labeling of the entries with “Book(s) of” is inconsistent, sometimes used and sometimes not (e.g., 1 and 2 Thessalonians).

Bibliographic entries for the articles (or even a separate bibliography listing) are conspicuous in their absence. In the 122 endnotes (483-87), a decidedly poor practice in a “dictionary”; the authors give no indication as to which article a particular note pertains (and the formatting of the superscript numbers renders them difficult to find). The only index is a Scripture Index “with Apocrypha.” However, the Apocryphal Books are not in their standard location (between the Old and New Testament) nor are they categorically labeled, but simply listed after Revelation. This work might have been salvaged with a simple index listing of all the articles, but this was not done. An index of people named would have been an easy and useful addition. Multiple typographical errors and several misplaced or misleading “header labels” (see the top of pages 342, 343, 344, 345, and 346 for examples) are further blemishes.

The volume gives every appearance of being rushed through production without careful editorial examination and with no regard for the use of standard subject headings or standard reference-work formatting. The good material that appears (and there are some well-written, albeit unremarkable, portions in this volume) is hopelessly lost in the confusing maze of this “dictionary.” It cannot be recommended at any level, for it is over-priced, poorly executed, and incomplete.