The New “Go-to” Dictionary of New Testament Theology: A Review of The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis

indexThe NIDNTTE (Zondervan, 2014) is a thorough revision of the original NIDNTT. Moises Silva is the revision editor, and the finished product is a must have for serious students and pastors who work in Greek on a regular basis. The updated set consists of five volumes (four dictionary volumes and an index volume.

There is an extensive introduction written by Silva that gives an update and overview of all revisions and corrections that were made in the new edition. This is helpful for those who have used the NIDNTT and want to know how the NIDNTTE differs. Because the original was written while Rudolph Bultmann was a primary figure in New Testament scholarship, and many of the articles interacted with his writings. Some of those discussions have been shortened in the new version. A major structural change is that the NIDNTTE goes to an alphabetical listing for Greek words, moving away from the “concept” listings in the original. This shores us a major weakness in the original while still including a pretty comprehensive list of concepts in the beginning of each volume. The editors also stated that they sought to be more consistent in the presentation of statistical data (12). A list of other revisions can be seen in the introduction to the work.

The rest of this review will address those with no familiarity with the NIDNTT. The NIDNTTE opens with a List of Concepts. What this does is takes a comprehensive set of concepts from the New Testament and lists every Greek word that might fall under that concept. The list is over 60 pages long and is extraordinarily helpful for understanding how different words contribute to a certain concept. For example, the concept “abolish, nullify” has seven Greek words tied into it. It lists the reference number and basic definition (semantic range) for each word.

The bulk of the material then deals with individual Greek terms, listed in alphabetical order. One of the things I love about this set is that while it is designed for the student of Greek, it is organized in a way that the serious student or pastor who does not have a background in Greek but who is serious about studying individual words and concepts can still get some use out of. I will look at an example of this later. For each listing, the authors give the word itself, pronunciation, and basic translation. The listing then gives the concept that the word is tied to. The listing itself is then divided into three basic sections. First, the authors examine how the word is used in General Greek Literature (GL). This is helpful because it shows the reader how the word might have been used and understood in the culture of the New Testament world in general. The second section deals with the use of the word in Jewish Literature (JL). This gives good insight into how the word is used in the LXX and in extra biblical Jewish writings. The third section deals with the New Testament itself (NT). I have found this area to be the most helpful. This section gives an overview of the various ways the term is used in the New Testament with specific references for each. It also helps the student or pastor to understand the semantic range of the word and the various ways it is used by the different biblical authors (for example, Paul’s use of a specific term can be different from how Peter uses it). Each listing closes with a bibliography listing other sources that can be consulted for further study.

So, how does using the NIDNTTE work in real life? I want to study the biblical concept of forgiveness. I look up the term in the concept section. It is on page 43 and has four Greek words associated with it. Just from glancing at the terms, I can get a basic idea of how the concept is fleshed out in the New Testament. The four words cover the ideas of “setting free, letting go, pardoning, canceling, leaving, covering up, give graciously.” What makes each word different, and how do I know how a word is used in a particular context? For this we go to the individual articles on each word. The second word on the list, aphiemi, is listed on page 444. An expanded definition is given, followed by a short section dealing with its use in Greek literature. The JL section has four different uses and a wealth of information because the term is used frequently in the LXX. The word is used in the New Testament over 140 times, and the article gives three basic uses, breaking down the nuances of each. I came away from this study with a much fuller understanding of the concepts behind this word.

A word needs to be said about the index volume in the series. Indexes can get largely overlooked. Don’t do it with this set. The index volume can be used in multiple ways to help with study. Scripture indexes are given for both the Old Testament and New. This is great for looking for references to specific passages. Also included are indexes for all Apocrypha, Greek, Jewish, and Post- New Testament Christian Literature indexes. These are followed by a Hebrew and Aramaic Word index, Greek word index, and a conversion chart for converting Strong’s numbers to Goodrick-Kohlenberger.

If you are a student of the New Testament and have any facility in working with the Greek, this set is worth buying. The information is strong, the scholarship is careful, and the depth is incredible. I have greatly enjoyed using it in sermon prep and am happy to recommend it to anyone else looking for a good study resource.

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