It's probably not inappropriate to reproduce the preface and first introductory point:
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, popularly known as ISBE, has served the Church well over the past generations. Even in its revised form, however, it has naturally become dated as new work has been done in the text of Scripture and new light has been shed by continuing, and in some cases exciting, archeological discoveries. If not without some trepidation, then, the decision has been made to issue a fresh and more drastic revision of the venerable and still by no means valueless encyclopedia.
The situation in which the new edition has been prepared resembles that of the preparation of the first edition of 1915. The original preface speaks of a plethora of biblical dictionaries at that time, called forth by the remarkable advances and changes in biblical studies. The new ISBE comes on the scene when dictionaries again abound, and one can only repeat the words of our predecessors when they say that “it is in no spirit of rivalry ... that the present Encyclopaedia is produced” but to fulfil what is seen to be the distinctive purpose of serving both the more advanced student and yet also “the average pastor and Bible student.”
Friends of the project, and many contributors to it, will realize that this new edition has been in the making for an unusually protracted period. There are two main reasons for the delay. The first relates to the editorial team. All three of the original Associate Editors were lost to us at a formative stage in the work: Professor N. B. Stonehouse of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, through death; Professor J. L. Kelso of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, through sickness; and Professor J. G. S. S. Thomson of Glasgow, through the pressure of other duties. Their places have been ably filled by Professors E. F. Harrison and W. S. LaSor of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, and Professor R. K. Harrison of Wycliffe College, Toronto, but not without some unavoidable dislocation. On the managerial side, too, the death of Calvin Bulthuis, who played so large a role in the initial planning, proved to be another serious blow, and his immediate successor, John DeHoog, was able to stay with the project for only a relatively brief span. Fortunately the third project editor, Dr. E. W. Smith, has remained long enough to see the revision through to publication. The progress even at this rate would have been impossible without the diligent and intelligent contributions of Editorial Associate Allen C. Myers; Editorial Assistants Nola J. Opperwall and Dr. Ralph W. Vunderink; Illustration, Design, and Production Coordinator Joel D. Beversluis; and Typographer-Typesetter Donald M. Prus.
Changes in the scope of the revision provided the second main reason for the delay of publication. In view of the high esteem in which ISBE has been held, it was felt at first that the bulk of the existing material should be retained in its original format. A good deal of work was done on that premise. Increasingly it became obvious that with the pace and magnitude of biblical and archeological changes, along with the rapid shifts in the political, geographical, and social life of the Near East, more would have to be done, so that a call went out for more articles and contributors. Eventually the editors and publishers were forced to acknowledge, however reluctantly, that a thorough updating of both matter and format constituted the only logical course, so that now, although some of the most durable of the original material remains, the revision has become to all intents and purposes a new, or at least a completely reconstructed, encyclopedia. In this regard the delay has finally been an advantage, for if the work had been rapidly completed according to the original plan, much of it would already be in need of a new updating and all of it would have a decidedly old-fashioned look.
It should be emphasized that, in spite of the necessary changes, ISBE has by no means lost its identity. Many important features have in fact been carefully retained. To begin with, the new ISBE has aimed to be as consciously international as the old. If all the editors reside in North America, the General Editor and one of the Associate Editors come from Britain, and articles have been sought from scholars in many lands. As in the original ISBE, interdenominationalism has been practiced as well as internationalism. Coincidentally, the General Editor and three Associate Editors consist of two Anglicans and two Presbyterians, but contributors from a wide variety of churches combine to make [Vol. 1, p. vi] this new edition a truly ecumenical enterprise. Along these lines, separate articles have again been included to represent different views on such matters as church polity and baptism.
Furthermore, great care has been taken to maintain what the preface of the first edition described as the attitude of “a reasonable conservatism.” Freedom has naturally been allowed to individual contributors to express their views on debatable matters. At some points divergent approaches may thus be found. A hearing is also given to hypotheses and theories which cannot finally be adopted. Nevertheless, the general “attitude of mind and heart” is still one “which reverently accepts a true revelation of God in the history of Israel and in Christ.” Indeed, while the high level of biblical scholarship has been retained, some of the unnecessarily mediating views of the first contributors have been eliminated, so that the new edition is, we believe, at once more scholarly and more conservative than its predecessor. This demonstrates the change from an earlier period of sharp confrontation between “criticism” and “faith” to one when the possibility grasped by the original editors has been more fully realized and “reverent criticism” is making a constructive contribution to faith.
As the first ISBE aimed at comprehensiveness, its successor has done the same. In this respect the original articles have served as a useful guide in both selection and execution. Some of them have, of course, been changed in length. Usually, although not uniformly, the change has taken the form of shortening to make way for the new material provided by more recent discoveries and developments. All the same, the principle has not changed. The editors have again sought the “ample and minute” treatment of “History ..., Ethnology, Geography, Topography, Biography, Arts and Crafts, Manners and Customs,” etc. which their predecessors claimed. If there has been one main innovation, it lies in the field of dogmatic history. Accounts of the main developments of thought on such central matters as Christology, election, and inspiration have been added. If more is offered here than a biblical encyclopedia strictly demands, we believe that this added feature should be of help and value to many readers.
It might be noted that, in order to maintain continuity with the past, many articles have been preserved in emended form and a few particularly significant ones have been preserved virtually unchanged. To the latter group belong especially the article on the Bible by James Orr, General Editor of the first edition, and that on inspiration by B. B. Warfield. If in Orr’s article the section on the literary origin and growth of the Old and New Testaments needs revision, readers may be referred to the entries under the individual books and still profit from Orr’s article, as from that of Warfield, as an evangelical statement of the early 20th century. That Orr and Warfield differed in the nuances of biblical understanding, yet did not see in this a reason for breaking evangelical unity, gives additional value to their representative articles.
Having spoken of the general continuity between the editions, we may speak more briefly of the detailed discontinuity. In one way the greatest single change is the elimination of most of the indexes. Indexes are obviously useful, but in alphabetically arranged dictionaries and encyclopedias they are obviously not essential. Their retention would have added disproportionately to the expense and price of the series. It is mainly for this reason that they have been deleted.
Of a different order, but possibly even more significant in its own way, is the adoption of the RSV instead of the ASV as the approved English rendering of the Bible. Naturally, an iron rule has not been imposed here. Variants are provided where useful and appropriate. Words from the AV or ASV which have been dropped from the RSV are still listed. It seems, however, that the RSV has now sufficiently established itself, especially in the scholarly world, to justify its general adoption.
Mention need hardly be made of the wholesale replacement of the older maps and illustrations. Even a cursory glance at the earlier editions will show the need for the radical updating which has been done.
Lesser but not unimportant changes have been made in such matters as abbreviations, pronunciations, and schemes of transliteration. The changes here are not just for the sake of change but to bring ISBE into line with generally accepted, although not, of course, definitively established practice in these areas. Details of the adopted schemes will be found in the pages that follow.
Superficially the old ISBE might seem to have been changed beyond recognition by these alterations and updatings. Readers will quickly see, however, that this is not so, for the material continuity, represented by the listings, far outweighs the formal discontinuity. The same fulness, authority, and accessibility have been sought in the new ISBE as in the old. Every effort has again been made to produce an encyclopedia that can meet the “exacting requirements” of teachers, students, pastors, and “all others who desire to be familiar with the Holy Scriptures.” We trust that the new ISBE will have the same enduring value and engender the same enduring affection as the old. Above all, however, we trust that it may contribute to a better knowledge, understanding, and love of holy Scripture and thereby bring glory to God and edification to His people, thus fulfilling, in some measure at least, the service which it is our Christian privilege to render.
Pasadena, California GEOFFREY W. BROMILEY
Trinity 1977 General Editor
I. Purpose and Scope.—The purpose of this encyclopedia is to define, identify, and explain terms and topics that are of interest for those who study the Bible. Thus it is like the 1915 ISBE in combining the defining function of a dictionary with the encyclopedia’s presentation of more comprehensive information, summarizing the state of knowledge about each of its topics and leading the reader to further sources of information and insight.
The entries are of several types. Every name of a person or place mentioned in the Bible has an entry here. Often a person is mentioned only once in the Bible, and the little that can be said about him or her will take only a few lines. Yet it may be helpful simply to know that a passage in question has the only mention of this person, or that the same name in another part of the Bible does refer to a different person. Other persons, however, are more frequently mentioned and have more importance in the biblical story of salvation. In such cases the articles about them are much longer, and may have to gather information from widely scattered parts of the Bible (or even from sources outside the Bible) and summarize the story of that person’s life and meaning.
The same is generally true of the names of places. Some remain unidentified, while others have long been known and have been studied by archeological investigation. Some are of little importance, while others played significant roles in the story of God’s redemption of His people. Generally, the length of the article reflects the relative importance. But sometimes a site receives little space because little is (yet) known about it, while a site of lesser importance may receive longer discussion because of division of scholarly opinion about it, or because archeological study of it gives us information about other sites or about passages in the Bible which do not even mention it. The article on Debir, for example, is longer than its relative importance in the Bible might warrant, because this article includes the several sides of a scholarly debate about its location and identification.
The reader will also find articles on all other terms in the Bible that have theological or ethical meaning, and on expressions that would be puzzling or unclear to the average reader. Thus ISBE is an exegetical tool, providing brief discussion of problem texts under the English keywords and guiding the exegete to further information in other scholarly resources.
The scope of this work also includes articles on the Bible itself, and on the transmission (e.g., text and versions), study (e.g., concordances, commentaries, Bible dictionaries), and interpretation (e.g., biblical theology) of the Bible. The sources of our knowledge about the background of the Bible have seen a steady increase as the result both of systematic pursuit of information, as in archeology, and of accidental discoveries, as of the Dead Sea Scrolls; that increase is reflected here in new articles and longer articles on the subjects that deal with the background of the Bible. This encyclopedia also goes further than others in tracing the development of some of the doctrines (e.g., about the Holy Spirit) and practices (e.g., baptism) that are based on biblical teachings.
The treatment of significant names and terms includes those from the writings of the Apocrypha. Even for those who do not accept these writings as canonical, they form an important part of the background of the New Testament, illustrating the development of some Old Testament themes and the introduction of some new ones during the intertestamental period.
Although the titles of articles on biblical terms normally follow the readings of the RSV, the distinctive readings of the AV and the NEB are included, usually as cross-reference entries to the articles that use the RSV forms. This makes the encyclopedia more readily accessible to a wider range of readers.
“PREFACE,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Revised), 1:vi.