Biographical dictionary of Christian theologians /

Other Authors: Carey, Patrick W., 1940-, Lienhard, Joseph T.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2000.
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Review by Choice Review

Although this "concise introduction to the lives and thought of more than 450 Christian theologians" is very useful, it excludes a significant category of theologians. The editors say, "Entries are restricted to Christian theologians who died before 1994," which leaves out, e.g., John Cobb, Hans Frei, Gordon Kaufman, Hans Kung, Jurgen Moltmann, and David Tracy. The book does cover important theologians from the 2,000 years of Christian tradition before 1994. Entries, arranged alphabetically by name, begin where possible with birth and death dates, followed by education and career, and by a summary of the theologian's thought and contributions to theology (the greater part of each entry). Entries average 250 words, but those for the likes of St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Karl Barth run 2,000 words. Entries end with bibliographies that list primary works, and a section, limited to six entries, of biographies or interpretive works. The bibliographies cite many publications in languages other than English, which will limit their usefulness for some, although the primary audience is graduate students. Emphasis rests on Christianity before 1800 and on Roman Catholic theologians (many contributors are from Marquette Univ. or other Roman Catholic schools), but there are also entries for "modern" thinkers and for Orthodox (Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain) and Protestant theologians (J. Gresham Machen, Paul Tillich). That general readers may never have heard of some of them (e.g., Jean Gerson, b. 1363) adds to the work's usefulness, since it provides helpful information not found in other one-volume works. It closes with a list of the 97 contributors with their affiliations. Libraries should also purchase New Handbook of Christian Theologians, ed. by Donald Musser and Joseph Price (1996), which focuses on modern theologians. The present work is recommended because of its format and the nature and extent of its coverage. D. Bourquin; California State University, San Bernardino

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

This volume seeks to "provide readers with a concise introduction to the lives and thought of more than 450 Christian theologians." Entries are alphabetically arranged and begin with the date and place of birth and death for each theologian. Whenever possible, the biographical articles describe not only the theologian's life and career, but also the contribution made to Christian theology. Article length varies from 250 to 2,000 words according to the importance of a person's influence as determined by the editors. Entries include short bibliographies of primary and secondary works and are signed by their authors, the majority of whom teach at North American colleges and academic seminaries. The dictionary concludes with a short bibliography of works on Christian theology and history, as well as an index. Boldface page references in the index indicate a separate biographical entry as opposed to mention in the body of an entry for another theologian. In addition, an asterisk before a name in the text of an entry signals that a separate entry can be found for that theologian as well. Theologian is understood in this dictionary to describe someone "whose work was primarily in systematic and spiritual theology, or historians of the Christian Church whose work was primarily theological in orientation." The editors make clear that canon lawyers, biblical exegetes, and philosophers of religion are not included. Those theologians represented come from the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox traditions and range in time from the second century through the twentieth. Not surprisingly, men outnumber women. Famous women such as Catherine of Siena and Hildegard of Bingen are covered; so too are Americans Phoebe Worrall Palmer, an important figure in the Holiness Movement of the nineteenth century, and Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist. A theologian must have died before 1994 to be covered, as that was the date work on this dictionary commenced. "The primary readership that the editors had in mind was graduate students in a master's degree program in theology." This is an important point for libraries to remember when considering adding this work to their collection. Martin Luther may be important both as a Christian theologian and as a figure in Western European history, but the significance of most of the theologians treated here is far more specialized. Although libraries with strong collections in Christian theology and history will likely want to acquire this title, others might do better with the recently published third edition of Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1997), which is a much broader reference tool. Those libraries choosing the Greenwood title may find the exclusion of theologians who had not passed away as of 1994 (e.g., Hans Kung and Rosemary Radford Ruether) problematic. Two works that will help in this regard and serve as good introductions are A New Handbook of Christian Theologians (Abingdon, 1996) and The Modern Theologians (2d ed., Blackwell, 1997).

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.