Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament

By Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, eds.
Peabody, Mass. : Hendrickson (1997). 3 vols. Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Grisanti
10.2 (Fall 1999) : 306-307

The present set first appeared during the 1970’s in two German volumes as Theologisches Handwörterbuch zum Alten Testament (THAT). Its recent appearance in this three-volume English edition along with the 1997 publication of the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE; reviewed in TMSJ, 9:1 [Spring 1998] 120-23) brings a wealth of information within reach of the student of the Old Testament. The Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (TLOT) contains 329 articles that deal with Hebrew words of theological significance.

In addition to the customary introductory material (preface, abbreviation list, table of contents, etc.), a “concordance of divergent versification” (xxii-xxvii) provides a list of instances where the versification of the Hebrew Bible is different from that of an English Bible (the NRSV serves as the point of comparison). A statistical appendix and five indexes conclude the third volume. The appendix provides detailed information arranged in eight tables that delineate the frequency of Hebrew words, total number of words in OT books, distribution of hapax legomena, distribution of parts of speech, and frequency of verb stems. Its five indexes add greatly to the value of these three volumes. The Hebrew and Aramaic words considered by this set are indexed in two different ways. The first index arranges the Hebrew and Aramaic words in accordance to their appearance in the set. The main word/entry appears followed by the derivatives treated under that entry (like a detailed table of contents). The second index arranges the Hebrew and Aramaic words in alphabetic order (and according to the numerical sequence of Strong’s numbering system) and provides the page number where that word appears. The next two indexes refer to the location for English glosses (the basic translation of a given Hebrew word) and modern authors cited in the articles. The final index of Scripture references—an amazing 131 pages in length—adds to the usability of the set.

Each article/entry has a heading and five content sections. The heading offers a single Hebrew entry along with the Strong’s number, and pages where this word receives treatment in the following reference tools: The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB), the English edition of Koehler and Baumgartner’s Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT), the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), and the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE). Where English translations for German reference works were not completed at the time of the publication of TLOT, the original German reference work is cited (HALOTHAL; TDOTThWAT). This feature aids the Bible student in accessing other important reference tools. The first two sections of the entry deal with root and derivation, statistics (distribution of the main word in the OT books, sometimes in a helpful table). The next section considers the meaning and history of meaning of the main entry word. This part often gives attention to grammatical and syntactical issues, primary and secondary meanings, synonymy, and the historical development of a given word’s meaning. The fourth section, normally the longest, considers the theological usage of the word (and its derivatives) under consideration. The final section considers postbiblical usage, i.e., how that word or its NT counterpart finds usage in Judaism, NT, or early Christian literature (always referring to the relevant section of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [TDNT] and often to other relevant articles/essays).

In addition to adding a number of helpful features that were not included in the original German edition (new index arrangement for Hebrew and Aramaic words, Scripture reference index, and the citation of other relevant lexical sources), the English edition includes updated bibliographic references (new editions published since the 1970’s and English translations of German sources that have appeared since that time). No revision of the content of each entry was attempted.

The clear citation of other relevant reference works, the consistent framework of each article, and the helpfully arranged statistically information represent a few of TLOT’s unique redeeming qualities. In comparison to other theological wordbooks, TLOT is much less expensive than the yet incomplete TDOT (9 volumes at this point), less expensive than NIDOTTE, and more expensive than TWOT. From a theological perspective, the articles in TLOT were written by liberal scholars, but that perspective comes through much more rarely than in TDOT entries. As far as the depth of the articles, TLOT is more thorough than TWOT, but less thorough than TDOT and NIDOTTE. TLOT directly covers the smallest number of Hebrew words of the four primary theological wordbooks (it covers a number of related terms in the body of each entry). Although this reviewer regards NIDOTTE as the best theological wordbook for the average Bible scholar, the information in TLOT deserves careful attention when one is performing any word study.