Review by Booklist Review
Reference works that include biographical information on individuals important in the history of Christianity abound. Some sources are quite specific about the type of individual they treat, such as the The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (Oxford, 1986) or Butler's Lives of the Saints (Kennedy, 1956). The Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday, 1992) is a rich source of information on individuals in the Bible. More inclusive sources do exist, including The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [RBB O 1 97] and New Catholic Encyclopedia (McGraw-Hill, 1967^-79). What then does this new work add to the existing literature? Unfortunately, the answer is quite simple: not much. "Twelve hundred of the most prominent people in the history of the Christian Church" are listed, especially those who have had "a continuing effect on the life of the Christian Church." Such a determination is difficult indeed, but does a who's who in Christianity need an entry for Rembrandt? Yes, he was a religious painter, but did his painting have a lasting effect on the history of the Christian Church? If so, the entry for him neglects to explain that influence. All entries are arranged alphabetically and are, by and large, usually no more than a short paragraph. References to one or two additional works "intended to lead the student into a deeper knowledge of the subject" conclude each entry. The entry for Cotton Mather contains a silly mistake, indicating that he attended the University of Harvard, not Harvard University. There are some additional features to this work that could have enhanced its usefulness but are instead weak themselves. The first is a brief chronology of the history of Christianity. But what is the relevance of knowing that the British acknowledged the independence of the American colonies in 1783? While the chronology notes that the Russian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches in 1961, Roman Catholics are described as continuing to "stand aloof." Is such critical language appropriate in a chronology? The second feature is a glossary, defining terms ranging from agnosticism to Whitsunday. But the definition for ecclesiology gives the more historic definition, namely, the "science of the construction and decoration of churches," rather than the more contemporary usage, which refers to the branch of theology that systematically reflects on the origin, nature, and mission of the Church. The work ends with a listing of individuals by category, such as missionaries and scientists, and a woefully inadequate bibliography of reference works. Research and theological collections that own the other sources mentioned in this review, as well as additional biographical tools, can safely do without this volume. Libraries needing more biographical information on important figures in Christianity might want to purchase the paper edition. Reference Books in brief
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Review by Library Journal Review
This work, whose author is an honorary research fellow at Kent University and coauthor of A Dictionary of Judaism and Christianity (Trinity, 1991. pap.), covers 1200 of the "leading men and women who have influenced the course of Christian history." The coverage is broader but less detailed and authoritative and with fewer bibliographic references than that provided by The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (LJ 5/15/97). In addition to the expected saints, popes, and founders, one finds Thecla, an apocryphal first-century saint; Mechtilde, a 13th-century mystic; Daniel O'Connell, a 19th-century Irish politician and rebel; and 20th-century theologians Rosemary Radford Ruether and Juan Luis Segundo. Most entries range from 75 to 150 words, though a few are more substantial, e.g., Jesus of Nazareth understandably merits 650 words. The bibliography following each entry is disappointingly brief (usually only two to four citations), and one could quibble with some entries as well. For example, Mechtilde is erroneously referred to as a saint, and the entry for John Brown, "rebel," fails to identify his connection to Christianity. A glossary of technical terms, a chronological table of the chief historical events, and especially useful indexes by category (saint, poet, social reformers, etc.) and time period are also included. While not the ultimate reference on Christianity, this work would be useful as a beginning point for further research in both public and academic libraries.Linda V. Carlisle, Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.